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Genesis: G80 Sport, G90 offer new take on luxury, value

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The 2017 model year brought us many things and one of the most promising was the emergence of Genesis, Hyundai’s new luxury brand. As the South Korean auto maker moves into the premium segment with two models, the G80 Sport and G90, many are intrigued by what the fledgling brand could bring to such an astute, and established, segment of the market.

Task At Hand

Seeking to compete with the likes of Acura, Cadillac, Infiniti, and eventually Mercedes Benz, the Hyundai brand branches out to establish their luxury division. For those who know their history, Hyundai is following in the footsteps of Honda, Toyota and Nissan, who started with economical vehicles and added luxury divisions after establishing their market and manufacturing footprint in the U.S.

I recently tested the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport and based on my previous experience in the flagship G90, it was an interesting week of getting to evaluate Hyundai’s take on luxury.

Exterior Elegance

The exterior style of the G80’s (and larger G90) is a clear nod to Audi up front and BMW in the rear. As a fan of both treatments, it’s not a bad place to start when you are trying to get attention and respect.

In between those borrowed front and rear ends there’s a flowing roofline and edgy fender treatments with some cooper tinted trim pieces. There’s was little doubt that my G80 Sport tester was quite capable of getting all the right looks from all the right people. This is not a sedan stumbling through a test period of design, the G80 Sport, with its low stance, heavy tread tires and sophisticated rims, delivers a luxury feel with a capable athletic stance.

Performance

The new G80 Sport is not simply sporty in name, but offers a powerful standard 3.3-liter V6 with a 5.0L V8 as an optional upgrade. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Fuel economy is standard for class with a 17 city and 24 highway rating.

Getting the Genesis sedans out on the pavement is probably the only way to really get a grasp of just how nice these vehicles perform. The G80 Sport, with the new twin-turbo V6, delivers big acceleration smiles. The 420-horsepower V8 in the G90 handles the larger mass easily.

Creature Comforts

Whenever you look at the competing mid-size models in the class, you are talking about head and legroom first and foremost. The interior of the G80 is not as roomy as some of the others in the room. Half the sedans in this class are probably seating four adults and not five, and the G80 is most comfortable with four.

From the cabin convenience standpoint, everything is in close proximity with lots of storage and a wireless phone charging pad. Genesis doesn’t hold back sharing a very high-level of standard equipment with both cars. My G80 Sport tester had firm leather seating, a huge panoramic sunroof in a microfiber suede headliner, full-color heads up display on an giant 9.2-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Lexicon 17-speaker audio system, power/heated front seats, hands-free trunk access, power sunshades and keyless ignition.

Storage Space

One drawback to the Genesis interior design is the inability to help with interior capacity for storage or trunk access with no split-folding rear seats. There is a smallish 15.3 cubic foot trunk space, which will challenge even the most creative golfer.

At the end of the day, the question was: Can Genesis make it in the high-class luxury segment? My answer is ‘yes’ – over time. Like those other Japanese brands, who slowly earned their luxury-level stripes over a decade of trials, Hyundai will figure it out. With base prices for the G80 Sport at $55,250 and $70k for the G90, they already have a lot of people’s attention.