Sometimes you can have too many choices, especially among performance luxury cars. German automakers have made almost a fetish of adorning models with special designations, upgraded suspensions and enhanced performance for their go-fast sub-brands—there are so many variants, it can make your head spin. So, it’s a breath of fresh air when one of the newest luxury makes on the block, Hyundai’s Genesis brand, introduced its first performance-oriented sedan in just one version, the 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport. This single trim level is deftly positioned between the entry level V6 and V8 G80s in the current lineup.

What this means is that buyers need only shop one model to suit their needs. Those looking to enter the Genesis experience at the base level can look to the normally aspirated 3.8-liter V6 powered G80, which makes 311 horsepower. Those who want the top spec can choose the 420-horsepower V8 model. For enthusiasts, the new G80 Sport is the perfect tweener, offering 365 horsepower from its twin turbocharged 3.3-liter V6. And no matter which model you choose, you can opt for all-wheel rather than rear-drive for an extra $2,500. Simple.

Understated elegance with a bit of edge

As a new entry in the luxury segment, Genesis is looking for customers who are looking for value, a high level of content and a satisfying driving experience over whatever prestige a badge conveys. The G80 delivers on that promise with an understated look of luxury that takes a page from Audi’s approach. (Which is understandable since Peter Schreyer, who oversees design for all of Hyundai and Kia, is an Audi veteran). The muscular looking G80 has crisply tailored character lines, a large singleframe grille with a honeycomb insert, large auxiliary intakes and headlamp units framed by LED running lights.

Beyond its more aggressive face, the G80 Sport is distinguished by more subtle touches, like the copper-hued grille surround and black mirror covers. Copper is also used to tint the brake calipers, appears in headlamp detailing and inside the cabin in the form of contrast stitching on the firmly bolstered sport seats. Other touches reinforcing the Sport designation are the carbon fiber accents, microfiber suede headliner, thicker sport steering wheel with more of the copper stitching and aluminum sport pedals.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2018

Smooth operator

The understatement in the execution of this package extends to the car’s driving dynamics. With adjustable drive modes including Normal, Eco, Snow and Sport, the baseline suspension and steering response are a bit more on the sporty side of the ledger, with a bit of heft to the steering response. The Continuous Damping Control suspension is fairly supple and tightens up in the Sport mode, while at the same time the throttle tip-in and response becomes livelier. You can also customize the settings, moving in a menu to mix and match steering response with the engine and transmission mapping.  The 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission provides smooth, quick shifts and when you’re using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, does an admirable job of throttle blip rev matching, which adds to the overall experience in spirited driving. Both the Sport and rear-drive versions of the 5.0-liter V8 Ultimate models are fitted with 19-inch wheels instead of the standard 18-inch alloys.

Driving the rear- and all-wheel drive versions back-to-back, there wasn’t much difference between the two on dry, Northern California pavement. The AWD version carries around a tad more weight, but overall, the suspension is nicely set-up with a neutral to slight understeer bias that makes it quite easy to hustle down the road. The 4-wheel disc brakes have a great feel and linear feedback, which further contributes to the G80 Sport’s solid and stable character.

Fully loaded

The G80 Series in both 3.3T Sport and V8 versions have virtually no options aside from all-wheel drive. There’s a complete suite of driver assists and safety systems that include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver attention alert, blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning. The G80 also benefits from smart cruise control that includes start and stop functionality, automatic high beams, a review camera and haptic response in the steering wheel as part of the alert system. In addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, the G80 also offers an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, supplementary 4.3-inch multi-information display in the instrument cluster, 12-way power seats and hands-free trunk with auto open.

Pricing for the 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport is $55,250 for rear-drive, $57,750 for all-wheel drive. The standard 3.8-liter V6 model starts at $41,750 and tops out at $54,350 when both the $5,000 Premium and $5,100 Ultimate packages along with AWD are added. The range-topping 5.0 Ultimate is $57,000 for rear-drive and $59,500 for AWD. 


 

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