Kevin McCauley

Developing a chassis with a bend toward performance is a lot like determining a psychological profile. (Stay with us, here.) Skilled engineers are holding the clipboards, entrusted with coming up with a unique, driver-focused proposition. Meticulous and exact tuning is an integral step in defining the character of a new performance car. Suspension tuning is an iterative process that goes beyond installing stiff shocks and sticky tires.

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The ability to turn workaday sedans, coupes, and SUVs into purpose-built sports cars by injecting performance has fomented the creation of automotive icons. It's what turned the run-of-the-mill Pontiac Tempest into the wild, smoky, and delightful GTO. It's why the "Engineered by Lotus" sticker mounted on the world's most interesting cars makes you unexpectedly excited. It's the raison d'être for engineering powerhouses like AMG, Alpina, and Polestar. Beyond substituting, performance tuning is a philosophy that goes beyond balance sheets and sales projections. It's a mantra that appeals to emotion, more than anything else, with the goal of satisfying the ever-discerning enthusiast driver.

It's a challenge that the product team at Genesis embraced, when tasked with creating a variant of the that could take on the most capable, competent, and established sport sedans on the market. Turning the G80 into the first-ever performance model for the brand, the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport, would require careful benchmarking and creativity.

2018 G80 Sport
The 2018 G80 Sport
Kevin McCauley
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Adding a performance car to the newly established Genesis lineup makes a lot of sense, given the brand's target of launching half a dozen models by 2021. One look at the lineup of professionals formerly of the performance car world—including Manfred Fitzgerald, Albert Biermann, and Luc Donkerwolke—confirms Genesis' aspirations. In test drives, the performance-oriented Genesis rewarded the dyad of car and driver—and credit goes in large part to the chassis tuning. Here's how the Genesis team of engineers made it happen.

You Give Me That Feeling

The first step to sport-tuning is to establish how sportiness will manifest in the everyday driving experience. For the most part, that means going back to the drawing board (or the CAD studio) and evaluating how to tweak an existing, harmonious package without creating a din.

The overarching, modern school of thought on "performance tuning" equates sportiness with harshness. Most of the big German and Italian brands subscribe to this ideology right now. (Think: Stiff shocks. Big wheels. Thin tires.) It's good performance on the track, but on the highway, it's a nightmare. Hit a pothole, and you're out $$.

There are a few that buck the trend. Chevrolet, for example, still produces Corvettes that are capable of handling crumbling city streets. Mazda tunes for performance by changing the non-cosmetic dynamics: The way it drives, not the way it looks. To some extent, Honda strikes the balance well with the Civic, Civic Si, and Civic Type-R: using a versatile chassis to produce different results based on consumer expectation. Engineers have to decide if performance should be measured or in Sport/Sport+ increments, which will differ by manufacturer and product.

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Once development professionals settle on a flavor of performance, it's off to various road conditions and surfaces where the sporty chassis will be put to work. Decisions are made on and off the track to resolve how frequently and to what degree the racing-inspired tuning should reveal itself. Should the goal be kart-like handling in all situations, or a balanced approach that turns the performance on in an instant? In the last decade, the race to create the sportiest offerings has resulted in a cadre of harsh-riding performance cars that compromise on comfort for the sake of feeling like a track car.

Re-Introducing the Rubber to the Road

Genesis engineers saw the opportunity to create a true performance sedan from the G80 as a blessing in disguise. In the case of the G80 Sport, the engineers already had a capable jumping-off point.

2018 G80 Sport
Kevin McCauley
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Imbuing the G80 with performance credentials was an exercise in reinforcing its fundamental dynamics without losing its defining features. To that end, Genesis engineers retained the G80's independent front and rear suspensions in the transformation to G80 Sport, but added adaptive, continuous damping control to ride over uneven pavement without concession to ride quality. The resultant ride and handling traits cater to autocross-like whims, amplifying the rigidity of the ride without breaking the driver's teeth over small bumps in the road.

To round out the package, the standard tires were swapped out for larger, 19-inch Continental rubber, staggered front and rear for greater roadholding ability, and larger ventilated disc brakes were placed in front and back.

Sportiness means something different to each driver, so Genesis added something extra for enthusiasts: four Intelligent Drive Mode selections. The peppiest setting, and the one you'll want to use most, is eponymous Sport. Leveraging the adaptable stiffness of the suspension, Sport makes the G80 Sport claw more tightly to the road. It's the truest expression of the performance-tuned chassis, and the most convincing in first impressions.

2018 G80 Sport
Kevin McCauley
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