It used to be that you at least got a six when you spent $50k on a luxury car.
Now you get a four . . . if you buy a German $50k luxury car like the BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class.
If you buy a Korean luxury car, on the other hand, you’ll get a big six — standard. For just over $40k to start.
And you can notch that up to a 365 hp turbocharged V6 for just a couple thousand more than BMW and Mercedes charge for their turbocharged 248 and 241 hp fours.
We’re not done yet, either.
The G80 can also be ordered with a V8 — a type of engine that used to be the expected engine in a luxury car, but which is being driven into extinction by relentlessly antagonistic regulations that have made it tough to put a six in a $50k luxury car.
So how does Hyundai’s Genesis luxury line get away with putting sixes in its cars — and offering 400-plus hp 5 liter V8s?
Simple: The regulations in Hyundai’s homeland, South Korea, aren’t quite as antagonistic to such cars . . . yet. There are no hitman taxes on engines over 2.0 liters in size, as there are in Europe — the homeland of BMW and Benz. It is not a coincidence that both the BMW 5 and the Benz E-Class sedan come standard with tiny 2.0 liter four cylinder engines.
And it’s why the Genesis has a big advantage over its German rivals that goes deeper than just a more reasonable price.
WHAT IT IS
The G80 is a rear-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive luxury sedan that competes with similarly laid-out medium-large luxury sedans from BMW (5 Series) and Mercedes (E-Class) as well as Japanese luxury-brand rivals like the Lexus LS.
The G80 — which was a new model last year — was initially sold as the Hyundai Genesis but now reaches the streets under the new Genesis brand — which Hyundai created for the same reason Toyota invented Lexus: People who buy expensive cars want more than a bread and butter brand (and dealership experience) for their money.
So, the car becomes the Genesis G80 rather than the Hyundai Genesis.
Base price is $41,750 — which hugely undercuts the base prices of both the BMW 5 ($52,400) and Benz E ($52,150) and gets you a standard 311 hp 3.8 liter V6 vs. the much less powerful turbo fours that come standard in the BMW 5 and the Benz E.
You can add AWD to the tab and a G80 still only costs $44,250 — vs. $54,700 for the AWD-equipped BMW 5 Series and $54,650 for the AWD-equipped Benz E, which still come with much less powerful four cylinder engines.
The G80 also offers a turbocharged V6 and a V8.
$55,250 to start for the turbo-equipped G80 3.3T (365 hp) with rear-wheel-drive; $57,750 with AWD.
$57,000 for the 420 hp 5.0 liter V8 with rear-wheel-drive; $59,500 with AWD.
To get six or a V8 in either the BMW 5 or the Benz E entails spending orders of magnitude more money: $72,400 for the Benz AMG E43 and $73,400 for the BMW M550i. Both of these are also hard-riding, high-performance sport sedans, the luxury part taking a distant back seat.
The current (2017) Lexus LS sedan is very luxurious and it comes standard with a V8 — but it also comes standard with a similarly big-bore MSRP: $72,520 to start. And next year’s LS will say good-bye to the V8. It will come standard with a V6 . . . and an even higher MSRP.
The new 3.3 liter twin-turbo V6 package is the big news for 2018. In addition to the more powerful engine, you also get a Continuous Damping Control adaptive suspension with driver-selectable modes, 19 inch wheel/tire package, “dark chrome” exterior trim and suede/carbon fiber interior trim. A large (9.2 inch) LCD infotainment touchscreen and 17-speaker Lexicon surround-sound audio rig are also part of the deal.
If you order AWD with the base 3.8 engine, you’ll also get heated rear seats now — and a wireless cell phone charging pad.
All G80 trims get tweaked exterior and interior styling, too.
Luxury car engines — for a much lower price than some other luxury brands charge for economy car engines.
Much better warranty coverage than most economy car brands.
Five inches more front seat legroom than BMW 5 or Benz E.
Easier to just get in and drive; not an over-gadgeted car.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
The G80’s bigger engines are thirstier than rival’s smaller ones.
The G80 is heavier than rivals — which eats away at its horsepower advantage.
Back seat is tighter than BMW 5’s and Benz’s E’s.
It’ll take some time for the Genesis brand to acquire the cachet that BMW and Benz still have.
UNDER THE HOOD
The G80 leaves the starting gate with a not-small horsepower (and displacement) advantage over its rivals: a standard 3.8 liter, 311 hp V6 vs. the 248 hp 2.0 liter turbo four that comes standard in the 2018 BMW 5 and the also 2.0 liter (but 241 hp) four that comes standard in the Mercedes E300 sedan.
