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Genesis wants the G80 to look like it’s fast even when it’s standing still.

LUCAS SCARFONE/Courtesy of manufacturer

There are only two variants of the new Genesis G80 that you can buy in Canada: One with the 2.5-litre engine and the one with the 3.5-litre engine. That’s your only choice, other than the colour of the paint and the inside leather. No separate trim levels, no optional safety or convenience features. You’re either going to pay $66,000 plus tax, or $76,000 plus tax, and both include five years of scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance.

Genesis cars and SUVs are not sold like this in the United States. Down there, it’s the traditional model of choosing options, choosing drivetrains, then sitting in the back room with the business manager and trying to barter down the price. But here in Canada, all Genesis vehicles are sold direct by the manufacturer, and the dealerships are not franchises. Instead, they’re agents for the automaker, working on a fixed commission. Tesla sells cars using a similar corporate model.

Unlike buying through conventional dealerships, you can purchase a Genesis or a Tesla entirely online. If you’d like a test drive before taking the plunge, a company rep will be pleased to drive over to you in your vehicle of choice and let you go for a spin; if you’d like to drive several models, the Genesis rep will shuttle you up to 50 kilometres to the nearest “retail experience centre” at no charge, or up to 100 km if you don’t mind contributing to the gas.

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The inside trim of the 3.5-litre is real wood, not aluminum, and there's also a massaging seat, but only for the driver.

LUCAS SCARFONE/Courtesy of manufacturer

“Customers want to be in control,” says Richard Trevisan, Brand Director for Genesis Motors Canada. “As soon as you go into a regular luxury dealership, you lose control, but online, you’re in control.

“We’re fixed in the features we offer because we want to keep the simplicity and lower the price. Different variants and trim levels and options create complexity. We could offer everything, but then we would be incurring additional costs.”

The new Genesis GV80 SUV offers two trim levels for each of its two engines (which are retuned and shared with the sedan), but that vehicle is expected to sell many more units, which will keep costs in line.

This is the second generation of the Genesis G80 sedan, which helped introduce Hyundai’s luxury brand five years ago and is now the second best-selling vehicle in South Korea (after the Hyundai Azera equivalent). It’s been redesigned both inside and out, and is 35 mm wider, 15 mm lower, and 5 mm longer than before.

Unlike the analogue speedometer and digital tachometer of the smaller-engined car, the 3.5-litre's instrument cluster is Genesis’s clever 3D digital display.

LUCAS SCARFONE/Courtesy of manufacturer

The extra $10,000 for the more powerful engine also provides a few more features, including active magnetic suspension that’s matched to a camera constantly watching the road ahead, looking for potholes or speed bumps so it can soften the shocks for a smoother ride.

The young brand now has four vehicles: three sedans and the GV80 mid-sized SUV. Trevisan says it will be introducing two new vehicles each year for the next few years, and in 2021, he expects the upcoming GV70 compact SUV to help double the brand’s Canadian sales. There will also be a fully electric vehicle next year that will probably be based on the GV70, which will be the first in a full line-up of EVs.

Tech specs

The 2.5-litre and 3.5-litre engines share the same eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive, and they have plenty of get-up-and-go.

LUCAS SCARFONE/Courtesy of manufacturer

  • Base price/As tested: 2.5-litre: $66,000; 3.5-litre: $76,000, includes all charges except taxes
  • Engine: 2.5-litre: turbo inline-four; 300 hp, 311 lbs.-ft.; 3.5-litre: twin-turbo V6; 375 hp, 391 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission/Drive: 8-speed automatic / AWD
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 2.5-litre: 10.8 City, 7.9 Hwy., 9.5 Comb; 3.5-litre: 12.9 City, 9.0 Hwy., 11.2 Comb.
  • Alternatives: BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, Volvo S90, Lexus ES, Infiniti Q70


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Looks

The G80 looks like a big, powerful sedan. The idea is for it to look like it’s fast even when it’s standing still, which is the intention for just about every other performance vehicle out there. You can decide for yourself from the photos if it succeeded.

