THE PROS & CONS
- WHAT’S HOT: Excellent performer — acceleration, braking, handling, ride; roomy and well-equipped cabin; unbeatable new-car value.
- WHAT’S NOT: Shift lever unnecessarily clumsy; automatic door locks cannot be unprogrammed; brand name still has to prove itself.
- WHAT’S INTERESTING: In the car business, you never know where your competition is coming from.
Back shortly after the earth’s surface cooled, I was a car dealer. Never opened our doors — long, LONG story.
One of our ideas was instead of a big fancy showroom, we’d bring cars to prospective customers’ homes or offices for test drives. Did I mention we never opened our doors?
SAAB tried something similar a few years later. Where is SAAB now? Oh, yeah, defunct.
To paraphrase Churchill, the franchised dealer network is the worst way to sell cars, except for all the others.
Hyundai’s upscale brand Genesis is trying the bring-the-car-to-the-customer scheme again, partly because few dealers are likely to invest the quadrillion dollars a new showroom costs for the few sales they are likely to make, and partly because it might just work this time.
Car retailing has changed, and while most brands are still requiring franchise holders to invest those quadrillions in conventional dealerships, Tesla might just have found a better way, and Genesis is having a look at that model.
If you express interest in a Genesis, they will send someone to your home or office, spend some time with you, and if it looks promising, arrange a test drive. Standalone retail outlets along the lines of what Tesla has done will follow. Cars will be serviced at Hyundai dealerships, but not so’s you as a customer will ever have to notice.
The second Genesis model to arrive is the G80. If the G90 is Mercedes-Benz S-Class/BMW 7 Series/Audi A8, then for G8, think E-Class/5 Series/A6.
The mid-size, four-wheel-drive sedan is on sale now. The entry-level ‘Luxury’ model is $55,000, the ‘Technology’ with (aw, you guessed) additional high-techery is $58,000. Both use the corporate 3.8-litre, V6 engine.
Next up is the ‘Sport’ at $62,000, which uses the 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 and adds a bunch of mostly go-faster stuff like firmer suspension, grippier seats, bigger wheels, tires and brakes (ventilated front and rear), and a smaller, sportier steering wheel. The range-topper is unashamedly called ‘Ultimate,’ and gets the 5.0-litre V8 and a few other luxo-goodies, for $65,000.
My tester was the Sport. It’s a handsome car, even if there isn’t a whole lot that screams ‘Genesis’ at you. Hey, it has taken Lexus almost 30 years to come up with a ‘look.’
The Genesis G80 is particularly nicely finished inside; Hyundai’s president Peter Schreyer grew up in the VW/Audi family where interior design rules. My car had handsome leather upholstery set off by contrasting copper-coloured stitching. Real tree wood everywhere, and it’s all expertly constructed and beautifully finished.
Also Read: Volvo S90 luxury sedan an instant classic
There’s plenty of room front and rear, but what you will be most interested in if you’ve chosen the Sport is what it’s like behind the wheel. And it’s a treat.
The turbo engine spins up willingly, the transmission shifts quickly and without incident (and if you want to try and beat it, manual shift paddles are part of the package. BTW, you probably can’t …).
While on the transmission, a shame Genesis can’t come up with a better shift lever. I had the same complaint in the G90 — to select Park, you have to push a button, when for about 50 years, you simply moved the lever to P. It ain’t broke; why try to fix it? OK, you gain maybe a centimetre or two of space on the centre console, but the possible danger of not hitting that Park button when you thought you had far outweighs any potential gains. Please fix this. Safety should not be a choice.
The firmer suspension does make itself felt on our local roads which often feel like they were bombing-range targets. But if you are attracted to a car like this, you’ll likely be prepared to sacrifice a bit of cushiness for the added control and sportier feel.
The steering is also quicker on the Sport. Hyundai/Genesis interior designers seem to have figured out the tech side of the car game better than most. Need to connect your phone? The car practically grabs it out of your hands and installs it.
True, most owners only have to do this once, so even if it takes a while, it’s no biggie. A road tester’s life is such a difficult lot …
Most of the other functions you need to deal with on a daily basis fall, as the expression goes, readily to hand.
The G80 — all modern Hyundai products, in fact — lose two cookies for automatically locking the doors when you pull away. Some people like this feature. Fair enough; let them have it. For those who would rather look after things like this themselves, they should also be given that option. My rapidly becoming ancient VW Jetta suffers from this malady; my genius mechanic found a way to defeat this feature. Maybe there’s a clever person somewhere within Hyundai’s organization who could do the same for you.
Like its big brother, the G90, there is absolutely zero doubt in my mind that the G80 is every bit comparable to the more famous brands in this sector. Mercedes-Benzes once were “funny little furrin’ cars.” BMW made only motorcycles and minicars. Audi barely existed. Now, these three are the triumvirate of German luxury cars.
Brands like Jaguar and Cadillac have gone through very rough patches. Not that long ago, Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura didn’t even exist.
Hyundai knows they have a long row to hoe. The engineering and design work has been completed. With a few quibbles, top marks across the board. My point is, you gotta start somewhere.
At Genesis, the brand-building has begun. I don’t know how long it will take, and neither do the Genesis people. But they are confident they can pull it off.
I, for one, would not bet against them.
2018 Genesis G80 Luxury
BODY STYLE: 4-door, 5-seat, mid-size luxury sports sedan, full-time four-wheel drive.
PRICE: Luxury – $55,000; Technology – $58,000; Sport (as tested) – $62,000; Ultimate – $65,000. Prices include Freight and PDI, scheduled maintenance (5 years, 100.000 km, ten SatNav map updates.
ENGINE: Luxury and Technology – 3.8 litre V6, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, direct injection; Sport (as tested) – 3.3 litre V6, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, direct injection, twin-turbocharged; Ultimate – 5.0 litre V8, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, direct injection.
POWER/TORQUE, horsepower / lb-ft.: 3.8 l V6 – 311 @ 6,000 r.p.m. / 293 @ 5,000 r.p.m.; 3.3 l twin-turbo V6 – 365 @ 6,000 r.p.m. / 376 @ 1,300 – 4,500 r.p.m.; V8 – 420 @ 6,000 r.p.m. / 383 @ 5,000 r.p.m.
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
TRANSPORT CANADA FUEL CONSUMPTION, City / Highway (L/100 km): 3.8 l V6 – 14.4 / 9.4; 3.3 l twin-turbo V6 – 13.8 / 9.7; V8 – 15.2 / 10.2. Regular fuel (3.8 and 5.0) / Premium fuel (3.3 l twin-turbo).