Much of the premium car market is now about SUVs but to be anybody in the sector, you’ve still got to offer a saloon or two.
They’ve been the bread and butter of Germany’s big three for decades and even smaller brands like Jaguar and Lexus maintain a selection of low-slung four-door options to keep traditionalists happy.
So alongside its high-riding GV70 and GV80, Korean upstart Genesis has brought the imaginatively-named G70 and G80 to compete with Europe’s finest.
The G70 is the BMW 3 Series/Audi A4 rival while the G80 is looking to steal some attention from the 5 Series and A6 - no easy task.
To help, Genesis spent a lot of time honing the G80 to match European expectations, from the way it looks to how it drives and how it’s equipped.
That included extensive on-road testing and even a spell around the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife, presumably to see how the G80 coped with its huge range of surfaces and conditions rather than in the pursuit of lap times.
In terms of looks, it certainly fits in amongst the 5 Series, A6s and E-Classes with their long, low profiles and gaping grilles designed to intimidate lesser mortals out of the way on the autobahn. The two-tier headlights and feature line that runs from them along the flanks to the similarly split tail lights give it a distinctive look without going over the top.
The time testing on the Nordschleife and on the UK’s broken B roads has clearly paid off in offering a luxury ambience on the road. In terms of driving engagement the G80 can’t match something like a 5 Series but for most drivers on-the-edge handling probably isn’t too high on the priority list. Likely to be more important is ride comfort and refinement, both of which the G80 has nailed down. The cabin is a hushed and calming environment and the adaptive air suspension does an excellent job of smoothing out the harshness of bad surfaces, using a Rolls-Royce-style Ride Preview camera system to spot road imperfections and prime the dampers accordingly.
Our test model featured all-wheel-drive for added confidence in tricky conditions, matched to its 2.5-litre petrol engine via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Like the GV80 SUV we tested recently, the drivetrain meets all the big premium criteria on paper but can’t match its key rivals in the real world. The 2.5-litre turbo packs plenty of punch, with 300bhp and 311lb ft. It’ll rush up to 62mph in just six seconds, on a par with a 5 Series or A6 but the four-cylinder petrol doesn’t have quite the refinement of those rivals, or the economy. An all-electric version of the G80 is due later this year, offering hope of a drivetrain to match its otherwise smooth demenour.
A smooth silent electric drivetrain would certainly be more in keeping with the G80’s interior ambience. The fit and finish around the cabin is impeccable and material choice is as good as anything in the segment, with a high-quality mixture of metal and glass finishes. Touches like the open-grain ash wood trim and leather finish on the dash attest that time and thought have gone into ensuring this car isn’t just an also-ran but can legitimately compete with the sector’s big dogs.
Space is generous too, especially for those in the rear who, spec-dependant, enjoy electrically adjustable heated and cooled seats, dual infotainment screens and their own climate control zone. But those in the front aren’t short changed either and there’s enough room and adjustment for drivers of all shapes and sizes to get comfortable, plus a massage function and a setting to automatically adjust the driver’s seat to improve posture and reduce fatigue on long journeys.
One of Genesis’ unique selling points is its ambition to simplify car buying by offering only a couple of incredibly well-equipped trim lines and very few individual options. In fact, there are only four individual options - 20-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof, the high-end Lexicon sound system and a space saver spare wheel. Everything else is contained in three main packs - Innovation, Comfort and Executive - plus a Nappa leather pack that brings the highest-spec upholstery, suede headlining and leather dash top.
Comfort focuses on the seats, adding memory, electronic control, ventilation functions as well as electronic steering column adjustment. Innovation focuses on driver assistance tech such as remote park assist, highway assist and adaptive LED headlights along with a head-up display, 12.3-inch digital instruments and wireless phone charging. Executive is mostly about rear seat passengers, adding heating and ventilation, a centre armrest with control box for the two rear infotainment screens, window blinds and soft-close doors.
Our test car - base price £47,950 - had the lot, specced with every option to take its final price to £61,340. As with other Genesis, that means you get top-grade spec - everything from a 14.5-inch infotainment system to semi-autonomous lane changing - for significantly less than the price of a German rival without sacrificing quality.
And that’s the G80’s strength. In all but a couple of areas it’s a match for its rivals and in terms of spec and convenience it stands out. For those more interested in value than badge cachet, that could be enough to swing the deal.
Genesis G80 Luxury
Price: £47,950 (£61,340 as tested); Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 300bhp; Torque: 311lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 155mph; 0-62mph: 6 seconds; Economy: 30.4-31.2mpg; CO2 emissions: 205-210g/km