ST. HELENA, CA – It’s not quite a third model in the lineup, but Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand, is treating the arrival of the G80 Sport sedan that way – and with some reason.

On sale now, the G80 Sport represents more than a mere trim level, thanks to its unique-to-Sport powertrain, robust chassis tuning and its special exterior and interior appointments.

Spotting a G80 Sport in the wild is easy – look for the copper, whether highlighting the honeycombed, hexagonal grille, the Genesis-embossed projector-beam headlight pods or the winged-logo wheel-centers.

Once inside, copper stitching accents the seats, center console, dashboard and steering wheel while subtle copper hues reflect from the perforated seats. All G80 Sport models come equipped with a 17-speaker Lexicon premium surround-sound system controlled via a 9.2-in. (23.4-cm) high-definition touchscreen with built-in navigation that also is capable of supporting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

But it’s the G80 Sport’s singular powertrain, the 3.3L twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6, which makes this model unique. Shared with the flagship G90 sedan, the all-aluminum Lambda II engine produces 365 hp and 376 lb.-ft. (510 Nm) of torque.

Twin single-scroll turbos fed by an intercooler limit turbo lag and allow the engine to achieve maximum torque at just 1,300 rpm (using premium fuel), while an intermediate-position variable-valve-timing lock in the intake valves magnifies performance. The middle-position VVT lock is the world’s-first application on a V-6, Hyundai says.

Engine performance also benefits from lightweight, hollow sodium-filled exhaust valves that help dissipate heat, allowing for later spark timing resulting in improved power and reduced emissions.

Combined with an aggressively responsive, rev-matching, paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic transmission, the turbo V-6 pulls hard from launch and offers quick response across the power band. Our test cars, all equipped with H-TRAC all-wheel-drive readily shifted power to the rear wheels in spirited driving.

Hyundai says the AWD system, developed in partnership with Magna Powertrain, is designed with a 60/40 rear bias and can send up to 90% of available torque rearward. Overall, the system does a yeoman’s job eliminating the competing downsides of RWD poor-weather traction vs. compromised handling dynamics inherent in many AWD setups.

The G80 Sport’s Intelligent Drive Mode allows a choice of Eco, Normal, Sport or Snow settings, with each mode changing transmission shift mapping, throttle response, steering heft, stability control and suspension tuning.
In Sport mode, the vehicle handles sharp corners and uneven surfaces like a champ, while the strong-pulling V-6 and well-mannered stability controls and AWD encourage pushing ahead rather than clamping down on the brakes to bleed speed in tight turns.

At the same time, the G80 Sport provides a full suite of safety and driver-assistance equipment including automatic emergency braking, pedestrian, blindspot and rear cross-traffic detection, lane-keeping assistance, driver-attention alert and adaptive cruise control.

The camera-based adaptive driver-assistance systems passed muster in our testing, with the full-range adaptive cruise control readily picking up vehicles ahead, adjusting speed down to stop-and-go driving, or alerting when driver intervention was necessary. Meanwhile, the car’s lane-keeping assistance did a good job of identifying roadway lines and staying within them while allowing up to 45 seconds of relaxed, hands-free cruising.

Genesis officials say the standard 3.8L V-6 G80 will account for the lion’s share of the model’s sales, with the Sport good for up to 20% while the flagship 5.0L V-8 Ultimate’s cut will hover in the single digits.

Huge sales aren’t the objective for the newest luxury brand on the block – at least not in the early going, says Erwin Raphael, general manager-Genesis.

“We think the industry is changing and the ownership model is changing,” Raphael says. “We think being new and small gives us a competitive advantage.”

bgritzinger@wardsauto.com @bobgritzinger