2022 Genesis G80 Sport First Drive Review: Getting Warmer

Genesis clearly isn’t wasting any time. Just one model year after the G80 failed to move the needle at our 2021 Car of the Year competition, the luxury brand has already reworked the V-6 half of its lineup. That pedal-to-the-metal ambition typifies the new 2022 Genesis G80 Sport, a 375-hp luxury sport sedan that should entertain buyers seeking alternatives to the Mercedes-Benz E450 and BMW 540i. It’s not a perfect effort, though, and here’s what the updated G80 3.5T model does right and where it’s still not a match for the competition.

What Is the G80 Sport?

The word “Sport” does not appear on the 2022 G80 Sport, but “AWD” and “3.5T” badges give away the twin-turbo powerplant and drivetrain underneath its sheetmetal. The G80 weighs more than almost everything in its segment, but Genesis has optimized how its midsize sedan steers and handles, an effort that starts with a suspension that’s stiffer by 4 percent up front and 12 percent in the rear. If you want a six-cylinder G80, the Sport is now the only trim, and AWD is standard. The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 produces 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque, unchanged figures from the 2021 G80 3.5T.

The biggest update is a new rear-wheel steering system. This is the first time Genesis has used the technology, and not only is it a bit of a rarity among sedans, it’s a good fit on the G80. Just like the setup we knew and loved on the now-discontinued Lexus GS, the G80’s rear wheels can turn up to 2 degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels at low speeds and the same amount in phase at higher velocities. The 2022 G80 Sport feels a little more agile in corners, and as a bonus, its turning circle has been cut by nearly 2 feet, to 36.2 feet.

That tech doesn’t come free, of course, and you must get a 2022 G80 Sport Prestige model to access it. That version carries a $6,300 premium over the standard Sport, and gets a sportier tune for the electronically controlled suspension, as well. Prestige also means an upgrade from intricately styled 19-inch wheels to 20s, as well as a swap of aluminum to carbon-fiber trim, Nappa leather seats, a head-up display, and the awesome Remote Smart Parking Assist, among other updates.

How the G80 Sport Drives

One trip to a winding road reveals a truth about the 2022 G80 Sport: This is more a sporty G80 than a sport sedan from Genesis. After more than 8,000 miles with our one-year Mercedes-Benz E450, we know how solidly it drives. Neither car is perfect, however. The E450’s tires give out when you start to push, and while the G80 Sport doesn’t show the same behavior, its additional weight is obvious in tighter curves when you’re really moving, and the engine doesn’t sound as refined as it could. The Genesis is more at home at moderately spirited speeds, where you’re still guaranteed to feel more of the road through the steering and suspension than you might in a more luxury-focused four-door.

Our biggest criticism about the 2021 G80 was its lack of body control and poor suspension tuning. On the 2022 G80 Sport, those issues have been at least partially alleviated, making the Genesis more compelling. The G80 no longer exhibits quite as much pitch and dive upon the initial application of brakes or throttle. The car is more buttoned down, and the suspension feels firm (even in Comfort mode) but not harsh. The AWD system can send up to 100 percent of available power to the rear wheels, and with the electronic limited-slip differential, power can be distributed between the left and right rear wheels. When not driven at the limit—which, let’s be honest, is just about all the time—you’ll feel that available rear steering system exerting a subtle but definite influence around town.

Compared to the E450, the G80 Sport is quieter, with almost no wind noise but some tire noise depending on the road surface. The eight-speed auto does its job, staying out of the way unless we kicked the car into one of the two Sport modes. Both allow a little more movement of the rear end if you drive aggressively enough, but in a straight line, the bragging rights of having 375 horsepower only go so far. Based on previous MotorTrend testing, we expect the G80 Sport to merely keep up with the less powerful Mercedes-Benz E450, BMW 540i, and Audi A6 3.0T. Those sedans all offer a longer driving range, as well, thanks in part to better efficiency than the G80 Sport’s 17/26 mpg city/highway.

