UPDATE 2/10/22: This review has been updated with test results.
Only last year the Genesis G80 was all new from the ground up. With a choice of two punchy turbo powertrains and the latest iteration of the Genesis design language, we found much to like in the Korean automaker's third-generation mid-size luxury sedan. All we wanted was a touch more athleticism. Apparently, we rubbed the right lamp, because for 2022 our wish has been granted in the form of the new G80 Sport.
More responsive handling leads the list of enhancements. In the Prestige trim like our test car, the adaptive suspension gains a unique tuning that stiffens the front and rear dampers by 4 percent and 12 percent respectively. And with the newly available summer-tire option ($500), the Sport is indeed livelier. Blitzing through tree-lined curvy roads just inland of the Central California coast, we appreciated its newfound agility through the corners.
Credit also goes to the Sport Prestige model's rear-wheel steering, which turns the wheels in phase above 37 mph to enable more stable handling. Below that speed, they'll turn in the opposite direction by up to 2 degrees. The turning radius is nearly two feet tighter as a result, with a full circle complete in a relatively trim 36.2 feet.
One change we didn't wish for: All-wheel drive is now standard on every G80 Sport. And since every V-6-powered G80 is now a G80 Sport, that means if you want rear-wheel drive, you'll have to settle for the 300-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder model. Rather unsportsmanlike, if you ask us. But genies are known for loose interpretations. At least Genesis made an effort to shave some mass from the updated Sport model, which at 4495 pounds weighs 163 pounds less than the last all-wheel-drive six-cylinder G80 we tested, a 2018 model.
The 375-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 remains a powerful and willing accomplice. Its peak torque of 391 lb-feet is available from 1300 to 4500 rpm, delivering a reassuring amount of thrust in practically any situation. It truly excels at midrange acceleration—30-to-50-mph passing maneuvers take a respectable 2.7 seconds—providing a punch of seamless power on demand accompanied by a pleasing, muted growl. The engine note is electronically enhanced through the speakers, and we appreciate the ability to turn it off completely (take note, BMW). Back in Michigan, we recorded 72 decibels of noise inside our test car at full throttle and a hushed 66 decibels at a 70-mph cruise—improvements of 2 and 3 decibels, respectively, over the previous version.
While we lament the loss of a true rear-wheel-drive model, at least the AWD system can shuttle 100 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels. The eight-speed automatic is also quick to respond, though the tiny shift paddles require a long reach and will have you wishing for longer fingers. Exclusive to the Prestige trim is a Sport+ mode that features an aggressively quick shift pattern, a true manual mode, and a more permissive stability control. Sadly, our Michigan test car rolled on 20-inch Pirelli P Zero All-Season tires instead of the optional summer rubber. But it still posted a decent 0.88 g of grip around the skidpad, which is 0.04 g more than before, albeit less than the 0.91 g we saw from a rear-drive four-cylinder model. The Sport's 170-foot stop from 70 mph also is 10 feet shorter than what its predecessor could manage.
Those chasing pink slips on Friday nights will appreciate the addition of launch control, which along with the lighter curb weight helped our test car hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds—0.2 second quicker than the 2018 car. The quarter-mile now gets done in 13.2 seconds at 107 mph, a 0.3-second and 3-mph improvement. Even its 5-to-60-mph rolling-start time is a noticeable 0.4 second quicker.
Compared to the last Audi A6 3.0T and BMW 540i xDrive that we tested, the new G80 Sport essentially runs door handle to door handle with both. The outlier is Mercedes-Benz's E450 4Matic, which bolts to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and runs a 12.9-second quarter-mile at 108 mph. Of course, enjoy the G80's power a little too much and you'll average close to the 15 mpg that we saw, though the EPA estimates that a combined 20 mpg is doable in normal driving. Unfortunately, that figure is 4 to 5 mpg less than the combined estimates for its German rivals.
The G80's handsome sheetmetal receives a mild steroidal injection at each end. Up front, the lower valance now tucks up on either side toward the center for a more muscular look. The rear bumper is equally as sculpted, featuring beefy cutouts for a glimpse of the tire contact patches. A saucier color palette includes Siberian Ice and Cavendish Red, a hue reportedly inspired by the rubicund mud of Prince Edward Island. The G80's lines also work with darker, moodier finishes, such as our example's $1500 matte Makalu Gray paint.
Inside, bolder colors and materials continue this sportier theme. Metal-finished pedals add bling beneath your feet. Aluminum or carbon-fiber trim replaces wood throughout the cabin, while a new steering wheel has three spokes instead of two. The herringbone pattern on the seats has been dialed up to 11, with sharply ribbed diagonal lines converging in a V-shaped exclamation point. When decked out in red or black with contrasting stitching, the look exudes retro alienlike form that fans of the 1983 miniseries V will appreciate. The "ergo motion" seats trade the pokes and prods of traditional massage for subtle, constant movements meant to gently activate the back muscles. We found the touch-sensitive seat controls to be surprisingly useful: Just grazing a fingertip over a switch reveals its corresponding function on the 14.5-inch touchscreen.
And while that display remains a bit of a reach for casual inputs, the console-mounted rotary knob is easy to master. We find it curious that wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is still absent, considering its prolific availability on lower-end Hyundai models. Elsewhere, previously optional amenities are now standard, including heating for the steering wheel and rear seats, a surround-view camera, and the superb 21-speaker Lexicon audio system. The result is a $64,795 base price. While that figure is slightly more than those of its German competitors, our loaded test car's $72,595 ask undercuts the near-$80K outlays that rival Audi, BMW, and Mercedes sedans can command when heavily optioned.
The G80's upgrades, however minor, might seem fruitless in a market increasingly dominated by SUVs. In their short time on the scene, the GV70 and GV80 have already commanded roughly 60 percent of Genesis sales. But reps for Genesis insist that the SUVs have also provided a halo effect for the rest of the lineup, luring in buyers new to the brand. Offering a viable sedan alternative is an important part of the portfolio, they claim, and justifies such an investment in the G80 only one year after its launch. Just as important based on its improved performance, the new Sport model adds a worthwhile spark to the G80's already impressive package.