Driving along 17-Mile Drive in California’s Del Monte Forest between Monterey and Carmel, I am comfortably situated behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel of a new Genesis G80 Sport. While unquestionably comfortable, I am also rather bored. The Drive’s 25 miles per hour limit and steady Monterey Car Week traffic is hardly the setting to explore the 365 horsepower on offer from the G80 Sport’s 3.3-litre twin turbo V6.
For the uninitiated, Genesis is the newly separate luxury wing of the Hyundai Motor Group, having been launched in North America late 2016. My ride for Monterey Car Week, the G80 Sport, is a trim level, driver-focused addition to the Genesis portfolio. Regardless of spec, the G80 is a mid-sized sedan meant to do battle against a range of German, American, and Japanese counterparts. While the model-by-model competition is certainly fierce, Genesis faces an uphill battle almost regardless of its rivals’ products.
Launching a new luxury brand is an incredibly difficult, expensive, and time-consuming task. Consider the years it took for brands like Lexus and Infiniti to establish themselves as viable contenders to the long-standing marques from Europe. In approaching this monumental job, Genesis has built an impressive team to lead its products in a direction that will include more models and more markets of availability. Senior vice-president and head of brand Manfred Fitzgerald was previously the director of brand and design at Lamborghini; Genesis also tapped Luc Donckerwolke, former design director for Lamborghini, Bentley, and Audi, to help ensure the company created appropriately luxurious and attractive products.
Genesis has developed a strong presence in Korea, and attending events like Monterey Car Week will help the brand establish its presence in the crucial North American market. Monterey Car Week is nothing if not a complete spectacle, a near religious experience for the car enthusiast. From The Quail to Pebble Beach, if you want to exist in the automotive world, you must be here.
Whether driving or being driven, in the front or the back, both the G80 and the G90 are very nice places to be, and neither exhibits any of the common pitfalls found on so-called entry-level luxury vehicles. The materials are good, the tech on offer is both functional and competitive for the price point, and the whole experience is relaxed, quiet, and user-friendly. The navigation and multimedia system on the G80 is based in a bright and responsive 9.2-inch touchscreen and mated to an impressive 17-speaker Lexicon sound system. The G90 has a larger, 12.3-inch central display with split-screen functionality.
The sinister copper-accented G80 Sport is well suited to put that 3.3-litre twin turbo V6 to good use. Sporting an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifting and available all wheel drive, the G80 Sport is never more than a moment away from brisk acceleration. The seating position is excellent and the driver has a suite of controls at his or her fingertips, along with a bright and colourful heads-up display that projects everything from speed to multimedia and navigation information onto the lower portion of the windshield.
Driving back from Monterey to San Francisco, I found the G80 Sport to be as happy on the highway as it was on a twisty back road. With Smart Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist, the vehicle eats up a long stretch of highway without ever needlessly stressing the driver or passengers. It’s a nice place to sit, it’s incredibly easy to drive, and it has plenty of power for the occasional spirited on-ramp blast or a quick pass. Furthermore, the steering is nicely weighted and helps to mask some of the G80’s considerable 4,500-plus-pound weight.
Genesis is attempting one of the hardest acts in the automotive industry: establishing new luxury. The road to the top is fierce, and it takes years to build loyalty and expand presence in a given market. Under the care of an experienced and capable team, the brand has launched a selection of handsome, very well appointed, and competitive sedans. The Genesis brand looked every bit the part at Monterey Car Week—and with continued expansion on the horizon, this new kid on the block may well be the one to watch.
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