It was hard to tell who was more surprised, me or the car. I had only been driving the electric G80 – the first fully electric offering of Hyundai’s luxury brand Genesis – for a few kilometres before we approached the entrance to a long tunnel in Sydney.
I’m the sort of person who likes to drive with the windows down and the elbow on the door frame – a hangover from Bob Hudson’s Newcastle Song from 1970s, but without the “g’day’ and the eight abreast across the front seat.
So imagine my surprise when the passenger windows were suddenly automatically wound up as the tunnel approached. It felt like I nearly lost the elbow. Clearly, though the Genesis engineers have decided to take the warnings that petrol and diesel fumes are dangerous, particularly in a tunnel.
It’s probably a bit redundant to suggest that this wouldn’t need to happen in an all electric world, but it’s nice that the engineers are looking after their cars’ occupants as we make that transition.
And it wasn’t the only surprise: An hour down the highway the automatic “Ergo Motion” massage came on in the driver’s seat to ensure I retained good posture. Genesis calls this “active stretch mode”. As massages go, it was pretty damm good. Hmmm, that’s nice. This is a car that really cares.
The G80 – first unveiled in 2021 and which finally arrived in Australia in late 2022 – is a curious beast. Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury brand, delivering cars to the “executive” class and the corporate market, and to people with plenty of money or big car allowances.
Its interior looks conservative but luxurious, with nappa leather seats and wood garnishes, and despite what the marketing people describe as “the beauty of white space”, it has a busy-ness you might find in the private study of a gentleman of about 80. Maybe that’s what the G80 stands for.
But if the car has the look of being all pipe and slippers, its performance tells us another story.
This thing really moves, it has an 87.2kWh battery and can take off at a rapid rate of knots, as I was able to demonstrate to some teenaged drivers of hopelessly augmented fossil cars in the Canberra suburbs, where traffic lights are conveniently located for such demonstrations at nearly every intersection.
Sorry, fellas, Grandpa just left you for dead. Oh, look, and again!
It did make me wonder, though, who exactly is this car designed for? My daughter and daughter in law decided it was a car designed for a male, probably of a certain age, or demographic. But that must not be entirely true, because it has also voted best executive car by a women’s jury. So there is cross-gender appeal, at the right pay-grade.
The limitations of the Genesis G80 are defined by the fact that this is an electric version of an existing fossil fuel model, like the Kona before it, which means no sense of extra space which is one of the key advantages of an EV-specific platform.
It has been part of the Hyundai Group’s EV transition – start off with a few conversions to test the waters and gradually move their clients into electric, and also go full bore with a new electric platform, including the widely admired Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6, the Kia EV6, and the GV60 from Genesis, which is really quite something and whose review we will publish soon.
The problem with the electrified versions of ICE cars is that they are that more expensive. The fossil fuel version of the G80 ranges from $86,000 to $106,000, before on-road costs, depending on the level of luxury you choose, while the electrified version (luxury option only) starts at $145,000, before on-roads. That price puts it in some rarified company.
But let’s give credit to the G80 where it’s due. Hyundai and Genesis say the car is where “luxury meets sport”, and the marketing people use terms such as “refined” and “EV extravagance”.
There is no doubt that the interior is very comfortable. And, as mentioned before, this car handles as smoothly as you’d expect for that price, and it can move when the driver wants it to.
The G80 has twin motor AWD system that provides 272kW and an instantaneous 700Nm of torque, and will get from zero to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds, even in its slippers.
The 87.2kWh battery offers a range of up to 520km (WLTP) of long-distance touring range – but like all WLTP ratings, probably not at 110km/h on the freeway – and can charge from 10 to 80 per cent in as little as 22 minutes when plugged into a 350kW DC fast charger.
It also has some useful, and some less useful additions. The useful ones include a choice of 5-year subscription with charging network Chargefox, or home A/C charger and installation, plus five year free servicing and an eight year warranty on the battery. And it has a really good sound systems with 21 Lexicon speakers.
Like all Hyundai group EVs, it comes with a vehicle to load facility, which means you can stop to boil a kettle, charge your laptop or other appliances, including at your home if there happens to be an outage, or help out another stranded EV.
It also has various levels of regenerative braking, ranging from light to the full i-pedal – though why people would want to do anything other than i-pedal is beyond me.
And it has a solar roof, which looks cool and is designed – the marketing people say – to harness the power of the sun, and use that to charge the battery, and to incrementally increase driving range. But I couldn’t obtain any details of how much power, and how much range, so it’s difficult to say exactly how useful that is.
But if it all does seem a little extravagant, like the Tesla Model Y performance or the Kia EV6 GT, remember that it is at the premium end that the EV transition is happening fastest, as it usually does when new technology arrives – colour TVs, solar PV, smart phones etc.
So it’s actually a really good thing that Hyundai and others are building luxury EVs for that market. It means they get to test out all the goodies, and add-ons, that will eventually filter down to the rest of us mere-mortals, and make the EV transition that much more attractive and successful.
Read also Riz Akhtar’s review from last year: Genesis electric G80 brings green luxury to corporate travel, with a solar roof