Genesis G80 Sport first drive review: it’s not all in the name

The letters and numbers on a car’s trunk usually are its calling card, a shorthand mission statement.

As writers, we’d suggest an edit on the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport decklid.

Sport is a silly name here, and not because alphanumerics are arbitrary and terrible. This vehicle isn’t sporty. It is quick and stylish, and it’s comfortable in the kind of country-munching way that the best grand tourers are.

So it’s settled. Genesis should have called its latest sedan the G80 GT.

Twin-turbo drive

As with all good GTs, a fine powertrain motivates the G80 Sport. Genesis engineers borrowed the 3.3-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 from the G90 and hooked it up to a new 8-speed automatic.

Still packing 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, the twin-turbocharged engine is up 54 hp and 83 lb-ft on the base G80’s 3.8-liter V-6, although the Sport suffers a 185-pound penalty compared to the base model. The V-6 is less successful against the range-topping V-8. While negligibly heavier than the G80 Sport, the 8-cylinder model has 420 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

The twin-turbo’s trump card is the way its power arrives, not the overall amount. The V-6’s peak torque is available from 1,300 rpm to 4,500 rpm, while the standard V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8 need to wind up to 5,000 rpm just to reach their peak twist.

The twin-turbo Genesis repeatedly impresses with its get-up-and-go. It leaps from a standstill and overtakes with plenty of high-end gusto, even on straight two-lanes. It’s delightfully progressive and easy to manage its sharp throttle response in Sport mode. With so little turbo lag, the twin blowers hide in the background.

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The new 8-speed automatic shifts up and down quickly in manual mode. The paddle shift controls don’t feel as substantial as they should, and Genesis should carve in a dedicated Manual gate for the electronically controlled shifter. Without inputs, the computer just takes over, even in Sport mode.

The powertrain stamps Sport on the G80 but doesn’t call itself out. Noise is damped too well. The 3.3-liter V-6 could be throatier, louder, and generally more imposing. Boost the exhaust volume, we say, and the G80 Sport will sound much more involved than it does now.

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