Payne: Genesis G80, you’ve come a long way, baby!

Posted by Talbot Payne on February 23, 2023

Oakland County — I’m old enough to remember the Hyundai Genesis.

Introduced in 2008, the first-generation sedan was the seedling for Hyundai’s eventual luxury brand. Like early Lexus models, the Genesis was a derivative value play. A Rolex knockoff. With midsize proportions at a compact luxe sedan price, the attractive 2015 model borrowed heavily from German styling (Audi and BMW) to gain market credibility. Stuffed with the latest tech — including then state-of-the-art adaptive cruise control — the sedan topped customer loyalty charts for its Lexus-like quality and handsome looks. A star was born, and in 2017, it was renamed the G80 as Hyundai launched Genesis as a separate premium brand.

Fast forward to 2023, and this week’s tester is a Genesis G80 Sport. You’ve come a long way, baby.

“Whoa, that is a good-looking car,” said businessman friend Mike after I parked the G80 in front of his restaurant.

No one mistakes the G80 for an Audi anymore. With the help of former Lamborghini designer Luc Donckervolke, the midsize Genesis is one of the most distinctive luxe designs on the road today with sleek lines, goatee grille and split head-and-taillights. My tester’s flat Makalu Grey paint scheme helps, too.

The distinctive split taillights of the 2023 Genesis G80 echo the split headlights.

This sedan has swagger, a trait shared by its lookalike G90 and G70 siblings. “That GV80 SUV is a knockout, too,” said Mike of the brand’s best-seller. A longtime Jaguar owner, he likes the G80’s unique looks — and bargain price. While its sticker has inched up over the years — the base $50,595 G80 is still $5,000 shy of a BMW 5-Series.

And the G80 you want to get if you have $72,595 in the bank — my Sport model tester upgraded from the standard turbo-4 with a 375-horse, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 — is a healthy 10 grand shy of a comparable, inline-6-powered BMW 540i.

You’ll love the Sport’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality.

In COMFORT mode, the G8 is a sweetheart: quiet, smooth. Select SPORT or SPORT PLUS (an add-on with Sport Prestige package) and the sedan’s personality changes dramatically. I fingered SPORT and the seat bolsters tightened in anticipation of the fun ahead.

The adaptive shocks firmed, and the 8-speed transmission selected a lower gear for more torque. I four-wheel-drifted through a 90-degree right-hander onto Inkster Road and squeezed the gas. VROOOOOOM! The heretofore sleepy Genesis reared back its head and let out a roar.

The 2023 Genesis G80 Sport's twin-turbo V-6 puts out 375 horsepower. Alas, the V-8 is gone.

The nannies are coming for multi-cylinder engines, and the V-8 that once motivated the top trim G80 has been put out to pasture, but the turbo-6 has plenty of emotion. The Genesis gulped asphalt, its firm steering instilling confidence.

The G80’s new chassis shed 163 pounds from the last-gen, but the sedan’s 4,495-pound girth must still be respected. It’s fun to drive fast, but not nearly as nimble as its smaller G70 sibling.

Most of the day, the G80’s duties are as a passenger car. As in commuting down the Southfield Freeway to pick up Mrs. Payne at the airport.

The handsome cockpit of the 2023 Genesis G80 includes red leather and driver-centric digital displays.

I toggled Adaptive Cruise Control on the steering wheel, set the speed to 75 mph, and the G80 virtually drove itself. A luxury feature? Hardly. When the Genesis debuted in 2015, this feature was state-of-the-art tech, but today it’s common on mainstream Hyundai models too. Indeed, it is standard on the $27,745 Hyundai Tucson SUV, the Korean brand’s best-seller.

I’ve tested the Tucson for miles on I-75 hands-free, and the G80 was just as effortless — centering in the lane, slowing for slower cars up ahead. The Genesis system is not completely hands-free like Cadillac’s Super Cruise, nor does it automatically change lanes like Tesla’s Autopilot. Determined to build a safety cocoon around me, G80 has multiple ways to let me know cars are sharing my space: red ripples in the head-up display indicating a vehicle in my blind spot; blind-spot indicator in my mirror; or a side-mirror camera that relays video of my blind spot in the instrument display when I activate the turn signal. Dude, you have no excuse if you cut someone off.

The blind-spot video innovation is so clever (first seen on the mainstream Hyundai Sonata) that my Tesla Model 3 received the feature via an over-the-air update last year.

With all this attention to tech, it’s curious when the Hyundai lags. For example, the G80 lacks wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto even as they are standard on a $21K Hyundai Elantra compact car. Or the G80’s voice command system that struggles with voice navigation (Android Auto is much superior).

The interior of the 2023 Genesis G80 features room, vroom and a full-length moonroof.

Interior materials, however, are first-class. My Sport tester was dressed in stunning red leather with a handsome carbon-fiber weave on the console. At the airport, Mrs. Payne slipped into the rear seat and immediately adjusted the seat warmer. To stretch her legs, she toggled a switch on the side of the front seat that automatically moved the seat forward. Console design is elegant — witness the recessed infotainment screen or bejeweled rotary dial controller.

Alas, the controller’s looks are more inviting than its clunky operation.

Such shortcomings are not found in the German competition — think BMW’s exquisite iDrive. Happily, G80 gives you options just like its multi-way blind-spot features. Don’t like the rotary controller? Lean forward and use the touchscreen. A multi-page menu is easy to swipe through whether you need radio channels or system settings.

You'll know the SPORT model of the 2023 Genesis G80 by its twin rear exhaust.

The G80 Sport, in other words, was never a dull date.

With its myriad control and safety options, it invited interaction as I learned what best suited my driving style. When traffic cleared out and I was alone in the twisties, G80 was an eager dance partner. And I never tire of the G80’s lean silhouette, long hood and unique eyes. Eight years after it wandered uncertainly into the luxury club, the Genesis is a timid newcomer no more.

The G80 belongs.

Next week: 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Edition

2023 Genesis G80 Sport

Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger luxury sedan

Price: $50,595, including $1,095 destination charge ($72,595 Sport Prestige as tested)

Powerplant: 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6

Power: 375 horsepower, 391 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.7 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed, 155 mph

Weight: 4,495 pounds (as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA 17 mpg city/26 highway/20 combined

Report card

Highs: Head-turning wardrobe, throaty V-6

Lows: Clunky rotary controller; wireless Android Auto, please

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Comments are closed.