Like so many other luxury automakers, Genesis has been putting much of its focus on the SUV market lately, with new models like the GV70 and GV80.
It’s no surprise considering that’s where most of the buyers are going. But the automaker hasn’t walked away from its traditional sedan line-up. If anything, it’s taking steps to make them even more appealing, as I found out during a visit to California’s scenic Central Coast to drive the 2022 Genesis G80 Sport.
“The market is still very big. There are still many customers for sedans,” Genesis North America Chief Operating Officer Claudia Marquez explained just before I headed out from San Luis Obispo for a long, winding drive through mountains and woods.
The G80 got a major makeover for 2021, with updated styling, a more dynamic driving experience and plenty of additional high-tech safety and infotainment technology.
So, it might come as a surprise to see it get another update for the new model year. When the latest-generation sedan launched it was offered in two key packages based around its drivetrain offerings. The base model, if you will, featured a 2.5-liter turbo-4 making a solid 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque.
The alternative came with a 375-hp twin-turbo V-6. And that now serves as the basis of the 2022 update. All models using the bigger engine will be called Sport going forward. There are, however, two versions of the Sport line and Genesis is following the lead of its German rivals, with one basically just getting an appearance upgrade.
I spent my driving time in the more “sporty” 2022 Genesis G80 Sport Prestige package, which adds some mechanical niceties including electronically adaptable dampers that, during aggressive driving, put meaning to the word, “sport.”
As we first saw when the G80 got a makeover for 2021, the new sedan picks up on key styling details first seen on the bigger G90 line, as well as the GV80 SUV. That starts with the brand’s distinctive split-quad headlamps that frame an enlarged version of the Genesis crest grille.
The G80’s long hood flows into a sweeping, coupe-like roofline and fastback rear that brings to mind the latest Audi A7. A single “parabolic” accent line flows from nose to tail — a design cue also found on the GV80. “It’s all about simplicity,” design chief SangYup Lee suggested during a recent Zoom call. Bulging arches frame the sedan’s 20-inch chromed wheels.
The split/quad headlamps are echoed by marker lights on the front quarter panel and, again, with the split/quad taillights. The twin exhaust pipes, meanwhile, pick up on the shape of the Genesis crest grille.
For 2022, the Sport models go with unique 19- and 20-inch wheels. They feature different front and rear bumpers, and get dark glossy chrome accents on the grille, trunk lid molding and other exterior trim. There’s a distinctive front fascia and new, colored front brake calipers. All told, the effect is to give the Sport a more sinister appearance.
When the 2021 G80 rolled out last year, one of the big surprises was just how roomy it is inside. There’s plenty of leg and headroom for four or five passengers, even with the sloping, coupe-like roofline. Part of the trick was slightly lowering the rear seats compared to the outgoing model.
The sedan also got upgraded details that align it closer to the top-line G90. The instrument panel flows low and wide, a horizontal layout enhanced by the new air vent design. The IP features a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 14.5-inchbroad infotainment screen topping the center stack.
The plushly upholstered front “motion seats” feature seven air cells that subtly change shape while driving, Genesis says, to improve comfort and reduce fatigue on long trips. Two- and three-zone control systems are available.
From a more classic luxury perspective, the new G80 features a range of different interior material choices, including a premium leather package and open-pore woods.
As the Sport model splits off, it adds unique interior colors, a new chevron pattern stitch on upholstery, metal pedals, a unique steering wheel and a choice of either aluminum or carbon fiber accent trim.
All versions of the G80 Sport are powered by the previously mentioned twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 putting out 375 hp and 391 lb-ft. As with the base engine, it’s mated to a smooth, almost invisible 8-speed automatic gearbox with power sent out to all four wheels.
The underlying platform starts out as rear-wheel-drive and the AWD system remains rear biased, an approach that translates into decidedly more sporty manners during “spirited” driving.