This second generation is the first sedan designed to actually be a Genesis – the previous car was originally to be a luxurious Hyundai. This time around, there are twin shallow headlights and tail lights with twin turning lights on the sides behind the front wheels. This is to be Genesis’s signature look.

Interior

The 3D digital display monitors the driver’s eyes to create the 3D effect, which works well even through sunglasses.

LUCAS SCARFONE/Courtesy of manufacturer

It’s very quiet inside: aside from additional sound-deadening materials, all the glass is acoustic muffling, so Genesis claims the cabin to have best-in-class minimizing of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).

Pay extra for the 3.5-litre and the leather and headliner is a little nicer and the inside trim is real wood, not aluminum. There’s also a massaging seat, but only for the driver. As I discovered while driving the similarly equipped GV80 recently with my wife, it won’t be a popular move to turn on the massage while your partner has no such option. Perhaps future Genesis models will recognize this and offer equal comfort to the front seats.

The central display touchscreen is a wide and shallow 14.5 inches and can be operated with either a stretch of the arms or a swivel of the rotary controller on the central console, which is just above the rotary glass transmission knob.

The instrument cluster itself on the 3.5-litre is Genesis’s clever 3D digital display, not the analogue speedometer and digital tachometer of the smaller-engined car. It monitors the driver’s eyes to create the 3D effect, which works well even through sunglasses. It’s too bad the heads-up display can’t learn from it, since the HUD becomes all but invisible on the windshield if you’re wearing polarized lenses.

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Performance

Both engines share the same eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive, and they have plenty of get-up-and-go. The 2.5-litre feels more agile, as it should for being more than 100 kg lighter, but the 3.5-litre just barges its way flat through corners as you would expect from any fairly large sedan.

My recent drive in the GV80 showed that the SUV is really not a sporty vehicle, but the G80 is quite different. My route in the sedan, using cars with both size of engine, was often tight and twisting and encouraged a much swifter pace than I’d have driven with the SUV. There’s no doubt that most bad sedans are more satisfying to drive than most good SUVs, but the G80 is a very good sedan, which elevates it far beyond the standard.

Technology

The central display touchscreen is a wide and shallow 14.5 inches.

LUCAS SCARFONE/Courtesy of manufacturer

The G80 is filled with practical and beneficial driver’s assistance features, including the blind-spot monitor cameras that show you the rear view down the side of the car when you’re signalling to turn in that direction. If you have the 3.5-litre with the 3D gauges, then the left gauge is a camera for the left side and the right gauge is a camera for the right; if you have the 2.5-litre, then only the right-side gauge is digital and does double-duty for both sides.

You can get this technology in other Hyundais, as well as the system that doesn’t allow you to open the side door if a car or a bicycle is approaching on that side, but it’s one of the benefits of buying a Korean-built car.

Genesis is proud that the G80 is apparently the world’s first vehicle to feature “smart cruise control with machine learning,” which means it monitors your driving habits to then mimic, on cruise, the way you drive when you’re not on cruise. It takes a week or so to study you, so I have no idea how well it works, but if you’re a poor driver, I can’t see that being able to tailgate somebody with jerky acceleration or braking is necessarily a good thing.

There’s a front centre airbag to prevent the driver and passenger from knocking heads in a collision, and improved forward collision avoidance assistance that will hit the brakes more readily if it thinks the action is needed – all extra features to help keep you safe. Suffice to say, the G80 should be a very safe vehicle indeed.

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Cargo

The trunk space is not as big as the competition.

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

There’s 371 litres of space in the trunk, which is a little smaller than most of the competition; the new Acura TLX, for example, has more than 400 litres. However, this is still enough room for a couple of golf bags and maybe even three.

The verdict

Comfortable, powerful, and a pleasure to drive – the G80 is everything a premium-quality mid-sized sedan should be. I’d prefer a little more flexibility in deciding exactly what features are included for the all-in purchase price, but if you live near one of Genesis’s 27 distributors, then the ease of ownership really can’t be beaten.

LUCAS SCARFONE/Courtesy of manufacturer

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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