Test Drive: 2018 Genesis G80 Sport

Welcome to Snowy Vancouver Sport

It’s the end of February in Vancouver. Crocuses and daffodils should be adding colour to the landscape as temperatures cruise into double-digit territory, but that’s not happening.

The West Coast is blanketed with a paralytic layer of unusually deep snow. Yes, this is Lotus Land in which snow – deep or not – throws the City and its ill-equipped citizenry into chaos and panic – most of it experienced behind the wheel.

But not for me, not this time.

I’m behind the wheel of a new Genesis G80 sedan propelled by full-time all-wheel-drive (AWD) featuring an integrated transfer case actuator and variable torque split clutch; simply a lot of words to describe an exceptionally capable AWD system.

On the ground lay 15 cm of snow, in which I tried to beat the G80 at its game, but its HTRAC AWD technology and the Bridgestone winter tires at all-four corners aced me every time. The G80 grabbed and snatched at the slippery surface, pulling me up steep inclines with nary a hint of surrender.

Damn it was good. So good in fact that I wondered how many SUV owners would revert to a sedan with this capability if the need for traction had been the driving force behind their purchase.

“Driving force” also describe the results underfoot. The G80 Sport is powered by a twin turbocharged 3.3L V6 direct-injection gasoline engine producing 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque; the latter stepping up at just 1,300 RPM.

An eight-speed automatic transmission administers the engine’s output, while a manual-mode allows the driver to usurp electronic logic with organic logic.

The driver can also fine-tune performance dynamics by selecting Eco, Normal, or Sport mode, each of which reprograms the G80’s throttle response, shift-mapping and underpinnings to achieve the desired responsiveness.

And responsive the G80 is!

In addition to its ability to scratch-out traction where none should exist, the G80 strikes a perfect blend between decadent luxury and exhilarating performance; well, at least in my humble opinion. That’s because my personal bias favours occupant pampering over that of tire-searing confidence.

Don’t get me wrong though, the G80 is no slouch in the corners. In fact, I’d heartily argue that it delivers more handling capability than typical BMW drivers would ever choose to explore, or frankly have the skill to exploit.

(I’m certain that my comment will generate protest among the “ultimate driving machine” purists, but point made.)

After momentary turbo lag, the G80’s acceleration is notably strong, both off-the-line and in the passing lane. Gear changes are quick, precise and always on target. Overall, the G80 is a tremendously satisfying sedan for the driving enthusiast, and one that holds its own in the styling department as well.

The G80 is a good-looking, spacious sedan. And now that Genesis has become a premium standalone brand, sporting an emblem somewhat reminiscent of the wings of Bentley, it can officially leave behind the Hyundai baggage and focus its sights on high-priced competitors.

While not inexpensive at $62,000, the Genesis Sport is loaded with content normally adding thousands of dollars to its competitors’ base price. Just as Hyundai did in the econo field, offering more for less, Genesis seems to be doing in the premium segment.

But forget the price advantage for a moment and let’s have a look at the G80 Sport’s cabin. It’s beautifully finished with an abundance of high-quality materials, but what I liked most about the car’s interior, and found startling refreshing, is the presence of traditional switchgear.

It’s remarkably easy to jump into the G80 and immediately have a sense of how to operate everything. Try that with Cadillac’s CUE system. Not so easy.

But Genesis went one better than simply relying upon conventional switchgear, they also supply a rotary mouse and direct access buttons along with a touchscreen with pinch capability. So, there you have it; choose your preferred interface technology.

When it comes to space and the ability to accommodate occupants and their wares, the G80 doesn’t scrimp. Head and legroom are generous, as is the vehicle’s high-volume 433L trunk.

As Vancouver’s unusually cruel winter abates, the G80 Sport has moved on to other journalists. While they may not experience its competency in snow and ice, at least not this year, I will fondly remember its tenacity on unplowed streets.

But my fondness goes deeper than the snow.

This is a roadworthy machine that delivers impressive levels of luxury and refinement; operationally smooth as cream, and whisper-quiet, yet capable of imparting a polished growl to accompany its refined potency. And no Hyundai ever did that.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport
Price as tested (before taxes): $62,000.00
Configuration: front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.3L twin-turbo V6 / 8-speed automatic
Power/torque: 365 hp / 376 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 13.8, highway 9.7
Warranty (basic): 5 years / 100,000 km
Competitors: Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac XTS, Lexus GS, Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Related links:
Genesis Canada

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