Maybe my expectations were too high. I climbed into the Genesis G80 3.5T expecting great things; after all, the carmaker has been on something of a winning streak as of late, delivering excellent product after excellent product. The G70 sat near the top of the compact luxury sedan class even before the midlife facelift that made it more attractive; the G90 is a stellar example of the sort of luxo-barge perfect for long road trips; the GV80 feels like a Bentley Bentayga from T.J. Maxx; and while I haven't driven the GV70 yet, I've heard nothing but good things.
Further boosting my expectations: my colleague Tyler Duffy has only had positive things to say about his time with the 2021 G80, even though he spent his time with the turbocharged four-cylinder version, rather than the more potent twin-turbo V6 variant I'd be sampling.
So, upon embarking on a 300-mile journey from New York City to Vermont, I fully expected great things from this new Genesis. And indeed, at first, the car's virtues shone through. The new engine is a beast, punching hard all through the midrange and pushing the car forward with more force than its quote 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft would suggest. The crystal-clear digital instrument panel and the latest version of the Genesis infotainment system both pack excellent displays — crystal-clear as the nicest TVs you'll see at Best Buy, and smooth and responsive to inputs via either touchscreen or the flush-mounted iDrive-like controller (not to be confused with the similar-looking rotary shifter right behind it, a mistake new owners will probably make once or twice before muscle memory sets in).
After a couple of hours, however, a couple of issues began to rear their heads. The lesser of them, a bit literally: the headroom is surprisingly lacking for such a big car. Not just in the rear, either; even up front, my hair was scraping the headliner. Granted, I like to sit relatively high up (better visibility that way), but even so, I've never had that sort of issue with a sedan in this size class before.
The bigger issue, though, is that the seats look much more comfortable than they actually are. While their buttery-soft leather looks and feels like like something out of an Aston Martin, their actual support is lacking. My partner's glutes went numb after about two hours; by hour four, her legs had started tingling. I was luckier; I only suffered a case of numb butt on the way back to NYC (after three hours or so), but even that was enough to leave me limping out of the car. It's not a matter of side bolsters poking into the legs, as with many a short, sporty car; rather, the bottoms of the seats themselves just seem ill-suited to long haul journeys.
That, in turn, pushes your feet into awkward positions that put the weight onto your heels in odd ways. Admittedly, I exacerbated the problem by wearing a pair of bulky Wolverine boots on the drive home that took up an inordinate part of the footwell — but the fact that footwear choice has to even be a factor to consider when driving a midsize sedan seems like the result of some less-than-ideal interior design choices.
Another unexpected issue: the fuel economy. Even over the course of my return drive to the city, conducted under practically ideal conditions for making decent highway mileage — speeds mostly between 70 and 75 mph, minimal traffic — the trip computer's readout told me the G80 was traveling less than 26 miles on each gallon of 93 octane. That's worse than I saw in the 591-hp Audi RS 7 over the same route — as well as about 3 mpg worse than I saw with the G90 under similar conditions. Given that the G80 is lighter and packs a newer engine, the discrepancy is hard to explain. In a world where the V8-powered Mercedes-Benz S 580 gets 32 mpg at 75 mph, 25.8 mpg from a six-cylinder sedan on the highway is a real strike.
The final thing that irked me a touch: the price. Like Lexus at its start, Genesis has largely made a reputation for itself by offering excellent luxury cars at a price point appreciably lower than German competitors — yet my fully-loaded test car rang up the register at just shy of $70,000. Granted, Genesis doesn't need to make its mark as a value play anymore — they've certainly come far enough in terms of quality and luxury to be compared on equal footing to longer-established high-end carmakers — but there's also little arguing that, if a comparable six-cylinder E-Class or 5 Series is just a few grand more, most people will probably be tempted by the brands they know better (or, more cynically, that they think their neighbors will appreciate more).
None of these are to say that the G80 is an objectively bad car. In the vast majority of ways, it's very much the opposite: it's stylish, elegant, powerful, laden with well-executed technology and, as a cherry on top, possessing a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It's just not the out-of-the-park home run that its looks and reputation had led me to hope for. I'd still suggest you take a look at it if you're in the market; just make sure those seats work well for your derriére.