Lavishly equipped Genesis G80 is new luxury player

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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.

The Genesis started out as the top-of-the line Hyundai, then dropped to second place when the company introduced its flagship Equus in 2009.

Hyundai decided to establish a separate luxury brand, much as Toyota did with Lexus, Honda with Acura and Nissan with Infiniti.

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.

There are three versions of the G80: 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.

“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 system: 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 0-to-60 mph acceleration of slightly more than 5 seconds.

It’s fair to say that the G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate has few direct competitors. 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.

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.

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