It wasn't that long ago that rear-wheel-drive mid-size luxury sedan shoppers basically had two options: German or German.
Infiniti or Lexus have always been around, but neither had sporty pretensions—one of the reasons you pick a rear-drive sedan in the first place.
Now there are a bevy of choices if you're willing to look outside Bavaria, and we consider the Genesis G80 and Cadillac CTS to be among the best.
Both of these models have earned high praise—and high ratings—here at The Car Connection, but for entirely different reasons. The Genesis G80 makes its argument in value and safety; the Cadillac CTS compels shoppers with a sporty drive and sharp styling. A deeper dive into the numbers reveals that the race is closer between the two than at first blush.
We like both sedans, but the G80 narrowly edges the CTS in overall scores: 8.3 to 7.8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Most of the point differential can be attributed to the G80's impressive feature set, safety, and its impressive value. A fully decked V-8 G80 tops out around $55,000, which is where a mid-level CTS starts. That kind of value is tough to beat.
The Genesis G80 might be a new name, but it's not a new car. The rebadged Hyundai Genesis has been with us in its current form since 2015, when the second-generation car arrived in the U.S. Its style is borrowed from other automakers, but the G80 is showing signs of striking out on its own. A softer shape from the rear and a sharper crease along the sided help define the car against other luxury mid-sizers. We can find inspiration from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW in some of the G80's lines, but some of the Korean automaker's Fluidic Sculpture design moves can be found in there too. Inside, a more conservative approach was taken—the dash is dominated by horizontal themes that are calming, but also a little boring.
2017 Genesis G80
2017 Genesis G80
2017 Genesis G80
The flip side is the Cadillac CTS that charts its own path. Compared to the G80, it's stunning, with signature LED headlights and a combination of blunt corners, sharp edges, and organic curvaceous metal in between. The interior is just as striking with soft-touch materials, soft leather, and a warm color palette. It's futuristic, a universe away from the Germans, and far more enticing than Japanese luxury sedans, or the Genesis. Advantage, Cadillac.
Under the hood, the CTS starts out with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 268 horsepower. That engine is a bit coarse for our liking, so the upgrade to the smoother 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 335 hp is one that we handily recommend. Cadillac also offers a twin-turbocharged V-6 that makes 420 hp in Vsport models. The G80 is within earshot of the latter two engines when it comes to overall power. The base unit in the G80 is a 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 311 hp. A 420-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 is optional. Transmissions are automatic in all cases, with smooth shifts, responsive downshifts, and gears selectable via steering-wheel paddles.
Most of the CTS lineup is offered with a choice between rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while the higher-performance V-Sport is only rear-drive. For the Hyundai Genesis, the top V-8 model is also rear-wheel-drive only, though AWD is available with the V-6.
2017 Cadillac CTS
2017 Cadillac CTS
2017 Cadillac CTS
Genesis shines in everyday driving
In ride and handling, that’s where the G80 really shines in a way you might not have at all expected. The previous Genesis could have used a little more attention in that department, and it seems that Hyundai has very much compensated, even employing Lotus for some help with tuning. Provided you don’t expect a full-fledged sport sedan, the G80 is delightful, especially in its V-6, rear-wheel-drive form, offering far better steering than what we’ve experienced in other Hyundai models. Beware, though, that V-8 models, with the available Continuous Damping Control (CDC) don’t handle any better and there’s no big payoff in ride.
As for the CTS, it’s closer to a true sport sedan, but it simply doesn’t play that role in its less-expensive forms, with the 4-cylinder or V-6. We’d go for the available Magnetic Ride Control suspension, though, as it does exactly what it claims, providing sharper response when you need it and a supple ride the rest of the time. The CTS Vsport riffs off this model’s sportier side, bringing upgraded Pirelli rubber, quicker steering, Brembo brakes, and a track mode for the suspension, steering, and powertrain. As such, it’s a luxurious sport sedan in a way the G80 can’t manage—at least not yet.
The G80 doesn't perform as well or look as good as the CTS, but starts to make up ground in overall comfort. The G80's backseat is entirely usable by adults, and its interior packaging makes the most of its available space. The G80 sports more rear leg room and is easier to get in and out of. While the Genesis doesn't have the biggest trunk space (15.3 cubic feet) in its class, it's still bigger than the Cadillac's small trunk (13.7 cubic feet). We like the bolstered seats in the Cadillac, but prefer the G80's overall comfort. If you're not particular about your interior space, the Cadillac has the edge in ambiance and opulence; if you prioritize a hushed ride and long hauls, the G80 edges in interior refinement.
The G80 also sports one of the most impressive records of crash data for any car on the road. The Genesis aced federal and IIHS testing, netting a Top Safety Pick+ honor, has standard advanced safety features, and just missed out on our perfect score thanks to no standard rearview camera. The CTS has good data, but with some blemishes from the IIHS. The agency gave the CTS a "Marginal" score for its small overlap front crash test, which simulates hitting a tree or light post. It's hard to do much better than perfect, so Genesis wins here.
Features? If you’re talking the sheer number of them for the dollar, it’s definitely the Genesis that’s the winner. Even in its $42,000 base form, the 2017 G80 includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for its infotainment system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and streaming, leather upholstery, Hyundai telematics, power adjustable and heated front seats, hands-free trunk opening, and keyless ignition. The CTS outdoes some German sedans for features, but it’s relative here, and it simply doesn’t offer as much for the money as the G80. Its CUE interface can be a little off-putting, yet it offers a great head-up display, as well as a parking assist system that can steer the CTS into parallel spots. Advantage: G80.