The new Genesis GV80 SUV isn't sexy, but it is luxury enough
A scant four years after its birth, Hyundai’s luxury division has produced its first SUV. (If you wonder why I say scant, consider it tookBMW 15 years to produce the X5 afterJeep debuted the Cherokee, the first modern SUV, in 1984; Porsche took a further three years, with its Cayenne coming in 2002.)
The 2021 Genesis GV80 offers an elegant exterior design, user-friendly electronics, and a thoughtfully appointed interior cabin with seating for up to seven. With a price range of $48,900 for the base model to $59,150 for the highest trim level, the GV80 is a welcome addition to the most competitive automotive segment in America today—that of premium and luxury SUVs.
While the heritage German brands Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche continue to dominate the group, they are not without their disappointments. Meanwhile, offerings from Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, and Lincoln have fallen from relevance to luxury buyers in recent years. With the GV80, Genesis might just have found a sliver of an entry point to jump into the mix.
Also check these Cars
If you haven’t yet considered a vehicle from Genesis, I don’t blame you—the brand still feels obscure and nondescript compared to other luxury offerings, most of which have 70-plus years of heritage. (It’s the fourth vehicle from Genesis currently on sale, including the G70and G90 sedans.)But if the Korean manufacturerkeeps producing things like the value-smart GV80, it’s time you started paying attention.
The Silver Bullet
It’s difficult to overstate just how important the SUV market isin the U.S. By next year, according to multiple analysts, close to 80% of all new vehicle sales here will be light trucks—pickups and SUVs. Kevin Tynan, the head of automotive research for Bloomberg Intelligence, tells me that the mix will hit 90% in two or three years.
In the fall, I drove multiple versions of the GV80 at a private launch near Mulholland Drivein Los Angeles, then drove the GV80 in the Prestige AWD variant separately for a week on my own time. Genesis’s first SUV effort is not only strong on its own, but its quality, aesthetics, and performance bode well for future product. (On Jan. 4, for instance, Hyundai Motor Co.announced a battery-powered Genesis crossover duelater this year.)
How It Looks
The first thing I noticed about the GV80sis the diamond-lattice grille on the front, reminiscent of Bentley’s Bentayga but more angular and perhaps better aligned with the rest of the car. Long, thin rectangular LED headlights are shaped and stacked like books.The rig’ssides look chiseled, like the abs of a swimmer; the rear is equally sporty, with a small spoiler jutting out from the angled roofline and distinctive taillights that, from some angles,look as if they wrap completely around the car.
Also Read : Production halted at Hyundai's South Korean factory after fatal incident)
Twenty-two-inch wheels on the top-of-the-line Prestige model add to the SUV’s commanding—but not overbearing—stance. From the outside, the GV80 looks as good as anything from Volvo or Mercedes’slarger SUV lineup; it’s as big as a BMW X5 or Audi A5, but farmore distinctive from those now-ubiquitous grocery getters, especially Audi’s virtually indistinguishable SUV offerings.
How It Feels
Inside is where the GV80 really shines: It’swell-made, thoughtful, comfortable, and pacific.It feels serene, like you’vesteppedinto a quiet gallery. Kudos to Genesis for making a cabin nearly silent, with active noise cancellation available as an option.
While the familiar German luxury cabins of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Porsche Cayenne (and the lovely Swedish interior of the Volvo lineup) still beat it, when youconsider overalldesign and function the interior of Genesis’s new offering sits firmly in the middle of the segment. In fact, if you can let go of the status-by-brandingand approving looks from your neighborsthat follow a purchase of a BMW or Mercedes (ifnot quiteyetwith the Genesis),the trimmings of the GV80 will suit you just fine.
All variants come with a generous dose of comfortable accoutrements such asthe 14.5-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, and a power lift gate. In the Prestige version I had, burled-wood trim, ambient lighting, heatedand cooled rear seats, and the large, three-dimensional-looking digital cluster added to the overall lightly cosseted feeling. The Nappa leather seats with their well-stitched upholstery were supportive, even roomy, without being stiff.
The dashboard itself feels mostly uncluttered, though some may object to the shiny cross-hatched metal dials on the center console that controlthe infotainment. The sole misfire isthe steering wheel, which recalls the oblong octopus shape of a Buick steering wheel circa 1985. Retirees in Palm Springs on the way to tee-time will feel right at home with its oddly splayed form between their hands.
As for configuration, astandard three-seater bench seat in the second row allows for up to five passengers. Athird row of seats is optional in the far rear, but it’sabout as spacious as a refrigerator box. Cargo space tops out at 84 cubic feetwith the rear seats folded, more than the X5 and the GLE.
How It Performs
The driving attributes of most premium SUVs are lackluster—soft to steer, with brakes that feel numb.Some, like the BMW X6M and Lamborghini Urus, buck the trend and deliver breathtaking results, butthe ability to have a spirited drive in a five- or seven-seat hauler seems besidethe point for most automakers.
The GV80 falls in line with the majority of the group here. Itprovesto be a solid and well-balanced ride, with a 375-horsepower,3.5L twin-turbo V6in the Prestige edition, but it’s nothing to get the heart fluttering. (The 2.5L inline 4 turbocharged engine is standard—though by now, you should have caught the hints that if you plan to buy this vehicle, you should ante up the additional $10,000 or so for the Prestige).
The eight-speed automatic ride is smooth enough, with electronicallycontrolled suspension that’s able to “see" bumps in the road ahead and adjust the stiffness of the ride accordingly. The ride height is pleasingly commanding; the brakes respond acutely to even slight input. Lane-change alerts, rear cross-traffic alerts, collision avoidance assists, and driver-attention warnings all come standard in the Prestige edition.
None of that is really sexy or thrilling, but it’s all good enough to be unobtrusive andlet the other parts of the GV80 take center stage. This SUV is a smart, fresh face doing all the right things. Life for a luxury brand without a pedigree can be tough; with the GV80, Genesis is buildingits own history the right way.