The Genesis G80 wants a foothold in the world of luxury sedans

The Genesis G80 is looking to establish a foothold in the world of luxury sedans.
The Genesis G80 is looking to establish a foothold in the world of luxury sedans. –Photo by Bill Griffith

Today’s test car is a 2017 Genesis G80 sedan, a statement that’s more complex than it sounds because it requires an effort to avoid typing the “Hyundai Genesis G80.”

That’s because, starting in 2017, Hyundai spun Genesis off as a separate upscale brand.

And therein is our story.

It’s easy to look back a few years and imagine the genesis of this idea at Hyundai headquarters.

Toyota had Lexus as its luxury brand.

Honda had Acura, and Nissan has Infiniti.

Boston.com Dealer Specials:

It goes on. Ford had Lincoln. And Chevrolet had Buick, Cadillac, and GMC.

Hyundai had … nothing until 2015 when it announced its Genesis plan.

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After an inauspicious start in the 1980s — and for those who remember the Excel, that’s an understatement — Hyundai built a strong brand image over the past two decades.

It started with a revolutionary idea at the time — the company’s 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Hyundai built upon that, one car at a time, transforming into a brand that offered reliability along with a lot of standard features, making its cars a good value proposition.

Then, over the past decade, the lineup expanded and the vehicles took the final step forward, adding refinement and contemporary styling to compete fully in their model segments.

In 2007 and 2008, Hyundai added the rear-wheel-drive Genesis sedan and coupe, breaking from its tradition of building front-wheel-drive vehicles.

The Genesis caught the country’s eye and was named North American Car of the Year in 2009, a milestone award for Hyundai.

So now we have the G80 (the former Genesis) and the G90 (the former Equus) as a stand-alone Genesis brand.

This time, instead of building from the bottom, Hyundai/Genesis is trying to jump right into the luxury game.

Its formula is the same — reliability, lots of the technology and features buyers will be expecting, a plush feel and look, plus a relative bargain price.

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What Genesis lacks is that “je ne sais quoi” — the brand cachet a luxury vehicle acquires over time.

Nor does it have a supporting cast in its showroom, a smaller sedan or coupe along with the crossovers and SUVs that American drivers demand.

All this means the Genesis story is at least as much about the brand as the cars.

The Genesis has been well received since its inception.

A combination of leather, wood, and aluminum trim gives the Genesis G80’s roomy cabin a feel of luxury. —Photo by Bill Griffith

Our test car — the G80 — has a coveted “recommended” checkmark from Consumer Reports.

This June, Genesis ranked No. 2 — behind only Kia, its sibling under the Hyundai corporate umbrella — in the 2017 J.D. Power Initial Quality Rankings that measure the number of problems each manufacturer has per 100 cars.

Our Genesis had the base 3.8-liter V-6 engine that makes 311 horsepower and sends the power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The driver has a choice of four drive modes — Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow.

Base price (including $950 destination charge) is $44,850. This test model also had both available option packages, Premium ($4,750) and Ultimate ($4,200), bringing the bottom line to a still-reasonable (for a luxury sedan) $53,800.

Standard safety technology includes auto emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control with auto stop/start, and auto high beam bi-xenon headlights.

The Premium package added, among other things, a panoramic sunroof, dynamic guidelines for the standard rearview camera, ventilated front seats, upgraded audio system, and larger (7-inch) driver information display.

Additions in the Ultimate package include a power trunklid, premium leather upholstery, upgraded front seats with power bolsters and thigh cushions, upgraded wood and aluminum interior trim, a welcome head-up display (showing speed and navigation information on the windshield), 9-inch touchscreen, and further enhanced audio system.

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We found the G80 driving experience to be exactly what you’d expect in a luxury sedan — refined powertrain, luxury cabin, comfortable ride, and contemporary technology.

If you have that Yankee frugality gene, seeking to get the most bang for your buck, the G80 certainly delivers. We think the 8,300 owners who’ve bought a Genesis so far this year are happy.

What does it lack? Automotively, little is missing. Various competitors may have easier-to-use technology, more rear-seat space, or a more-refined ride, but those are picking nits.

The problem comes in if you need a prestigious logo that makes a immediately recognizable statement in your neighborhood — a Cadillac crest, Audi’s four intertwined rings, a leaping Jaguar, Mercedes star, or Maserati trident. Or a big-time pitchman, such as Aston-Martin’s Tom Brady.

So far, the Genesis winged emblem isn’t immediately recognizable unless you mistake it for a somewhat similar Bentley or Aston-Martin.

And that’s a topic for more meetings at headquarters.

Bill Griffith can be reached at wgriff@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter.