2021 Genesis G80 2.5T first drive review: Fantastic four
Here's a 2021 Genesis G80 pro tip: Don't bother with the V6. Sure, there's a lot to like about a midsize sedan with 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque -- especially one as all-around good as the new G80. But after a few days with the less expensive four-cylinder variant, I can't imagine ever needing anything more.
The G80's base engine is a brand-new, turbocharged, 2.5-liter I4. You'll also find this 2.5T in the larger GV80 SUV, and Genesis will soon share this engine with its Hyundai and Kia corporate cousins. Look for a version of this engine to make its way into the Hyundai Sonata N-Line, as well as Kia's K5 GT and Stinger.
In the G80, the 2.5T is good for 300 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which is delivered at a super-low 1,650 rpm. The torque delivery stays strong up to 4,000 rpm, and the eight-speed automatic transmission does a great job delivering this thrust, shifting quickly yet smoothly. Like the larger, 3.5-liter V6, the 2.5T can be paired with rear- or all-wheel drive.
Genesis doesn't quote an official 0-to-60-mph acceleration time, and my butt's stopwatch is on the fritz, so I don't have any hard data to report here. But allow me to reiterate what Andrew Krok said in his first drive of the G80 3.5T: "Motive force is important, but what really helps the G80 stand out from the competition is how smooth the entire experience is." Indeed, the 2.5T engine delivers an effortless rush of power, and at no point during a few days of driving around Los Angeles am I ever wishing for more.
Even outside of the Genesis brand, the G80 2.5T compares favorably to midsize rivals. With 300 hp and 311 lb-ft, the G80 2.5T is more powerful than the more expensive, four-cylinder Audi A6, BMW 530i and Mercedes-Benz E350.
The 2.5-liter engine is a lot more economical, too. The EPA says the rear-wheel-drive G80 3.5T should return 19 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. With the 2.5T/RWD setup, those numbers improve to 23 city, 32 highway and 26 combined. That's not an insignificant jump, and achieving that 32-mpg highway number doesn't require a feather-light touch.
Power aside, the G80 2.5T drives exactly the same as a 3.5T. The steering is appropriately weighty. The adaptive suspension does an excellent job of soaking up bumps while keeping the body controlled. Yes, the G80 3.5T can be had with 20-inch wheels in its top-level Prestige trim while the 2.5T maxes out with 19s, but a.) these alloys look outstanding and b.) the thicker-sidewall tires make the ride quality even more serene. Win-win.
Wheel options aside, there's no telltale visual cues that set the 2.5T and 3.5T models apart. No matter the engine, the G80 looks stunning, with LED lights at all four corners and a seriously slick silhouette. It's a similar story inside the sedan, too. My 2.5T Advance test car has open-pore wood, supple leather seats and real metal buttons that have excellent tactile feel. Every G80 gets the 14.5-inch widescreen infotainment display, as well as driver-assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, forward-collision warning -- the whole shebang.
What do you miss out on by not picking the 3.5T? Not a lot. The most obvious omission is that the 2.5T can't be had with the G80's 12.3-inch 3D digital instrument display, which is kind of a letdown. Otherwise, the only things you're leaving on the table are slightly nicer leather and a microfiber headliner. Big deal.
Besides, consider this: A fully loaded G80 2.5T Prestige with all-wheel drive starts at $60,175 including $1,025 for destination, which is only $50 more than the most basic 3.5T Standard with rear-wheel drive. Comparing the most basic variants, the 3.5T Standard costs a full $11,400 more than a 2.5T Standard, and while you do get more standard equipment with the latter, you could just go for a fully loaded four-cylinder model instead.
The new G80 is a damn fine sedan, and I appreciate that it leans into refinement and luxury rather than trying to be unnecessarily sporty. That in mind, the 2.5T suits the G80's relaxed character a whole lot better. Load up on the good stuff and skip the 3.5-liter V6. I promise, you'll never miss that extra power.