What's in a name? Per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Genesis is defined as "the origin or coming into being of something." It's an apt name for Hyundai's luxury arm. Genesis the brand is a newcomer on the expensive car scene, all of six years old, and throughout its short existence has spawned a lineup of compelling automobiles that likely has Mercedes execs nervous.

After a few teething moments with early cars, the latest models lack nothing but heritage and name recognition. The new G80 sedan, which plays in the midsize sandbox with the formidable Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series, typifies how much the marque has matured over the years. New styling finally gives the car an upscale and completely unique, brand-defining look; the interior follows suit with rich materials and elegantly-integrated tech; two potent powertrains provide the thrust.

From the first glance, it's clear that the G80 is the result of carefully-laid plans and a strong drive to win. Genesis may have already been around a half-decade, but only now - between this and the GV80 SUV which also debuted this year - does the brand feel like it's finally taking off. Coming into being, indeed.

Classy digs. The old G80 made the cardinal sin of having an interior that was just nice. It wasn't bleeding edge, outrageous, or antiquated. It didn't merit superlatives, didn't spark conversation. Now it's already forgotten as we and the rest of the industry fawn over the new G80's cabin.

The new-look is thoroughly modern, with a wide dash that stretches unbroken from the passenger door to the gauge cluster. Most buttons have been tossed away, their functionality now integrated into the infotainment system; those that remain occupy a small space below the span of trim running the length of the dash. It makes for an exceedingly clean look without much of an ergonomic cost.

The pretty cabin is more than skin-deep. Every surface is covered in quality textiles befitting a Mercedes or Audi. Pressing, twisting, or prodding the switchgear returns reassuring sensations of heft and precision mechanical connection, even if it's all computerized. The stellar quality is the only part of the G80 that feels copied from its competition, which shows that the brand has finally figured out how to impress on its own merit.

The 14.5-inch touchscreen - standard on all models - is the codpiece of the cabin. It looks like Genesis pillaged it from a Best Buy warehouse of micro TVs. It sits wide and dominant atop the dash, showcasing sharp, crisp images and graphics. Control it by your finger, your voice, or by the console-mounted rotary dial. We'd choose one of the former two choices as the dial sits a little too flush with its surrounding trim and can be tricky to operate.

As for the infotainment software itself, it works better than most luxury infotainments. A simple menu structure with few drill-downs should make it fairly easy to learn, and its hyper-fast response should be adequate in this era of instant gratification. We did find the icons on the screen to be too small for our liking, however, something that becomes a pain when you're reaching to tap an icon on the far right corner of the wide screen.


Genesis G80

Gutsy engines. Two engines are available in the G80: a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6. They don't break any new ground, instead focusing on meeting after the usual luxury-car standard of offering lots of power at the tickle of the gas pedal. We like them both, though they don't woo us like the creamy inline-sixes peddled by BMW and Mercedes.

As for the 2.5-liter four, it makes an even 300 horsepower - more than the base engines of its competitive set. That advantage, coupled with the fact that the 2021 G80 weighs nearly 250 pounds less than the outgoing model, keeps the base car feeling relatively spritely.

The 3.5-liter twin-turbo should by all accounts be a low-key sleeper, thanks to its 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. But the impressive output is let down by an eight-speed transmission that is reluctant to dive to a lower gear even when pressed to do so. Despite the drive modes' influence on the shifting algorithms, the gearbox prefers more sedate driving to sportier thrills. This is also the case on the 2.5T engine, but it's more of a letdown here. Chalk it up to more horsepower, higher expectations, greater disappointment.

That leads us to our next quibble: the dynamism of the chassis doesn't have the natural talent of, say, the E-Class. While the Benz has a spectrum of personalities as wide as Montana, the Genesis is still a largely one-trick affair. The G80's various driving modes, rather than change its demeanor, only alter its mood. And mildly at that. You'll never waft, and nor will you ever carve corners.

We think there's hope yet for the G80, especially considering the talent pool that Hyundai corporate has amassed and the first few dedicated sporting cars the company has recently rolled out. For those who don't prioritize such things, the G80 has the refined, composed ride that epitomizes luxury - but it isn't quite as superb as the E-Class.

Modern safety and features. The G80 rounds itself out with a long list of technology that should appeal to any modern buyer. Unlike some of its competition, the G80 gets a full complement of active-safety driver aids, including automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high-beam LED headlights.

Blind-spot monitors are also standard but can be upgraded so that they stream camera footage into a screen within the dash. It provides a clear and full view of what's happening just beyond your line of sight.

Optional driver aids include the usual headlining features: a surround-view camera system, active parking assist, a head-up display, and rear automatic emergency braking. There's also adaptive cruise control with a semi-autonomous feature on offer as well.

As for available amenities, all options are bundled into a few big-dollar packages that come with a mountain of features, such as a 12.3-inch digital dash, wireless device charging, a 21-speaker audio system, and a panoramic roof. We'd pay up - even a well-equipped Genesis is still thousands less than a comparably equipped model from a legacy luxury brand.

Final thoughts. Is the G80 perfect? Hard to say - how high is your bar in this segment? The G80 does nearly everything right - it has a handsome fastback style, its interior is stylish and modern, the equipment levels are generous, the price is great. Our only nitpicks concern the powertrains - we'd love to see a more responsive transmission and a set of more individualized drive modes.

That's an admittedly minor quibble, and considering the G80's substantial savings compared to traditional players, we're fine sacrificing a bit of sporty character. The more important stuff - the interior, the features, the quality - hasn't been overlooked, making 2021 Genesis G80 the real McCoy. Along with the GV80, the real genesis of Genesis starts right here.

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