The G80’s V6 is paired with an eight-speed automatic driving the rear wheels or all four (AWD) if you so opt.
It’s nice to get that much engine and horsepower vs. rivals but one other thing you get is curb weight. The lightest G80 — rear-drive, with the 3.8 liter engine — weighs just under 4,200 lbs. With the optional AWD system, that goes up by about 150 lbs.
A rear-drive BMW 530i weighs 3,746 lbs.
The Benz 300E is about the same at 3,792 lbs. for the rear-drive version; even with AWD, the car still weighs well under 4,000 lbs.
This explains why the Germans cars are quicker — each getting to 60 in less than 6 seconds vs. mid-sixes for the 3.8 liter G80 — even though they are not as strong.
The Genesis is also thirstier: 19 city, 27 highway for the rear-drive version and 18 city, 25 highway for the AWD-equipped version — vs. 24 city, 34 highway for the RWD version of the current BMW 5 sedan; even with AWD, this one manages 23 city, 33 highway. Not that a 5 or so MPG difference matters that much as far as the cost. People who buy $50k cars can afford to spend an extra $20 or so a month on fuel.
But, there is the cost of time.
You don’t have to refuel the German cars as often. That’s a factor that will matter to the people shopping cars in this class.
But, Hyundai (whoops! Genesis) has another card to play.
Two cards, actually.
The first of these being the new-this-year twin-turbo 3.3 liter V6. With 365 hp on tap — and a tremendous 376 ft.-lbs. of torque available at just 1,300 RPM — it closes the Acceleration Gap. So equipped, the G80’s 0-60 run drops to just over 5 seconds, making it quicker than the 2.0-powered BMW and Benz.
Of course, it’s thirsty, too. What did you expect?
But what’s unexpected is that it’s only slightly thirstier than the base/not-turbocharged 3.8 liter V6: 17 city, 25 highway and 17 city, 24 highway with the optional AWD system.
And — key thing to know — neither BMW nor Benz have anything equivalent to offer in their cars. You can get a twin-turbo V6 in the Benz E — but it will cost you $17,150 more. That’s the difference between the base price of the AMG E430 ($72,400) and the G80 3.3T ($55,250).
BMW offers a turbocharged V8 in the M550 — but it lists for $73,400.
Meanwhile (second card) you could opt for the G80’s available 420 hp, 5.0 liter V8 and pay $16,400 less than BMW wants for the M550.
Now, to be fair, the M550 is fiercer. But the V8 G80 plays a different game. The big V8 that is its heart is all about low-down rumble and torque. It channels the karma of the great sleds that used to roam America’s roads before the government set about doing its best to kill them off or at least make them so expensive as to be for-the-uber-rich-only.
The M550’s price breaks free of earth orbit for most people. But the G80’s price isn’t that far removed from what you’d pay to drive a loaded 1500 series pick-up or even a minivan (some of which are well into the $40k range now).
Not surprisingly, the turbo V6 and V8 want premium — but (surprisingly) the G80’s base 3.8 liter V6 is a regular fuel engine. This saves you about 20-30 cents per gallon at the pump and makes up some for the engine’s greater-than-rivals’ appetite.
ON THE ROAD
Driving the G is easy — which makes it pleasant to drive the G.
There is, for openers, a conventional gear shift lever right there on the center console — as opposed to a feedback-free toggle or dongle mounted on a stalk, hanging off the steering column.
It’s not so much that the toggle/dongle feels flimsy; it’s that it feels like you’re turning on the windshield wipers instead of putting the thing in gear. It’s true it frees up space on the center console, but having the gear selector where it naturally belongs makes up for this.
The standard V6 is free of turbo lag — because there is no turbo. This is no small thing — and not just in terms of how the car drives. Turbos — used to boost the output of small engines — add a layer of complexity to the car and that often means more cost, as the car ages. You’ll never have to worry about that with the G80’s 3.8 liter V6.
It’s also an easier-going engine that makes its power lower down in the rev range. The BMW’s four spins to more than 7,000 RPM; the Hyundais six redlines at 6,000. It’s a case of apples-oranges. For the job with which it’s tasked — quietly and effectively moving a large, heavy luxury sedan — it does the job exceptionally well.
