Just a year ago, had we told you that you could compare a Genesis G80 to a Lincoln Continental, you would be scratching your head.
That's because at the time the Genesis brand didn't exist and the Lincoln Continental was a mostly forgotten memory. Flash forward to today, however, and the G80 and Continental square off as compelling luxury sedans with distinctly different personalities.
We like both for very different reasons, but the G80 edges the Continental overall: 8.3 to 7.4. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
That's mostly due to the G80's overall polish; it's simply the more refined and consistently upmarket luxury sedan of the pair. That said, there's still a lot we like about the Continental and we're encouraged about what it may do to start rebooting Ford's long-forgotten luxury brand.
The Genesis G80 name is new, but the car itself isn't. It's a rebadged second-generation Hyundai Genesis that debuted in 2015 and it represents one of the first two Genesis-branded vehicles to arrive in the U.S. (the other is the G90 flagship). It's clean and sharp-looking, with a defined crease along its side that helps it stand out a little from its German, Japanese, and American rivals like the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Lexus GS, and Cadillac CT6. Some of the Korean automaker's Fluidic Sculpture design language emerges outside, but its interior is more conservative with a dash dominated by horizontal themes that are calming, but hardly inspiring compared to some more established brands.
Lincoln had the opportunity to essentially start with a clean slate for its Continental, which is the latest—but by far the best thought-out—of the brand's several attempts to revive itself. The Continental is conservative, but there's flair in its details. For instance, its door handles aren't flush-mounted; they stand out on their own along the car's belt line in a way we haven't generally seen in decades. It's a nice touch, but it can get lost on an exterior that's almost anonymous otherwise. Inside, there's lots of chrome, but a wide range of colors and upholsteries helps elevate the Continental above Lincoln's most recent offerings.
The new Continental's underpinnings are cribbed from the mid-size Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, which means a V-6 powering the front wheels, or all four wheels. The most powerful engine—a 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6—isn't available on the Ford, however. The base engine is a 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6, while mid-level models sport a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6. All models use a 6-speed automatic. The base unit under the G80's hood is a 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 311 hp. A 420-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 is optional. Transmissions are 8-speed automatic in all cases, with smooth shifts, responsive downshifts, and gears selectable via steering-wheel paddles.
Most of the Continental lineup is offered with a choice between front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, but the 400-hp variant is only offered with AWD. For the Hyundai Genesis, the top V-8 model is also rear-drive only, though AWD is available with the V-6.
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 Continental, it has a surprisingly firm feel. Top versions sport 20-inch wheels, adaptive shocks, and adaptive steering. Together they have a taut, sometimes tense driving feel that gives away the front-drive, comparatively downmarket MKZ underpinnings. There's not enough suspension travel to soak up the biggest road flaws, but conversely the Conti steers very well for its size, and feels more nimble that it might. Models with smaller diameter wheels have more sidewall, which cushions the ride at the expense of handling tenacity
The G80 excels in overall comfort and refinement inside. The G80's backseat is entirely usable by adults, and its interior packaging makes the most of its available space. But the G80 is nearly half a foot shorter than the Continental, which means it gives up a little rear seat leg room and trunk space. For cargo, the Genesis checks in with a decent 15.3 cubic feet, but the Continental surpasses it with 16.7 cubes. At over 200 inches from head to toe, however, the Continental isn't that much smaller than Lincolns of yore, which makes it a bit more of a challenge to park in a tight garage, for instance.
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, and has standard advanced safety features, netting it a top score from us. The Continental offers lots of optional safety technology, most of it only on upper trim levels. Blind-spot monitors can't be had on the base Premiere; forward-collision warnings are an option, and only on the top Reserve and Black Label trims. It's part of a Technology package ($3,105), which adds surround-view cameras; active park assist; adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist; and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.
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 Continental stickers for more than $3,000 above the G80, and while it's well-equipped, it simply doesn't offer the same level of value. Click every option, and the Continental becomes an $80,000 affair--deep into Mercedes-Benz E-Class and approaching S-Class territory.