G80 ’19: Genesis. 5.0-liter V8. 16/24 mpg city/hwy. Base/As-tested price: $42,725/$57,995

California dreaming in the sexy, fine-weather Genesis G80; but the sporty G70 sets a new bar

CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer

Since driving the original Hyundai Genesis sedan a decade ago, I could tell the Korean automaker’s upscale brand had serious potential. I’ve met many Genesis owners who love their cars. Now a stand-alone brand, Genesis is becoming a serious competitor to the world’s luxury automakers. If you think I’m nuts, you haven’t driven some of their latest: the Genesis G70 — a car that puts several rivals back on their trailers; or the hefty big boy G80.

First, let’s dig into the G80. Up front, you need to know something: I despise winter — the icy roads, the chilly mornings and especially the long dark nights. It all just leaves me California dreaming of cranking the Beach Boys and watching the sun set over the Pacific from a surfboard. When my niece announced she was getting married near San Diego — during December — I was revving my jets to go. Making it even better was the sexy, slinky Genesis G80 5.0 waiting for my family at the airport.

Mission One was using it to make 58 miles disappear between San Diego and Wedding Central in San Clemente, right on the Pacific Ocean. My husband set the NAV while I clicked onto Interstate 5, where the 420 horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine got busy moving its distance evaporation mojo to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is available, but ours thrust from just the rear haunches. Go easy on the big pedal to see 16/24-MPG city/highway.

The only thing slowing our progress was a stop at an In-N-Out drive-through to quell munchies after our cross-continent flights. Like, yum!

Whether slinging chrome northward to meet relatives, or carting them to and from wedding venues for several days, the G80 made a convincing mini-limo with its wide swaths of matte wood on the dash/doors, aluminum detailing, heated/ventilated Nappa leather front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel. Given weather that was irrepressibly “seventy and sunny,” we left the dual-pane sunroof open. The Lexicon audio system sounded crisp and was enabled by wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility.

There was plenty of tech to tempt this driver. The heads-up display worked with the navigation system to keep us mostly on-course while multi-zone automatic climate control suited all. My daughter couldn’t keep her hands off of the power rear sunshade as she played celebrity. Safety was enhanced by forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, blind zone alert and rear cross path detection systems. The around-view camera helped ease us in and out of our hotel’s skintight parking garage.

Adding props, the G80 fit in like sun to sea while cruising San Clemente, slinking through traffic alongside herds of Audis, Benzes and Teslas. A large silvery grille flanked by LED headlamps gives the car street cred, as do neatly creased bodysides, long hood, fastback roofline and multi-element taillamp blades. Day or night, it looks expensive. Ours was further set off by smoked alloy 19-in. wheels and dark Adriatic Blue paint.
The luxury-oriented G80 seemed a little over-dressed for my surf lesson, me in my board shorts and rash guard, but I certainly arrived in style. It registered no complaint when I slapped a towel on the driver’s seat, powered open the trunk, threw in my gear and headed west until I found waves.

After nearly a week of living with the G80, I only had two real complaints. The navigation system nonchalantly turned itself off when bored, and at one point, instructed us to turn left down a steep flight of stairs leading to the beach. I’m pretty chill, but spewed a stream of expletives that wilted my daughter’s ears. And, since designers chose to put “set it and forget it” climate controls above the radio, I repeatedly turned the volume to hot.

Beyond that, the G80 was subline whether slamming I-5, twisting two-lanes, or playing taxi to the in-laws. I’ve always liked how driving a Genesis combines a sense of precision like a Jaguar with the easy effort of a Lexus. This one did not disappoint.

It’s also a pretty good value. A base G80 with the V6 starts at $42,725, but came to $57,995 with the V8 and a full board of luxury and safety gear. All-wheel-drive adds a little more, but I’ll fly home with the delusion it won’t be 20 degrees with a chance of snow tomorrow. Competitors include the Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Infiniti Q70 and Cadillac CT5.

G70 ‘20: Genesis. 3.3-liter TTV6. 17/25 mpg city/hwy. Base/as-tested price: $35,450/$53,245.

For a different but equally laudable experience, the G80’s little sister made its own waves.

There’s some Alfa Romeo and Jaguar in the styling, but designers really focused on the details, like black chrome and copper bezels for the LED headlamps. From the front, it looks a bit British with its large grille, the rear muscular with fat fenders and the side profile neatly tailored over 19-in/ wheels fronting red brake calipers. From every angle, it’s a handsome little devil.

Inside, drivers face a perfectly-sized leather-wrapped steering wheel, analog gauges and head-up display — all perfect for getting your business done. Seats and door panels are accented with red diamond stitching while aluminum trim and suede headliner lend a modern flair. Heated and ventilated front seats, extendable lower driver’s seat cushion and heated steering wheel add comfort, as do a wide sunroof, power steering column and Lexicon 15-speaker audio system that one can almost believe is shared with Rolls-Royce. Rear seats are a little tight, even for my 6-year-old, but you’re not going to be back there, anyway.

Genesis went for an intuitive touchscreen for navigation and audio, skipping the joywheel nonsense with which some rivals seem enamored. Wireless device charging, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth make connections easy. I’m also a fan of proper volume and tuning knobs for clipping through channels while creeping through traffic. Climate controls are arranged simply with large knobs for adjusting temperature and fan speed, with defrosters one level below. Everything is exactly where you’d want it.

Genesis stepped up with a full array of crash avoidance systems. Adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and blind spot alert are on the menu, as are rear cross path detection and lane keep assist. The surround view monitor makes getting in and out of tight parking spaces a snap.

As much as I liked the larger G80 it’s the G70 that truly herald’s Genesis’ arrival as a machete-wielding beast on the world stage. I’ve read several reviews that panned the 4-cylinder G70 as noisy and harsh, but that was not my experience with the turbocharged V6 version.

Underfoot, the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 delivers a stout 365 horsepower and 376 lb.-ft. of torque — all routed to the all-wheel-drive system through an 8-speed automatic transmission. Shift it with paddles if you choose. The Drive Mode Select system lets drivers configure the powertrain and electronic suspension from efficient/comfortable to aggressive/firm. Select the former over the latter to see 17/25-MPG city/highway.
On a perfectly smooth racetrack, driving enthusiasts might prefer the G70’s German or Italian rivals, but most of us do not travel on tracks. In the real world, we’re confronted with potholes and brutal bridge seams, which the adjustable suspension soaks up with nary a shudder. At almost any speed, the smooth turbocharged engine plants power while the AWD system reassures drivers with absolute composure. Whether slugging through city traffic or stretching out on the highway, the car is a delight to drive.

Genesis understands true enthusiasts prefer an engaging driving experience over video arcades. While the G80 and G90 are impressive, the G70 is a shock — a sport sedan that takes it full-on to global competitors’ and a delight to drive every day. A base price of $35,450 rises to $53,245 loaded with all the gadgets and potent engine. Competitors include the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Jaguar XE, BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Cadillac CT4 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Follow Casey on YouTube @AutoCasey.