To get from Los Angeles to our west-coast testing venue in the Mojave Desert requires a choice: Take the freeways to go around the San Gabriel Mountains that rim L.A., or drive right over them via Angeles Crest and Angeles Forest highways. While not exactly a Robert Frost-type choice in a Porsche 911 GT3, in a relaxing luxury sedan such as the all-wheel-drive Genesis G80 2.5T, we at least considered the freeway route. We ultimately took the twisty route, and it made all the difference.
The G80 doesn’t look like it’d be the right car for a road brought to you—and occasionally wiped out—by plate tectonics. It’s a big sedan, at 196.7-inches in length, which is longer than an Audi A7. The interior has Nerf-soft seat padding and acres of leather, and the all-season Michelin Primacy Tour A/S tires appear to have been fitted for a quiet ride rather than generating g-forces. A closer look reveals that the tires are staggered, 245/45R-19s in front and wider 275/40R-19s in back, so maybe there’s something to this chassis after all.
From the first bend, the G80’s quick, sports-car-like steering (2.3 turns lock to lock) is eager to dive in. There is a hint of initial body roll that’s tamped quickly, and there’s an unerring stability to the car’s relation to the road. Working the G80 in the canyons is easy but also fun. We made the right choice, even if the eight-speed automatic transmission isn’t making the right picks when left to its own devices. Pulling the paddles on the steering wheel make selecting the correct gear a breeze, and they’re held for a reasonably long time before the transmission defaults to selecting its own gears. Unfortunately, we don’t have a skidpad number for you as we were forced to test this car in Michigan and our usual venue’s skidpad was covered with snow. Needless to say, the G80 has more than the GV80 SUV’s 0.86 g of stick. We’d estimate that it’s right around the 0.91 g we recorded for the rear-wheel-drive G80. This Genesis is stable enough to let you flirt with those limits.
At 4256 pounds, the all-wheel-drive G80 is 113 pounds heavier than the rear-drive version, but the AWD system’s traction helps it win the drag race against its lighter counterpart. With all four wheels dividing the 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque from the turbocharged 2.5-liter four, 60 mph falls in 5.5 seconds, which is 0.2 second ahead of the rear-driver. Genesis’s turbo four is shared with the Hyundai Sonata N Line and the Kia K5 GT, but it makes 10 more horsepower when installed north-south in the luxury brand’s vehicles. From a stop, there’s a little bit of lag, and that slight delay before the turbo wakes up results in a 6.5-second rolling start from 5 to 60 mph, a full second longer than a brake-torque launch to 60. While the sounds of a four-cylinder at work aren’t inspiring enough to make us want to keep running the engine to its 6250-rpm redline, there’s a reliable shove above about 2000 rpm, and the acoustic windshield and front windows keep the engine’s four-cylinder moans to a low 74-decibel murmur at wide-open throttle.
Playtime eventually ends as the Angeles Forest spits us out to State Route 14, which takes us into the high desert. At a steady 70 mph, the G80’s machinery melts away into a quiet 66-decibel hum. The steady patter of California’s concrete freeways is subdued, the soft seats coddle, and the AWD version’s standard heated steering wheel warms. Front-seat space is generous, and the heated rear bench has plenty of legroom for six-footers.
Add the Advance Package ($4600) and you get matte wood, rear sunshades, a power trunk, ventilated front seats, 19-inch wheels, and a 21-speaker Lexicon stereo. From ABBA to Zappa, the audio system pumps out 1050 watts of Super Trouperor Peaches En Regalia with breathtaking clarity and power. A superwide 14.5-inch screen is perched atop the dashboard and is controlled by a knurled round wheel set ahead of the rotary shifter. Some of us would prefer the shifter be placed ahead of the infotainment controller, but a little time and muscle memory will make grabbing for the right one easier. Using the infotainment system’s many functions requires less effort with practice, but most customers will pair and mirror their phones via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making the native interface largely redundant.
Styling is subjective, but the G80 has definite presence that draws eyeballs, especially in its $400 Porto Red paint, which is the same shade as a can of Dr. Pepper. A second G80 in Michigan—the one you see pictured here—wore Gold Coast Silver, which is more like the can color of Diet Vernors. Designers went overboard with the giant diamond grille, but the creased bodywork is elegant. The headlights, the long hood, and the swept-back tail give people who don’t know about Genesis—so, basically everyone—the impression that the G80 costs far more than its $51,875 starting price or the as-tested $56,875 of our car. Moving up to a comparably equipped and quicker G80 with the optional twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive will set you back $63,675. Given that choice, we could probably be talked into spending more for the V-6’s smoothness and extra punch. But whichever powerplant you choose, you should take the fun road.
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