It’s amazing how quickly things can change in a short period of time. More true in the automotive industry. A decade ago, the Genesis used to be a model under the Hyundai name. Now, it’s a luxury brand. Their latest vehicle is the all-new 2021 Genesis G80 that has the Mercedes-Benz E-class in its sights.
Engine – The 2021 Genesis G80 is available with two engines. A base 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder or a 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6. This particular demo vehicle had the 2.5L engine which produces 300 hp & 311 lb-ft (224 kW & 422 Nm). The more powerful V6 has 375 hp & 391 lb-ft (280 kW & 530 Nm). Compared to the E-class, the G80 2.5T has 45 more horsepower than the E350 & 13 more horsepower than the E450. It’s a similar story when it comes to torque; 38 & 22 lb-ft respectively.
This G80 2.5T doesn’t feel particularly spritely in Comfort mode but switch it to Sport mode and the engine really “wakes up”. The peak torque figure is reached at a ridiculous 1,300 rpms and is sustained midway through the rpm range. This helps move the almost 1,900 kg body to 100 km/h in just under 6 seconds. While there is a more powerful engine option, for most driver’s needs, the 2.5T engine has plenty of punch for everyday driving. It’s not meant to be a sporty sedan and it never felt as though it was wanting for more power when accelerating from a stop or merging onto a highway.
Another benefit to this 2.5T engine is that it’s fairly fuel efficient, especially on highways. It is rated for 7.9 L/100km (29.7 MPG) on a highway and 10.8 L/100km (21.8 MPG) in a city. The Mercedes E350 gets slightly better fuel economy at 0.1 L/100km for both city & highway driving.
Transmission – Both Genesis G80 engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. This 8-speed is one of the smoothest transmissions when it comes to changing gears. Shifts are hardly felt from behind the steering wheel. Speaking of which, you can take over shifting duties with the steering wheel mounted paddles. Switch the car into Sport mode and the shifts become faster but also more noticeable.
Braking – Stopping the 2021 Genesis G80 2.5T are regular brakes that you’d find on most other vehicles. The Prestige trim receives upgraded 4-piston calipers. The standard brakes though do a decent enough job of bringing the 1,879 kg (4,143 lbs) body to a stop. It’s just that the brake pedal has a bit more travel that I was expecting from a luxury sedan. However, they are easy to modulate and because of the longer pedal travel, they don’t feel as sensitive as the brakes on the Mercedes-Benz E-class.
Handling – This new generation of the Genesis G80 is on an all-new platform that is lighter than the last but more rigid. This new “M3” platform is also shared with the all-new Genesis GV80 SUV. It gives the new G80 a wider stance that helps improve driving dynamics & stability around corners. However, don’t expect it to be a half sporty, half luxury driving experience. The Genesis G80’s primary focus is refined & luxurious driving dynamics. It feels stable and the steering is quick around corners but it feels as though it doesn’t want to be pushed to its limits. There’s quite a bit of body roll and you can feel the heft of the almost 1,900 kg body through sweeping mountain corners. The Mercedes-Benz E-class feels much more nimble than the Genesis despite having a similar curb weight.
Ride Comfort – As luxury is the G80’s primary focus, the ride is superb. This 2.5T Advanced trim does not have the adaptive suspension of it’s 3.5TT Prestige trim. However, driving over a bump or pothole feels as though it’s not actually there. The standard suspension does a fantastic job of isolating the cabin from the road which is exactly what you want from a luxury vehicle. By comparison the Mercedes E-class has a slightly firmer ride. It’s comfortable for everyday use but you notice more of the bumps and road imperfections as you drive along.
The seats in the G80 further aid in the overall ride comfort. The leather and padding is soft but firm enough to not make you feel as though you’re sinking in the seats. The Prestige trim adds adjustable side bolsters, lower cushion extension, & what Genesis calls a “Driver’s Ergo Motion” function. This feature slightly adjusts the seat every few minutes to prevent pressure points & promote blood circulation over long drives.