The latest-generation G80 actually went on a diet, losing about 166 pounds compared to the original sedan. While Genesis isn’t releasing 0-60 numbers the lighter mass helps it come in just under 6 seconds. And, should you want to push things to the limits, the performance package for the 2022 G80 Sport adds Launch Control.
Genesis engineers have, meanwhile, made some other welcome upgrades for the debut of the new sedan when in Sport+ mode. Drive hard and the transmission will assert itself with a sportier shift pattern. It now will hold gears while cornering — which avoids sudden changes in torque that can destabilize the sedan. The idle has been raised and, in general, nanny features become less intrusive, though they remain at the ready should you overcook a corner.
Another nice new feature is the addition of rear-wheel steering. The back tires can turn by as much as 2 degrees. At low speeds, they turn the opposite direction from the front, allowing the sedan to maneuver and park like a smaller vehicle. At highway speeds they turn in the same direction, enhancing cornering capabilities.
On the performance package you also can order summer tires for $500. That package includes a new active noise control system.
Safety and Technology
There’s plenty of technology onboard, starting with the noise control system which functions much like the noise cancelling headsets airline travelers favor. It uses strategically placed microphones and other sensors to detect and then cancel out the noises that would carry into the passenger compartment.
One of the most important additions to the Sport Prestige package is an electronically variable damping system which uses a camera to watch the road ahead. It predictively adjusts the shocks to smooth out rough pavement. The system also can adapt each individual damper when driving hard to keep the sedan more firmly planted.
The G80 Sport has an optional reconfigurable gauge cluster — standard on the top package — a large touchscreen and an optional head-up display. It also includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A smartphone app allows a driver to monitor and control vehicle functions, such as locking and unlocking doors, remotely.
Genesis is rapidly migrating to digital key technology which allows drivers to use their smartphone instead of the keyfob to enter, operate and then lock the vehicle. With the G80, a motorist also can push a button, step out and have the sedan remotely park itself.
Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot collision avoidance are among the many advanced driver assistance features. Genesis also notes a “Machine Learning” feature allows the sedan to learn and mimic a motorist’s driving style, while the “Highway Driving Assist II” feature automatically changes lanes with a tap of the turn signal. There are plenty of advanced driver assistance systems integrated into the new sedan, such as the Highway Driving Assist II package that can operate virtually hands-free and even execute a pass simply by tapping the turn signal.
Clearly, the new G80 wasn’t designed to be a muscle car. And it isn’t quite as aggressive as a BMW M and Mercedes-AMG during hard driving. But with the active damping system, the new sedan clearly holds its own when you press it hard.
It has a nice, hunkered-down feeling, especially in sport mode, with surprisingly little body roll, even in tight corners. Steering is precise and predictable, with a nicely balanced road feel. In comfort mode, the suspension on our test vehicle did a great job at smoothing out rough roads.
I was able to smoothly wend my way through the tight and twisty corners on the many backwoods roads leading up into the Nine Sisters, the jagged mountain chain near San Luis Obispo. The twin-turbo V-6 was quick to respond to my right foot and the brakes willingly scrubbed off speed before entering a tight corner. One of the nice touches on the Prestige package was the ability to dial up the aggressiveness of the braking system.
On the whole, the 2022 Genesis G80 Sport Prestige delivers precisely what I had hoped for. It’s a classic grand tourer. Go easy on the throttle and you can cruise all day in elegant comfort. Stand on the throttle and it is more than willing to respond, letting you bob and weave down mountain passes while always maintaining a sense of poise and stability.
The “base” version of the sedan, the 3.5 AWD Sport, starts at $63,450. The sportier Prestige jumps to $69,750 with all-season tires. Add another $500 for the summer tire and noise control package. And delivery fees tack on another $1,045.
To put things into perspective, the starting price for the G80 with the turbo-4 engine is $48,000.
For the money, it’s hard to come up with a better alternative. True, the U.S. market has largely moved to SUVs. But there are things you can’t get with a utility vehicle and for those who still crave the look and feel of a sedan, the 2022 Genesis G80 Sport should be high on your list.