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The 2017 Genesis G80 kicked off a week of surprises for me. First of all, this upstart luxury sedan felt every bit as solid as a BMW 5-series or Mercedes-Benz E-class. Maybe that shouldn't have been so much of a surprise, as Hyundai, owner of the Genesis brand, demonstrates impressive quality with its latest models.
On a trip down the California coast, I appreciated driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and, most of all, the blind spot monitor. The surprise came when I saw that these features come standard, at least in the V8 model. After fiddling around with the navigation system, I found it had integrated Google destination search. A dedicated data connection into the car? Yet another pleasant surprise.
And finally, after recording fuel economy on the freeway maxing out at 28 mpg in the G80 with a 5-liter V8, only dropping to about 19 mpg in the city, Genesis' EPA numbers blew me away. The spec sheet gives a very conservative 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. I got about 5 mpg better than the posted fuel economy.
Hyundai only recently announced its breakout Genesis luxury brand, launching with two products, the G80 and G90. Both luxury sedans, the G80 comes in as the smaller of the set, although it's still almost 16 and a half feet long and gives you a spacious cabin. Genesis offers the G80 with either a 3.8-liter V6 or 5-liter V8, both with direct injection. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, but the V6 can be had as all-wheel-drive.
And as I mentioned above, the G80 comes stock full of surprises.
Throughout the cabin, the materials look and feel like you would expect in a luxury car. I particularly like the matte wood trim, which feels much more like real wood than the glossy garbage found in so many cars. Heated and cooled front seats are a welcome addition, as is the large, 9.2-inch LCD in the dashboard.
Using a dial and buttons on the console, I could use navigation, phone and audio systems. Although that dial makes alphanumeric entries tedious, the LCD is actually a touchscreen, so I could lean forward and quickly type in a street address. Of course, I could turn to Google search to find places based on keywords, which was also very fast.
Route guidance graphics on the main LCD showed which lanes I could use for freeway junctions, and the head-up display, also standard, showed upcoming turns.
Satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming and iOS integration made up the typical group of digital audio sources, augmented by Aha and Pandora in the G80. And I enjoyed listening to music over an impressive 17-speaker Lexicon stereo. The only negatives I can point out about the G80's electronics are that there is only one USB port, and that the audio source automatically reverted to radio whenever I restarted the car. That meant an uncouth blast of AM while I waited for its Bluetooth to reconnect with my phone.
Over hundreds of miles down the freeway, the G80 proved as comfortable as I could want. Its V8 engine, good for 420 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, hummed along, the eight-speed automatic transmission giving it the gearing to keep the tachometer needle low. When I needed a boost for passing, the transmission downshifted quickly enough, letting me tap into peak power.
Although lacking an adaptive suspension, the G80's fixed suspension delivered a smooth, comfortable ride. Adequate sound damping for the cabin further added to the luxury experience.
Genesis tunes the G80's electric power steering with ample heft, for solid driving feel. In city driving, the steering proved responsive enough to let me cut quickly between traffic. In those situations, the suspension also contributed to relatively nimble handling.
In fact, the only real issue I found while driving the G80 was that, typical for large sedans, the drivetrain made me wait half a moment when I wanted acceleration.
OK, one last surprise. The 2017 Genesis G80 goes for a base price of $41,400. That is an extremely good value, but to get the V8 model with all the tech goodies I mentioned above, you will need to shell out $54,550.
Compare that to the Mercedes-Benz E300, which comes with a four-cylinder engine and, when optioned up, goes for close to $70,000.
While the G80 looks like an exceptional value, cars such as the E300 and the BMW 5-series do boast more far-reaching technologies, such as gesture controls for cabin electronics or nearly self-driving capabilities in stop-and-go traffic. I do like those edgy features, but the G80, by keeping its tech a little more conventional, ensures everything works well and feels familiar.