Interior Space – As you would expect from a luxury sedan, it’s the back seats that are the place to be in. The Genesis G80 has almost 3-inches more legroom in the back than the Mercedes E-class. If there’s only two of you in the back, pop down the center console and you have access to the rear climate controls, cup holders, & rear power sunshade. The side windows have manual sunshades. In the front, it’s the same story. The 2021 Genesis G80 has more leg and head room than the Mercedes E-class. But if you need to carry stuff in the trunk, the Mercedes E-class is your better bet. It has 540 L (19 cu-ft) of cargo capacity whereas the Genesis G80 only has 370 L (13.1 cu-ft) of cargo space. Better yet for the Mercedes, the rear seats can be folded for more space whereas the G80 only has a pass through for long items like skis.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The cabin of the G80 was designed to isolate the occupants from outside noises and it does an excellent job of that. Road, wind, and even engine noises are isolated. If you want though, you can add in some engine noise through the stereo system. The Genesis G80 has fake engine noises that can be adjusted from off to low to high.
Other than the fake engine noises, there’s nothing in the cabin that squeaks or rattles when driving over rougher & unmaintained roads. Everything feels well put together and even closing the door has a solid and satisfying noise to it.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – For a base level vehicle, the 2021 Genesis G80 Advanced is well equipped as you would expect from a Hyundai sub-brand. Heated seats all round, ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, power trunk open & close, a full suite of advanced driver & safety aids, a head-up display, a 14.5” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity, and wireless phone charging.
Apart from the aforementioned extra seating adjustments, the 3.5TT Prestige trim adds a full 12.3” 3D digital driver display, wood trim, Nappa leather upholstery, & remote parking assist. And of course the more powerful 3.5L engine. So even the base trim is equipped like a more mid-level trim of competitor vehicles.
As for how these gadgets work, they never skipped a beat during my time with the G80 Advanced. The infotainment system is fast & fairly easy to get used to. The adaptive cruise control & lane following system always saw the lanes and surrounding traffic even at night. My only annoyance about the technology on the G80 is the hands-free operated trunk. It doesn’t have a kick to open like the E-class, instead you have to stand behind it for 5 seconds with the key somewhere on you in order for the trunk to pop open. It works just fine but standing there for 5 seconds does start to feel like an eternity when it’s raining and you don’t have an umbrella.
Interior Design – Elegant – is probably the best way to describe the interior look of the Genesis G80. All of the materials used throughout the cabin are real and of good quality. The large infotainment touchscreen is the predominant feature of the dashboard however if you’re on the short side, you will have a tough time reaching menu items on the far right of the screen. You can use the rotary dial on the center console but because it’s a scroll wheel that you can’t grab onto like a traditional rotary dial, it can become frustrating to use.
In the Mercedes-Benz, the interior is much more interesting to look at. It still exudes luxury with the soft leather & wood trim but the way it looks is more modern to my eyes than the interior look of the G80.
Exterior Design – The exterior of the Genesis G80 is a complete polar opposite of the interior. It shouts for attention. Everywhere the car goes, people turn heads because it looks so unique. It makes the E-class look dull & boring. The large shield grille is inspired by its bigger brother, the G90, and that shape can be found throughout the exterior. For example, the exhaust tips have the same shape as well as the center of the wheels that are equipped on the top Prestige trim. The dual bar DRLs wrap around the front bumper and the side markers continue the line on the front fender. Those lines are then continued again in the taillights. It is a very striking exterior design that may not be to everyone’s taste.
The 2021 Genesis G80 2.5T Advanced AWD starts at $66,000 CAD which is $1,100 more than the starting price of the Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic. In the United States, the Genesis G80 is also available as a RWD only vehicle and as such the starting price is $47,700 USD – with AWD it starts at $50,850 USD. For the top Prestige AWD trim, you’ll be paying $76,000 CAD ($62,250 USD). Both of the starting prices of the Genesis G80 are a bit more than the equivalent Mercedes-Benz E-class but the G80 comes better equipped. To equip an E-class to the same specifications, you have to start adding on the options which will easily raise the price by $10,000 or more.
So is the 2021 Genesis G80 a worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz E-class? If you want the best bang for the buck, then yes it is. It offers more space and more features for less money. However, the Genesis name doesn’t have the same prestige as the Mercedes-Benz star. Genesis still has a long way to go before the vast majority of luxury buyers see it on the same level as Mercedes-Benz. Most still see it as a Hyundai. It is a great car and I do recommend it for those on a budget but an extra $10,000 CAD on a $75,000 CAD vehicle is only a couple hundred dollars more per month on the lease or finance term. Most will see that as an ability to go for the more recognizable & prestigious car which is the Mercedes-Benz. If Genesis continues though to make great cars like this G80, then one day it will become on par with the established luxury brands.
Thank you to Genesis Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Genesis.com/ca