The BMW 5 Series has been considered the standard for executive sport sedans for decades. But when something is held in such high regard, it tends to hold a higher price tag.
That can leave buyers who want a high-end experience but don’t have a high-end budget feeling left out, but that’s where Genesis steps in. This luxury brand is new on the scene and is looking to take on the established players in the segment by offering high-end luxury without the high-end price.
The products Genesis offers have fared well against premium automakers like Cadillac and Volvo, but it’s about time to see if the Korean luxury brand can stand toe-to-toe with the industry’s gold standard cars. The Genesis G80 Sport lines up almost directly to the BMW 540i, but is significantly cheaper. That’s already a point in favor of the Genesis, but it needs to provide the same drive and luxury experience as the BMW to win over prospective buyers.
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The Tried and True 5 Series
That BMW experience is refined through and through. The new-generation 5 Series is a bit less sport and much more executive, using an architecture that’s borrowed from the bigger, more luxurious 7 Series. The 5 Series also gets a lot of the luxury appointments and features that its bigger sibling is known for.
For example, our model features soft-close doors, quilted stitched Nappa leather, four-zone automatic climate control, a fragrance dispenser, rear window shades, a heated steering wheel, and massaging front seats that can be heated and ventilated. The cabin is outfitted with ceramic-coated controls, which makes everything feel substantial and expensive. There’s also plenty of space for passengers and their cargo — it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling cramped in the cabin.
Additionally, the tech features are borderline dizzying. The car has an available mobile hotspot, wireless charging, and USB ports for charging. Apple iPhone users can also use CarPlay wirelessly — BMW is one of the first automakers to support wireless smartphone integration.
The infotainment system and head-up display are high-resolution and filled with useful information. The iDrive infotainment system has also been updated with a more user-friendly menu options and interface, but it still takes some getting used to.
What Are All These Gizmos?
But there is also a worrying amount of gimmicky features in the BMW. For example, the infotainment system can be controlled a few too many ways. It finally features a touchscreen, which is helpful in stationary situations. But there’s also the rotary knob (like before) that has a touchpad for writing inputs, and a 3D gesture control system, which can be a bit finicky at times. The 3D gesture controls feel like a party trick to impress passengers and isn’t really that useful in the real world.
ALSO SEE: 2018 BMW 5 Series Review
Then there’s the camera system, which is useful if a bit over-engineered. A number of cameras are set up in an array to display a 3D representation of the car and the space around it. It’s useful except in most cases, I can see what’s around my car by simply looking out of the window. In this case, the car’s technology is more about wowing your friends and neighbors than being actually useful.
BMW Driving Dynamics
Once you start driving, though, there is no doubt that the 5 Series is an excellent luxury vehicle. Under the hood of this 540i is a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that is turbocharged to make 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a clever eight-speed automatic transmission and the xDrive all-wheel-drive system. It’s clever because it can use GPS data to help select which gear to use, and when paired with the adaptive suspension system, the Adaptive drive mode can predict the road ahead and keep the car riding smoothly as a luxury car should.
The other drive modes allow the car to be sportier, comfier, or more fuel efficient by adjusting a number of parameters including shift logic, throttle response, and steering effort. The engine feels powerful, allowing this 4,000-pound car to hit highway speeds in under five seconds. And naturally, the high-tech gizmos extend to the driving aids and safety features as well. The car has a lane-keep function and adaptive cruise control to make long drives feel like a walk in the park (without the tired legs part). The camera array also helps with parking with cross traffic alerts for the front and rear of the vehicle. There’s also a blind-spot monitor and all systems help ensure the car and those around it are safe and at ease.
|Vehicle||2017 BMW 540i xDrive||Advantage||2017 Genesis G80 Sport|
|Engine||3.0L turbo 6-cyl||-||3.3L turbo 6-cyl|
|Cargo Capacity (cu-ft)||18||BMW||15.3|
|US Fuel Economy (MPG combined)||23||BMW||20|
|CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km combined)||9.8||BMW||11.76|
|US Starting Price||$52,195||Genesis||$42,725|
|US As Tested Price||$77,585||Genesis||$58,725|
|CAN Starting Price||$65,264||Genesis||$55,127|
|CAN As Tested Price||$94,064||Genesis||$62,127|
The New Guard
Jumping into the Genesis afterward is an amazing experience. As a new kid on the block, it comes packing a lot of punch to take on the Goliaths of the industry (and the 5 Series is certainly a Goliath). Under the hood is a 3.3-liter turbocharged V6 engine that makes 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Naturally, it feels much more powerful than the BMW. In fact, the whole powertrain is refined and responsive, which is a lot of what a sport sedan buyer is really looking for. The eight-speed automatic transmission has fewer drive modes than the BMW and isn’t hooked into the GPS for improved fuel economy, but it still manages to change gears smoothly and quickly.
Handling is a different story. The G80 Sport weighs in nearly 600 pounds more than the BMW, and that weight can be felt on the road. The car feels more substantial, bigger, and less playful, agile and versatile than the BMW.
Inside, the Genesis is well-appointed, although it misses the wow factor of the BMW. Instead, it has more headroom and more front legroom than the BMW. The German car beats this Korean in terms of rear seat legroom, though, and there are 18 cubic feet of storage in the trunk compared to the G80’s 15.3.
Interior up to Par
The trim in the Genesis is noticeably upscale. The carbon fiber appointments are a fancy touch and the quality of the trim seems up to par. If you’ve been in a Hyundai recently, some of the dashboard layout and buttons may look and feel familiar, but that doesn’t seem like a huge drawback.
Additionally, some might love the huge sunroof in the Genesis, which helps the spacious cabin feel airier. Other features show some disparity between these two cars. The Genesis has a heated steering wheel, along with heated and vented seats, although no massage function. There’s a fancy 17-speaker sound system but no gesture control.
Like the BMW, there’s a lot of safety and driver assistance technology in the Genesis. It too has adaptive cruise control and can come to a full stop in traffic. It also has a head up display, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
Functionally speaking, it does much of what the BMW does but isn’t as flashy. Calling it a simpler luxury car is appropriate, as it has everything you’d want in a high-end fully featured car, but isn’t as gimmicky as the BMW.
Huge Cost Difference
Then again, the Genesis costs just over $55,000 for a rear-wheel-drive model and all-wheel drive versions are $2,500 more. That’s a bargain considering there are no additional trim packages or expenses. Even all the color choices are no cost. In Canada, the G80 comes fully loaded in one trim and is standard with all-wheel drive, costing $62,000 for the whole package.
The 5 Series tested had a serious issue with price bloat. With all those features, it rang in at over $70,000 in the U.S. (over $90,000 in Canada), which is a far cry from the vehicle’s starting price (as a four-cylinder model) of $52,195 ($65,264 in Canada). Outfitting this car to be its absolute best is going to hit the wallet hard.
The Verdict: 2018 BMW 540i vs Genesis G80 Sport
On its own, the Genesis leaves a very positive impression by offering just about everything you’d want at a reasonable price. But then after driving the BMW, you’ll pick up on what true futuristic luxury and advanced technology really are and as a result, the Genesis will seem a step behind. The Genesis is significantly cheaper, so if you’re unimpressed with all the technology and features of the BMW and don’t like being nickel and dimed for everything, then the Genesis is a very good alternative.
Without a doubt, the BMW is still the high water mark for this class. It does everything and it does it well. But the Genesis can do about 85 percent of what the BMW can, and for a significant chunk of change less. It’s up to you to decide if you want to pay for the clear cut best or settle for something more reasonable.
BMW 540i xDrive
Genesis G80 Sport