Can you help me find my Genesis – and I’m not talking about some rock-busting search for my family’s old black-dirt roots?
No, I speak of the new luxury brand created by Hyundai in 2015 and one of its first offerings, the slightly mystical-sounding Genesis G80.
If memory serves, I parked it somewhere on the lot outside and can’t find it in the sea of black and silver Bimmers, Benzes, Lexis and Volvos that carpet the concrete.
This could be a problem — for me as well as Hyundai.
I mean, if a car doesn’t stand out in the crowded and highly competitive near-luxury segment, how do you get buyers to stand up for it?
I’m not sure. But when we find the G80 – conceived in 2009 as the Hyundai Genesis – we can go for a ride in what is essentially a pretty darn good car.
Like me, you may have scoffed when you heard that Hyundai – once a builder of rickety disposable little road-biscuits – planned to compete with lofty Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
Although the G80 is a fine first effort — particularly for a price of $51,300 – you may be a bit disappointed if you demand distinction with your leather and wood.
Don’t get me wrong. The black G80 I had flashed most of the right proportions and lines. We’ve just seen many of them before – mostly on Benzes and Lexis.
At least it strives to make a big statement. The G80 is longer, wider and taller than a Mercedes-Benz E-class sedan. And like the Mercedes, the G80 confronts the world with a large, tastefully imposing grille and swept-back headlamps.
A long, slightly raised hood also murmurs “luxury,” while a prominent character line through the doors reminded me of a BMW 5-series sedan.
Huge, mostly flat doors, meanwhile, seemed almost limousine-like and a gracefully curved top tumbled down onto a relatively short trunk.
My biggest complaint concerned the turbine-style 18-inch wheels wrapped with 245/45 tires. They just didn’t seem large enough to visually support the G80’s big, angular body.
I had misgivings as well about the G80’s base engine, a 3.8-liter V-6 with 311 horsepower. (An optional 5-liter V-8 also is available.)
High-end buyers generally expect some spice with their polished steel and I wasn’t sure a normally aspirated V-6 could generate enough heat to shove around a 4,500-pound sedan. Most of the time, though, it got the fires burning pretty well.
In fact, I thought the engine felt fairly lively in the low and mid ranges, surging away from stops with enough aggression that at one point I thought it might be turbocharged.
Under hard acceleration, the 8-speed automatic clicked through shifts so tightly that the Genesis felt kind of BMW-ish. But past about 50 or 60 mph, the big sedan’s weight sapped the relatively modest power in the engine and the fun kind of fizzled.
Moreover, the lack of power doesn’t equate to stellar fuel economy. The G80 is rated at 18 miles per gallon in town and 28 on the highway, which is pretty average.
Still, for many buyers, the engine will be more than adequate, pushing the Genesis to 60 in a respectable 6.6 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
In addition, the long-wheelbase G80 moved with high-end compliance, easily soaking up most of the rough pavement on Dallas’ moonscape streets without being floaty.
Although the steering was a bit vague, it felt quick and well-weighted, and made the car easy to maneuver in traffic.
While hardly a corner-carver, the rear-wheel-drive Genesis kept its dignity in curves, leaning some but maintaining good grip at moderate speeds.
Likewise, the black interior displayed some real luxury strengths.
A broad, mostly flat dashboard dropped down, for example, to an upright mid-dash trimmed in matte-finish brown wood. But the large vertical center stack – dominated by a 9.2-inch touch-screen – reminded me too much of the stack in the Hyundai Sonata.
Focus on the broad console instead, trimmed in great-looking aluminum, and the pliable, rich-looking plastic on the dash and door-tops.
I also give the Genesis points for its highly functional climate and stereo controls, which – unlike the overly hi-tech Germans – used buttons and knobs.
The heated and cooled black-leather seats looked and felt good, too, offering perforated centers and supportive bolsters. And anyone who has to ride in back will think you went to work for some over-hyped dot-com company with a lavish car allowance.
Leg- and headroom are limousine-like, giving the G80 the airiness and expanse in back of a much more expensive Lexus LS.
Unfortunately, the bean counters at Genesis slammed shut the register before the interior could be thoroughly completed, forcing the G80 to get by with a rent-car gray headliner. But that’s kind of a theme with the G80. It has a good platform, driving dynamics and basic powertrain.
All it needs is some tweaking – and maybe a dose of the styling that gave us the previous-gen Sonata and the current Veloster.