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What we’re driving: Genesis G80 3.8 Ultimate Sport Design
What it costs: $92,900 (RRP, plus on-road costs)
As tested: $92,900 (plus on-road costs)
Why we’re driving it: It’s not every day that a new luxury car brand launches on these shores but premium Korean marque Genesis has done just that this week, with the opening of a new retail studio and the launch of two new models.
If you’re thinking, ‘didn’t Genesis launch here a couple of years ago?’, you’d be right … kind of.
What we see here, reborn and rebadged as the Genesis G80, was formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis, a big luxury saloon that arrived here in late 2014.
Now, the planets are back in sync and Genesis (the brand, not the model) is officially open for business, courtesy of the funky new Genesis Studio in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall, featuring this born-again G80 and an all-new BMW 3-Series rival, the G70.
What it costs
Pricing starts at $68,900 for the Genesis G80 3.8 and rises to $88,900 for the G80 3.8 Ultimate. Both grades are available with an optional $4000 Sport Design styling package, which is fitted to the car we’re driving.
Even the base car is extremely well kitted out, with features such as adaptive suspension, nine airbags, and a full suite of safety kit including blind-spot collision warning, driver attention warning, and forward collision avoidance.
The 3.8 Ultimate adds 19-inch alloys, Nappa leather interior, heated/ventilated front and outboard rear seats, panoramic glass sunroof, powered soft-close doors, a powered boot, and much more.
A direct sales model means you won’t be able to buy the cars via a dealer; instead, you need to go to a Genesis Studio, of which there is just one right now, with more to come in 2020.
Or, you can buy your Genesis via what the company claims is Australia’s first fully transactional automotive online sales portal.
But if you’re the kind who likes to haggle, Genesis might not be the brand for you thanks to a fixed-price sales model that stipulates no discounts.
Instead, Genesis serves up a comprehensive ownership proposition that includes a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty; five-year or 75,000km complimentary scheduled servicing; five-year valet service; five-year roadside assist; and five-year ‘Genesis to You’ concierge service.
On the outside
Perhaps not surprisingly, given its aspirations, the G80 looks from certain angles like a cross between a BMW 7-Series and an older-generation Lexus LS.
In truth, it’s pitched one level below these players, against the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but comes with many of the luxury trappings of the chauffeur-driven full-size limousines.
It’s a big, broad and ruggedly handsome sedan with a muscular stance that vaguely recalls the sadly departed Holden Statesman Caprice. There’s nothing overly fancy in its styling – just crisp, clean lines, like a well-cut but conservative three-piece suit.
Under the bonnet
The G80’s engine is an all-alloy, direct injection 3.8-litre petrol V6, producing an impressively smooth 232kW and 397Nm.
It boasts plenty of up-to-the-minute mechanical kit, like a variable intake manifold and continuously variable valve timing, but still feels like a gutsy, old-school, large-capacity V6.
Driving via a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic en route to the rear hoops, the V6 launches the G80’s hefty 1985kg weight with gusto, nailing the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5 seconds.
The nearest E-Class Benz to this price point, the E 200 model ($92,600 plus costs), packs a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, a nine-speed auto, and 450kg less kerb weight, but is 1.2 seconds slower to 100km/h.
On the inside
The switchgear and dash layout are a generation behind what the best from Germany are doing right now with configurable digital displays and so forth; but is by no means unattractive.
There’s plenty of soft-touch materials throughout, including lovely Nappa leather and suede, mixed with tasteful touches of real aluminium trim.
The overall effect is luxurious up-front and properly first class in the rear seats, where power-adjustable slide-and-recline rear seats are operated via controls in the centre armrest.
On the road
The G80 is impressively quiet and refined inside the cabin, courtesy of a laminated windscreen and side glass, allowing you to savour the 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon premium audio system.
The G80 gets around corners fairly smartly, thanks to chassis engineers who have gone to the trouble of developing Australian-specific suspension and steering settings.
Damping, body control and steering are all impressive, and the G80 feels rock-solid even on pothole-blighted back roads.
It would be tempting to pigeon-hole the Genesis G80 as a tarted-up Hyundai. But that would do the car a serious injustice, because there’s a real depth of engineering in what is a serious attempt to make a mark in the large luxury saloon class.
In many ways, the G80 brings to mind Lexus’s first foray into the prestige car game, way back in 1989. Like the original LS400, the G80 nails so many of the competitive metrics required in this space that it should be an automatic consideration against any of its German rivals.