The new 3.3 twin turbo has turbos, of course. But it also comes with a psychologically reassuring warranty that the German turbo’d cars do not. It has even more right-now power (because of the turbos) and because the engine itself is not small, there is no noticeable lag before the power you need to get going makes itself available. The turbos enhance what is already there. With the BMW and Benz, there’s very little there . . . until the turbos step in.
For the best of both worlds — earth-moving torque without the turbos — buy the V8. It is arguably the ideal powerplant for a car such as this and not just in terms of its easygoing yet seemingly endless outpouring of motive force.
There is something exclusive about a V8, especially these days.
BMW and Benz have done amazing things with their turbo fours. But they are still four cylinders — and other than being a bit stronger — aren’t much different than the fours you’d find in almost any $20k (or less) economy car.
This is slightly depressing.
And the pressure isn’t coming from buyers; if you are operating at this level, a handful of MPGs one way or the other is about as relevant as the change you throw in the ashtray after paying a toll. Instead, the pressure is coming from government — the regs insisting on ever-higher MPGs and ever-lower emissions, especially of the non-emission (by any sane standard) carbon dioxide.
As technically competent as the new turbo fours are, they still sound like fours and have very little upmarket cachet. It’s deflating to park a $50k-plus car next to an $18k car and know they’re both powered . . . by 2.0 liter turbo fours.
No such problems for the V8 G80. You are driving something a cut-above, something not everyone else has.
The V8 burble at idle is worth the price, all by itself.
AT THE CURB
Hyundai (whoops, again! Genesis) knows that parity isn’t sufficient. To beat the Players, the G must exceed them in every way except price — the same recipe Lexus used almost 30 years ago to horn in on what was then BMW/Benz’s pretty much exclusive turf.
Thus, the G is a physically more imposing car than both the BMW 5 and the Benz E. Several inches longer than both of them and (as above) hundreds of pounds heavier. It looks and feels like the roller that it is.
Inside, you’ll find that electro-sliding the seat forward is the first order of business because there is too much legroom — 45.7 inches. You will not need at least several inches of this unless you are a lot taller/longer-legged than a six-foot-three Lurch like me. The downside is that there is much less legroom in back — 35 inches — which is also less than in the physically smaller overall Mercedes (193.8 inches long overall vs. 196.5 for the G) which has 36.3 inches of backseat legroom.
The BMW 5 (at 194.6 inches long overall) has 36.5 inches of backseat legroom.
This is a Hyundai (dammit! again! Genesis) thing. Check out some of their other models and you’ll find the same legroom bias — in favor of the driver and front seat passenger at the expense of the back seaters.
But it’s less a problem than it seems to be — because unless the driver is a taller-than-six-three Lurch, all that’s necessary to give the back seaters some more space is to scooch the front seat forward a few.
The G80 also has a larger trunk — a full-size car’s 15.3 cubic footer vs. 13.1 for the E300; the BMW splits the difference with a 14.5 cubic foot trunk.
Interestingly, the current (2017) Lexus LS460 — which is slightly larger than the G80 (200 inches long) has a smaller trunk (13.9 cubic feet), less legroom up front (43.7 inches) and about the same in back (35.8 inches). It is technically a full-size car, while the G80 is technically mid-sized.
But as you can see, the G80 is actually the roomier car and within a hair of being just as full-sized as the Lexus LS.
And costing some $30k less to start, too.
When Toyota launched Lexus it had to go over the top with the ownership — and dealership — experience, too. People not only loved their Lexus, they loved the free loaner Lexus they got while theirs was in for service. And when they got their car back, it was clean — and often, gassed-up, too.
Genesis will enjoy similar white glove treatment, including three years of complimentary valet service when their car needs maintenance — and that maintenance will be free for the first three years/36,000 miles. Ditto a free three-year subscription to SiriusXM and Enhanced Roadside Assistance.
And of course, Genesis dealers will be a cut-above Hyundai stores — with nicer lounges and all the rest of it.
The main issue — for now — is whether Genesis will be able to replicate Lexus sales. If it happens, these cars will be deals up front and down the road.
Lexus cars held their value remarkably, in part because they were (and still are) really good cars but also because you paid less up front, so the depreciation curve was less steep.
If it doesn’t happen — well, you got yourself a really good deal up front.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It will be interesting to see whether history repeats. But even if it doesn’t, it’s nice to find at least one luxury car with a luxury car engine under its hood.
*** Photo courtesy of Caricos
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The Eric Peters Car Review is sponsored by the NMA Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation. The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions.