Making of a Brand
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport
Before you read this review any further, let's talk about nameplates and brands for a moment.
In 2009, Fred Diaz walked on the stage at Chrysler's Auburn Hills headquarters as the first brand manager for the truck lineup now called Ram. They were once branded as Dodge trucks, but the caretakers from Fiat thought it was a great idea to separate the truck and car business while developing an appropriate brand strategy.
It worked – sort of.
Today, people still call any Ram pickup since 2009 a Dodge Ram. Many times I had to correct these people. It is frustrating that a brand that has built a reputation is still associated with its former brand. This after the success Ram had with their pickup truck and van lineup.
A couple of years ago, Hyundai felt it was time to create a premium brand to compete with the likes of Lexus, Infiniti, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Cadillac and so forth. They looked no further than their global luxury products for inspiration to name the new luxury brand appropriately. One such product has been quite the success in elevating Hyundai into the realm of luxury cars – the Genesis sedan.
It seemed appropriate to call the new brand Genesis.
The timing was right, as Hyundai was about to introduce the replacement for the Equus flagship sedan – now christened the Genesis G90. The Genesis sedan also took a new nomenclature – the G80. With a two-car lineup as a beginning of a new brand, one has to wonder how soon someone would call the car I had the opportunity to drive recently a Hyundai.
Let's first declare here that this is no longer called the Hyundai Genesis sedan. Henceforth, you shall call it the Genesis G80. Any questions? Let's move on…
Luckily, I already experienced a couple of examples of the car formerly known as a Hyundai. I came away extremely impressed with its aspirations to play deep in the premium/luxury car realm. With the new name and permanent affixation of the badge, the car still holds up with its sizable body and sporty proportions. Though nothing has really changed on the outside for the G80, it is worth noting that as some might consider the design derivative, one should question how distinctive the Genesis G80 really is when putting out a benchmark or measuring tape of design.
That is where the G80 Sport begins to shine brighter. Around the new mesh grille, the hubs of the wheel and the headlamp assembly is a color never seen on an automobile in a very long time – copper. This copper trim brings out the G80 Sport by making an absolute distinction. The antique brass chrome finish – or, an illusion of said finish, also add to the distinction to this particular model.
You can also see this copper finish inside. Just look at the stitching on the seats and the steering wheel. It is a subtle reminder of how special the G80 Sport is. The seats in our Sevilla Red tester sets it all off, with a two-tone of almost white and black. The seats are large but supportive up front. You do get plenty of electric adjustments for the driver's and passenger's front seats, including adjustable driver's seatback bolsters. Rear seats are accommodating with massive rear leg room. Trunk space is generous, with 15.3 cubic feet of space available accessed by a walk-up opening feature. When you have the key with you, just walk around the rear end and the trunk simply opens up.
More special is the easy transition of the Genesis sedan's cabin to the G80 Sport. There are some subtle changes on the screens, facing towards its new brand image. The biggest change is the transmission selector, which is of the newest design. It is similar to a lot of luxury car brands with a flip-type selector. The Park button is further away, but accessible to the driver.
What will keep your attention is the 17-speaker Lexicon 7.1 Discrete audio system with Quantum Logic Surround. The latter gives you the choice of an audience-focused sound, a stage-focused sound or no enhancement. It is an amazing system that ranks up there with some of the best automotive audio systems. The system is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, along with an onboard Jukebox to load up your favorite songs onto the hard drive. You also get BlueLink and Genesis' own suite of connected services to go along with your G80 Sport.
While normal G80 models offer the choice of the 3.8-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8, the G80 Sport gets the latest power source for the brand – a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6. This new engine has 365 horsepower available at your right foot's request. Power is sent through a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic that can be manually controlled by a pair of paddle shifters. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the G80 Sport. My tester had the HTRAC all-wheel drive system.
The new engine is very responsive – almost to the tune of the V8 engine on the regular G80. You do feel some turbo lag, but just a few seconds worth, as it smoothly takes off like a rocket. With rocket-like propulsion comes its biggest drawback – fuel economy. I achieved an average of 20.7 MPG in our care.
There are three drive modes that can the mood of your journey. Normal is fine, with a softer ride and some roll through the corners. Steering tended to be slightly light on-center, but with a very tight radius for a large car. Flip it to Eco, and your fuel economy improves. On-center feel tightens up in Eco, which is truly unexpected but very welcoming. Sport mode ratchets up the transmission response to the engine, providing higher revs per gear. As with Eco, Steering feel tightens up for better and more precise control. Brakes are good, providing decent pedal response and solid stopping distances in normal and panic situations.
The G80 is also equipped with a host of active safety features, as expected in a car in its class. There is Smart Cruise Control using radar to keep up the pace of the vehicle in front of you, Lane Departure Warning is included, along with Lane Keep Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitoring, a 360-degree camera, Rear Cross-traffic alert and so on. The reason I talk about these features in this article – they work extremely well. The next time you say that you do not need these features in your next vehicle – talk to me after you figured out that you really need them.
The G80 Sport comes with a base price of $55,250 for the rear-drive model. My tester came complete with a sticker price of $58,725. Regular G80 models offer pricing from $41,750 for the 3.8 liter V6 version with rear-drive. The G80 5.0 also start from $57,000 with rear-drive. You can get all-wheel drive on the V8 – can I get an "Amen?"
Before I make my conclusions, I need to address a common discussion I got into with this car. While paying close to $59,000 for a mid-sized luxury sedan with a "sports pack" is indeed a bargain, consider your choices. I recalled driving a BMW 540i M Sport back in May at the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally. The sticker came to $81,900, but I felt it was too complicated to operate for its own good. Great car…but that price!
The brand chauvanists will not like what I have to say: I respect the BMW, but I'd rather have the Genesis.
Why? It is not solely based on price, as it is based on its mix of the familiar and uncommon. I liked how The G80 Sport propels itself and rides. And, it is easier to drive and operate. The latter part is a huge thing for me. I like things to be straightforward and comprehendable. Just get in, press the ignition button, flip it into Drive and go….no need to complicate that process, really!
Would simplicity make the difference of a $23,000 savings between the two? In my humble opinion – yes it does.
I'm sure we'll argue this until I get bored and tired, but believe me when I say that the Genesis G80 Sport is exactly what the new brand needs right now. Hyundai's luxury brand needs a star attraction that priced right down the middle of the entire lineup. Here is one – adorned with a bit copper trimming and a can of twin-turbocharged whoop-ass!
That is how you make a brand.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
All photos by Randy Stern