Get accustomed to the puzzled looks and persistent questions.
If you drive a Genesis – formerly the Hyundai Genesis – you know all about car-confusion and inquiries.
“What is that?” or “Why is it called Genesis?” or even “Is it a Bentley of some sort?” – and it’s likely to get worse.
The 2021 Genesis G80 sedan is a dramatic, all-new step up from the 2020 version of the big sedan, finally establishing the car as a legitimate luxury vehicle – though one still seeking cachet.
It will likely come.
As you may recall, Hyundai introduced the Genesis as its new luxury model at the Detroit auto show in 2008 – drawing more than a few snickers since Hyundai was still establishing itself as a reliable brand.
Then in 2015, Hyundai drew more incredulous stares with an announcement that Genesis would become a stand-alone luxury brand.
Few are laughing now.
For the last several years, Hyundai, corporate sibling Kia, and the Genesis have topped the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, while all three continue to hire away designers and engineers from the German Big Three.
In fact, if I were some of the execs at Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, I might be getting a little concerned.
My dark blue G80 – a big mid-size sedan -- looked like a fresh combination of avant-garde and luxury traditional.
Everyone immediately notices the car’s huge, polarizing polished grille, a hexagon-shaped embellishment that occupied most of the space up front.
The grille, which I thought was an interesting way of declaring the new G80’s arrival, was flanked by highly contemporary thin headlamps stacked atop each other.
Meanwhile, a long, broad hood topped sides that looked a bit Bentley-esque, with smooth panels sporting a slight muscular roll in them and big doors with polished handles.
In back, thin, flush-mounted taillamps mimicked the G80’s headlamps, while the all-wheel-drive sedan sat low on polished five-spoke 20-inch wheels shod with 245/40 tires up front and 275/35s in the rear.
It was an impressive package propelled by a well-sorted 3.5-liter V-6, pumped up to 375 horsepower with turbocharging and bolted to a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic that kept the engine where it needed to be.
Although 375 horsepower doesn’t sound all that special in a 4,100-pound sedan, the engine never lacked for power, providing a smooth, strong shove with just a nudge on the accelerator.
Sixty miles per hour arrives decisively in an estimated 5.2 seconds, and the G80 has overall fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon.
For the most part, the car is more luxury cruiser than corner-cutting sportster, but even with fairly slow steering and a bit of body lean, it gets around curves respectably, and what the car lacks in German intensity, it compensates with a smooth, silent ride.
That may be more important anyway to most luxury buyers than a taut, curve-hungry suspension.
Likewise, the G80 succeeds in another area that defines luxury vehicles: their interiors.
Genesis didn’t send a Monroney with the G80, but the starting price is $48,725 for a base G80 with the turbocharged 2-liter engine.
Meanwhile, one of Genesis’ primary competitors, the BMW 540, begins at $54,200 – and the G80’s interior is competitive with the 540.
The dashboard on the G80 I had last week, for example, was stitched in a soft brown leather-like material with a 14.5-inch infotainment screen rising from a recess in the mid-dash.
Moreover, the mid-dash protruded slightly with some sort of medium-brown wood trim, complemented by a fine steering wheel in dark brown and tan.
Swoopy door panels connected with the upper dash, while the fine brown leather seats sported curvy patterns in their centers and immense leg and head room in back.
Most of my neighbors guessed the cost of the G80 at $85,000 based solely on the interior – and I would put the value of the car I was in at about $70,000.
It felt like a vehicle with a lot of value. So, what’s next, Hyundai-Kia-Genesis – a full-size pickup?
2021 Genesis G80
- What I liked most: Virtually everything, from the powertrain to the interior to the styling.
- What I would change: Not much, if anything.
- MSRP: Base price for four-cylinder G80, $48,725, according to the Internet; as equipped, no Monroney, so don’t know.
- Official color: Adriatic Blue.
- Fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway and 21 mpg combined, according to Car and Driver, with filler on the left.
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,005 miles.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- Weight: 4,143 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 196.7 inches long/75.8 inches wide/57,7 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 17.2 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not available.
- 2021 Genesis G80 in a few words: A polished, competitive luxury sedan from a brand that has limited experience with the segment.
- Warranty: Five-year, 60,000-mile overall warranty and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Ulsan, South Korea.
- Manufacturer’s website: Genesis
- E-mail me at email@example.com
- Up next: 2021 Toyota Supra GR