PORT CARLING Ontario – The top three selling vehicles in Korea are the Hyundai Grandeur (formerly sold here as the Azera), the Genesis G80 (about which more anon), and the Hyundai Sonata.
All sedans. Hyundai doesn’t make pickup trucks.
While our market for sedans is small, it is still sizable, although – to be honest – most of that volume is in compact cars.
Hyundai’s upscale Genesis brand is giving us a chance to show that we can be as smart as Koreans by offering the mid-size G80 sedan.
It is on sale now. $66,000 gets you the “2.5T Advanced” version with a 2.5-litre turbo four cylinder engine (300 horsepower at 5,800 r.p.m., 311 lb-ft of torque from 1,650 to 4,000 r.p.m.). A price of $76,000 brings the “3.5T Prestige”, with a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 (375 horsepower at 5,800 r.p.m., 391 lb-ft of torque at an ultra-low 1,300 r.p.m.).
Incidentally, those prices are the same coast-to-coast, and include everything – destination charges, A/C tax, etc. – except local sales taxes. Also included are five years of “Genesis at home” service. They’ll pick your car up at your house or office for scheduled maintenance, and leave you a loaner.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines, as is full-time four-wheel drive, engineered in conjunction with Magna, so there’s some Canadian content here too. My usual caveat about reading U.S.-based sources: rear-wheel drive is offered there, but not in Canada.
Both models come fully equipped as there are almost no options. Pick your engine, pick from some amazing interior and exterior colour schemes, and fork over your money. In the G80 and the related GV80 SUV both are new-from-the-ground-up Genesis vehicles, and not related to any Hyundai-branded models.
Car designers don’t seem to be able to draw a single line without having a “theme” to follow. For G80, it was “Athletic Elegance”. This translates into a faux-fastback design (“faux” because there is a trunk), which is longer, lower and wider than the previous G80. Despite that, it’s up to 125 kg lighter, thanks largely to aluminum in the doors, hood, and trunk lid. Lower weight benefits performance and handling.
The shield-shaped grille is meant to be a Genesis’s trademark, although frankly, it looks rather like the front end of any recent Cadillac. In G80, a pair of horizontal lines split the headlights, runs along the body sides behind the front wheels, and terminates at the taillights. The idea is to tie the entire design together. No argument – this is a handsome car.
It gets even better when you open the door. Here, the theme phrase is “Beauty of Openness”. What you get are top-quality materials, beautifully stitched together.
On the 2.5T, the dash and door trim panels are aluminum, which looks fine. Until you step into the 3.5T, where open-pore wood trim takes over. I’m not usually a fan of wood in a car, but this looks and feels gorgeous.
And each car’s wood is unique, so no two cars look the same. There’s lots of room front and back, and a good-sized trunk. I found the seats excellent. One of the “Easter eggs” as Genesis Canada’s Jarred Pellat calls them – little hidden touches that surprise and delight – is that at elevated speeds (130 km/h so I’m told; I’m not confessing to anything…) the side bolsters snug themselves up to give you added lateral support.
One of the largest (14.5 inches) and brightest centre touch screens in the business offers insights into what’s going on in your immediate driving world.
Two significant controls are on the centre console. A rotary knob, not unlike some Jaguar and Ford products, controls the transmission. Rotate it left to right for Reverse, Neutral and Drive, push the centre for Park.
The second just ahead of that shifter is a “multimedia controller”, a knurled circular device which you rotate to bring up the function you want, then move the knob north, south, east or west to select the particular value. It take some getting used to, but after an hour or so, I started to get the hang of it. There’s also the Drive Mode control. I spent most of my time in Sport or Comfort; you can also choose Smart, Eco or Custom, which lets you select from a variety of parameters to suit your taste or mood.
Like the Hyundai Elantra I tested recently, an additional row of buttons above the HVAC controls offer direct access to commonly-desired functions like Map, SatNav controls, and Radio, without having to stretch to touch the screen. Easier to reach, less distracting to the driving task and no issues with fingerprints.
The 2.5T has an 8-inch LCD colour dash display, while the 3.5T brings a 12.3-inch cluster with 3D which can highlight the most important data, and send less critical info to the back.
Too much? You can shut it off.
Some of my colleagues report difficulty viewing digital screens while wearing polarized sunglasses. I wear these all the time and haven’t noticed a problem, but Genesis admitted it’s an issue for some, and they are working on it.
G80 has automatic massage seats that come on when it decides you need them. I like these when I control them. I don’t want the car making that decision, so I shut this feature off.
Genesis has identified NVH – Noise, Vibration and Harshness – as key elements in what makes a true luxury car. To this laudable goal, double-pane acoustic glass all around, special sound deadening material in the headliner, and resonating chambers in the wheels help keep the peace. All of which makes an ideal environment to enjoy the 21 speaker sound system by Lexicon, a subsidiary of Harmon (formerly Harmon Kardon) that is now a subsidiary of Korea’s Samsung Electronics. It’s spectacular.
There are the usual safety and driver assistance systems, but G80 adds one useful feature that I’ve seen in BMWs – cameras in the corners of the front bumper that can almost literally see around corners. When navigating tight sports, these can be a boon.
The G80 can self-park and self-“un-park”, which can be handy in those snug inner city spots.
In addition to the usual spate of air bags, G80 has one between the front seat riders, to avoid head-to-head contact in a side crash. GM used to offer these; they don’t any more, but I don’t know why. Due to the weather, all our test cars were fitted with winter tires. You’d expect more road noise from these, but without a back-to-back, it was impossible to tell. Besides, the car is so quiet you probably couldn’t tell anything anyway.
I first tried the 2.5T. The head-up display is easy to shut off; so you can watch the road which is sort-of your job. It goes, handles, and stops with the best of them.
The four-wheel drive system starts as a 50/50 front-rear torque split, with the system sending as much as 100 per cent to the rear wheels as needed when you’re pushing on. All of which is transparent to the driver.
One issue I had – after stopping for photos, I pulled out onto the highway and the car seemed down on power. I stopped, shut it off, restarted, and it was fine. Neither myself nor the Genesis techs have an answer yet.
After lunch I got into the 3.5T. It was predictably and noticeably faster, although it will burn more fuel. It gains an electronically controlled suspension with a road-reading camera so it can sense an upcoming bump and prepare the suspension to handle it. Audi and Mercedes both have something similar. Again, like the best technology, you’re totally unaware it’s happening. It also has doors that once you bring them near the latch, they automatically close themselves.
I figure if you can spring for a $66,000 car, you can probably find another ten grand in a sock somewhere and go for the 3.5T. And not, surprise surprise, for the power, or the trick suspension. I just fell in love with that wood interior.
Genesis is well beyond the point of having to sell their cars based on price alone. They stand head-to-head with anything remotely in their class on just about every count. The fact that their all-in prices are pretty much where the similarly-sized German competition (Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E Class) begins, with thousands of dollars of options needed to match G80’s equipment levels, is just a bonus.
If you’re in this market, you owe it to yourself to take a long, hard look.
The vehicles were provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.