Review update: 2021 Genesis G80 carves out a spot at the luxury table

The 2021 Genesis G80 puts to rest any doubts about whether Hyundai’s luxury brand deserves to sit alongside Germany’s heritage brands. Like Genesis, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi built their reputations for performance and refinement on the backs of their sedans, and carried it over into more diluted pools teeming with crossover SUVs.

The redesigned mid-size sedan shares a platform and many parts with the winning 2021 Genesis GV80, the brand’s first SUV. It evolves from an impressive but cautious sedan that helped launch the luxury brand from Hyundai in 2016 into a gorgeous fastback sedan with a supremely refined interior loaded with advanced technology.

Our rankings reflect that maturation. Excluding the Safety rating not yet completed for 2021, the outgoing model scored a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10; the 2021 G80 gets a 7.4, and puts it in a tie for the top of the class with the refreshed 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

The powertrain doesn’t match the top end of the German performance curve and it doesn’t handle as well, but the punch-for-price ratio should compel many shoppers uninterested in driving up that curve. After back-to-back weeks in both the 2021 GV80 SUV and a top 2021 G80 3.5T Prestige sedan, I no longer question where Genesis belongs in the strata of the German luxury brands, let alone premium brands such as Acura and Infiniti.

Hit: Side indicators

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

Like the GV80, the G80 wears the design hallmarks of Genesis with a huge crest-shaped grille and quad headlights and taillights. To some eyes, the grille can overwhelm the smaller canvas of the G80, but the long nose, short overhangs, and fastback rear draw plenty of positive attention. The 20-inch alloy wheels on the tester helped, too. But it's the side indicators in the front fenders that distinguish the G80 from other luxury sedans with similar design cues, such as the Audi A7 or Mercedes CLA-Class.

The split lights in the front fenders connect the front and rear lights in a kind of halo that illuminates the car. Activate the left turn signal and the side light in the left fender illuminates, ticking in concert with the front and rear indicators. These three points of light look cool, sure, but they also help with blind-spot safety. Nearby cars in the blind spot of the G80 see it better than the rear indicator, and they make the car more visible in certain merging situations.

Hit: Gorgeous interior

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

A low horizontal dash split by a thin line of vents stretches across the cabin, and with buttons and controls limited to the center console dial and narrow climate control screen, the design cleans the clutter and opens the space. Real wood and quilted nappa leather contrast with knurled textures on the switchgear, from the volume and tuning dials to the climate dial and headlight stalk. It feels and looks great, but the large 14.5-inch touchscreen requires a reach. It would seem Genesis prefers drivers use the concave infotainment dial in the console...

Hit and miss: Deep dive infotainment

...that can be turned right or left to scroll, or pushed on the edges to select an icon. The dial and tap method works fine on the larger icons for navigation or audio but once in the submenu on the audio page, for example, the screen divides into four categories with smaller icons in top and lower menu bars. It takes a lot of twists and taps and clicks to get around.

But, most of the basic info can be accessed through redundant steering controls or console buttons. Adjusting volume can be done in five different ways, including buttons, voice, touch, steering wheel, and console dial.

After two consecutive weeks with the same infotainment system, first in the 2021 GV80 SUV then in the G80, I appreciated the amount of sortable information. There are so many different settings and options, that it would be cumbersome to house all that stuff in just a touchscreen.

Miss: Proximity of gear shifter and infotainment switch

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

The concave, recessed infotainment dial sits an inch forward of a similarly sized electronic gear shifter that protrudes out of the console. Both are knurled with the same gently studded machine finish present on most of the other controls. The infotainment dial can be pushed down to access the home screen or to select menu icons. The gear shifter can also be pushed down to put it in park.

Should you get confused—and I did initially—the infotainment screen will ask if you’re sure you want to put the car in park, even at 70 mph. You would then have to push down the concave infotainment dial to select “yes,” so it seems Genesis accounted for the accidental press with this double check. I didn’t test what would happen if you push “yes.”

The advantage of the console dial is you shouldn’t have to look down, and your line of sight can flick from the road to the touchscreen on the upper dash. It takes time for muscle memory to distinguish between the two.

Miss: Cargo volume

The trunk holds only 13.1 cubic feet of storage. The short decklid and narrow opening restrict getting in items of girth, like my daughter’s beast of a hockey bag. Fortunately the rear seats fold flat and offer plenty of room.

Hit: Minimal options

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80

The only add-on in this loaded luxury sedan was Himalayan Gray paint for $400. This came as such welcome relief from the typical luxury options list fatigue. It’s a thing. Especially with BMW. A counter argument holds that with all the piecemeal options you only pay for what you want, but I’d counter that with it unnecessarily complicates the ordering process and inflates the price.

Miss: Inefficient

The 375-horsepower 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive weren’t designed for fuel economy, but with competitors offering plug-in hybrid or mild-hybrid options, the 18 mpg city, 26 highway, and 21 combined EPA ratings lag the turbocharged all-wheel-drive competitors. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 sedan gets 23/30/26 mpg, and the Volvo S90 21/31/25 mpg. The BMW 540i xDrive also gets 25 mpg combined.
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2021 Genesis G80 3.5T AWD Prestige

Base price: $68,675, including $1,025 destination

Price as tested: $69,075

Drivetrain: 375-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 with an 8-speed automatic and AWD

EPA fuel economy: 18/26/21 mpg

The hits: Style inside and out, minimal options

The misses: Console layout, small trunk, inefficient.

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