A couple years back, my 60-year-old father was looking to buy his first “nice” car, and after some back-and-forth through texts, I had inadvertently convinced him to go and test drive a used CL65 AMG. You know, that big luxury coupe with the 600 horsepower V12? By his account, it was likely the fastest and brashest car he had ever driven — a grail car, if there ever was one. And yet, a couple weeks later, he put in an order for a new Hyundai Genesis, a fit so painfully perfect I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it first.
The thing you should understand about my dad is that, while he occasionally has his flights of fancy (he’s currently thinking about a dirt bike; if you’re reading this, wear a helmet, Dad), he is a deeply pragmatic person. For his first nice car, he wanted something mildly fun but, most of all, reasonably priced and comfortable. Having driven his 2016 Hyundai Genesis (equipped with the 3.8-liter V6), I can’t say it really meets the “fun” requirement — but reasonably priced and comfortable? Damn, does that describe Genesis to a tee.
And now I’m in Napa Valley driving the sporty successor to the car formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis, the Genesis G80 Sport (remember, Genesis is its own brand now) and realizing maybe Dad should’ve waited a couple years. Because — damn — mildly fun, reasonably priced and comfortable describes the G80 Sport, also to a tee.
Credit where credit is due, I was ready to write the G80 Sport off as another car in a long series of cars with meaningless “Sport” trims. Granted, the most noticeable changes, relative to the G80, are big, multi-spoke alloys, a mesh grille and subtle tweaks to the body kit. There’s also a liberal smattering of copper-colored accents. But it’s more than just an appearance package; Genesis retuned the suspension and added a completely new 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, good for 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque (a 54 horsepower and 83 lb-ft increase over the 3.8-liter Hyundai Genesis/Genesis G80).
Genesis G80 Specs
Engine: 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: RWD; AWD (optional)
Horsepower: 365 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 375 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm
That translates to a swift car, though not necessarily a fast one — the standard Genesis does the 0–60 sprint in about 6.6 seconds, and while Genesis is not releasing an official number for the Sport version, some publications have it clocked in at just over five seconds. That’s not exactly face-melting, and there’s a hint of lag when you step on the accelerator, but once the engine gets going, you’re treated to a nice, aggressive-but-not-too-aggressive roar.
As for handling, the G80 Sport is certainly much sharper and more willing to take a corner than the standard G80/Genesis, though the car still has a fairly heavy 4,519-pound curb weight to contend with. It feels just a bit unwieldy during hard cornering. Still fun, no doubt, but compared to its middling sports sedan competition, the G80 Sport feels somewhat sluggish.
But given it costs thousands and thousands less than its equivalent competition, calling the G80 Sport AMG or M-Car competitor seems a bit unfair. After all, what makes the G80 Sport great is what has made previous Genesis cars great: astounding value. With a starting price of $55,250 the G80 Sport comes fully optioned; customers decide only if they want all-wheel-drive (a $2,500 option) or not and what color they want. That’s it. And given the price, the G80 Sport is an exceedingly nice place to be — thanks especially to the buttery soft leather seats, quality trim and the brilliant Lexicon 17-speaker sound system, all of which feels at place in a car that costs thousands more.
I think the G80 Sport will resonate most with people like my dad — people who recognize that all-out performance as nothing more than a frivolity. We don’t need steroidal, track-ready sedans because, the opportunities to let loose those high-performance machines are few and far between. But, there are those rare moments when you find yourself on a twisty back road or a cop-free straight, when a bump in power and sharper handling are worth having. For those rare moments, the G80 Sport delivers.