The 2022 G80 Sport now has launch control, a feature that may help the V-6-propelled sedan improve on the 5.0-5.2-second times we’ve clocked for 2021 G80 3.5T models. Even when you’re not using every one of those 375 horses, Genesis gives drivers a few fun ways to change the driving experience. If we owned a G80 Sport, we’d stay out of Sport+, where the steering felt far too heavy. The regular Sport mode is better, but as with most vehicles offering drive mode systems, this car defaults to Comfort when the car is turned on. While you’re adjusting your custom drive mode, don’t miss the settings for brake feel. Change that to Sport, and the pedal will offer the tiniest bit more initial bite.

Design and Value: Still a G80

The 2022 Genesis G80 wears its 196.7 inches of overall length well. The luxury sedan has great rear-wheel-drive proportions, with the front wheels pushed a good distance ahead of the front doors. If you want to blend in, maybe try a more conventional design that’s more boring but is sure to age well, like the 5 Series. We’re still not sure about the G80’s enormous crest front grille, but we do love the way its shape is echoed in the design of the exhaust outlets. And then there’s the way the G80 uses dual horizontal lines to distinguish itself from the competition. Passersby may not yet know what a Genesis is, but they’ll know it’s something premium.

The story is the same inside. There’s no question Genesis wants to make a bold first impression, with rewarding design details and tons of tech. For the most part, it works. The carbon-fiber trim in the Sport Prestige trim is finished in a crisscross pattern that’s certainly different, and reminiscent of parquet floors. Elsewhere in the cabin, it gets a little busy. Still, with so many rich touches, we’d gladly take this approach versus a snoozier design. The bright red interior color won’t be for everyone, but beige and black are also available. The diamond motif, which is beautifully repeated on the metal pedals, the map light trim, and some of the silver speaker grilles, is a nice touch. The beveled edges of the window switches haven’t gone unnoticed, either, nor has the solid feel of the rotary disc you twist to switch from drive to reverse. Even the inner edge of the door panel, where you grab to pull the door shut, is finished in a nicer material than what you’ll find in an equivalent Mercedes.

Sit in the rear seat and prepare to be blown away. It’s not simply the abundance of space, but the way the outboard seats cup you. Plus, there are USB outlets conveniently located in the deep, fold-down storage compartment. Genesis delivers value in a few other ways, as well. You may be familiar with the Genesis five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, but how about Service Valet? This incorporates complimentary maintenance and at-home pickup for three years or 60,000 miles of regular service visits, respecting the greatest luxury of all, your time. The 2022 G80 Sport’s $64,495 base price is higher than all three German competitors, but that Teutonic advantage disappears once you realize how many desirable options are extra cost with the E450, 540i, and A6 3.0T versus the G80 Sport. A 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS and five-star ratings in every NHTSA crash test help its appeal, too.

So Who Should Get the G80 Sport?

Among midsize luxury sedans, the G80 Sport is an extrovert that’s eager to please. With the firm ride quality, the car veers a bit more toward sport than luxury, which is fine for those who want that experience. We still wish the engine was either quieter or sounded more refined, but it’s not as noisy as, say, a Jaguar XF at idle.

What the G80 Sport lacks is the near-magical way the company’s SUV of the Year-winning GV70 combines fun-to-drive dynamics with a surprisingly great ride quality. The GV70 sets a very high standard in the Genesis lineup, but the G80 Sport shouldn’t just be dismissed; all three German competitors have their drawbacks, too. If you’re open to a car from a newer luxury brand and seek a sportier feel, consider the G80 Sport in top Sport Prestige trim. But wait! Genesis isn’t done tinkering with the G80. Coming soon, the Electrified G80 will quietly roll onto the scene, offering similarly swift acceleration and another reason to take this quickly evolving brand seriously.

Pros:

  • Unique design details, inside and out
  • Rear-wheel steering system’s influence on real-world performance
  • Fantastic rear seat for a midsizer

Cons:

  • Engine refinement could be better
  • Subpar driving range and efficiency
  • Fully electric G80 is just around the corner

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