New luxury player: 2017 Genesis G80

2017 Genesis G80

2017 Genesis G80

Genesis, the new luxury brand from Hyundai of South Korea, takes a ride down nostalgia road with the all-new G80.

This big four-door Genesis G80 5.0 Ultimate model cruises serenely with a powerful V-8 engine thrumming under the hood, delivers stealthy shifts from its eight-speed automatic transmission and gets the power to the pavement with rear-wheel drive, just like a traditional proper American sedan.

Anyone who fondly recalls driving a big Oldsmobile, Buick, Chrysler or Mercury would settle in comfortably and experience familiar feelings in the Genesis G80. He or she also likely would be dazzled by its advanced performance and handling, and its array of modern safety, connectivity and convenience features.

Though it’s a youngster in the marketplace, the Genesis has already stepped its way to a status as one of two new luxury sedans from a new luxury nameplate. It started out as the top-of-the line Hyundai, then dropped to second place when the company introduced its flagship Equus in 2009 as a competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Audi A8.

Even at the outset, some Genesis buyers were reluctant to label their cars with their Hyundai parentage, which encompasses a variety of models from the economy Accent on up. Then the company decided to establish a separate luxury brand, much as Toyota had done with Lexus, Honda with Acura and Nissan with Infiniti.

2017 Genesis G80

2017 Genesis G80

It chose Genesis as the luxury brand name and the former Hyundai Genesis became the Genesis G80, the test-drive review subject here. It is the second model in the lineup, slotted below the G90, and will be joined in the future by other luxury Genesis models. One of them is expected to be a coupe.

Meanwhile, Genesis seeks to win converts with the G90 and the G80. There are three versions: two with V-6 engines and rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and the tested V-8 model, which comes only with rear-wheel drive.

It’s fair to say that the G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate has little competition. There are other full-size luxury sedans but few that compete directly with the G80. The BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class are way more expensive, and others like the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus have lower prices and come with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The closest competitor is the Chrysler 300, which is about the same size and priced a bit lower than the G80.

The G80 starts at about $42,350. For the Ultimate V-8 the starting price is $55,500, including the destination charge. The Ultimate comes lavishly equipped. With a couple of minor options — mud guards and wheel locks — the tested Genesis checked in at $55,670.

“Sumptuous” describes it, with quality materials, including genuine wood and aluminum trim, perforated leather upholstery with built-in heating and cooling, full safety equipment including lane departure mitigation and automatic emergency braking, and a 9.2-inch touch screen to control navigation, audio and infotainment functions.

A note about the G80’s blind-spot warning. Usually these systems, which flash a warning when a vehicle enters the so-called blind spot, are unnecessary if the driver has the smarts to adjust the outside mirrors properly.

On the G80, an icon of the car in the “blind spot” also shows in the head-up display along with the car’s speed and the speed limit. So even if the mirrors are adjusted correctly, the driver becomes aware of the “blind spot” vehicle without checking the mirrors.

There is much to enjoy about the G80. It is a great long-distance road car with a heavy feel and lavish comfort for four, cruises quietly and delivers reasonable fuel economy along with zero-to-60 mph acceleration of slightly more than 5 seconds.