For the past few years, there has been a lot of head-scratching around the decision Genesis made to introduce a family of sedans before attempting a sport utility vehicle.
The time has finally come for the Korean luxury brand to unleash its first SUV, the 2021 Genesis GV80, which begs the question: was it worth the wait? To which the answer is a resounding yes.
The new design language that’s sweeping across the Genesis lineup is most recognizable thanks to the parallel stacked lighting treatment flanking an enormous cross-hatched grille. The twin-light theme is repeated on the fender side markers and the taillight design, too. The serious slash of chrome along the rocker panels gives the GV80’s profile a slimmer-looking waist than some of its more slab-sided competitors, and from any angle, the new Genesis sport ute looks decidedly upscale.
The proportions are great, with arcs sweeping over the hiplines of the fenders, and the chrome-wrapped window lines ensure the GV80 doesn’t look too top-heavy. Topped with the derivative winged Genesis nose badge, it had me thinking that this is what the Bentley Bentayga should look like.
If there’s one complaint about the styling, it’s that peering into that massive mesh grille is like looking through a screen door into the unsightly engine bay details behind it. Plus, even my recently detailed tester showed lots of grunge in the mesh, illustrating how tedious it must be to keep that cross hatching clean.
The interior is a picture of modern elegance, with the warm brown and beige leather accented by genuine aluminum and wood trim throughout. The steering wheel’s distinctive two-spoke appearance is a love-it-or-leave-it affair, but you can count me in the love-it group, appreciating its throwback look to luxury cars of the 1960s and ’70s.
While the cabin is full of clever styling and tactile details (like the knurling on most of the controls), by far the coolest part is the way the primary gauges are presented stereoscopically to create a subtle 3-D effect in this top trim. It’s a small detail that serves to remind the driver that this is a special SUV.
My GV80 tester was a top-level 3.5T Prestige trim offering every feature Genesis could come up with, thrown into the mix as standard kit. Beyond the decadent materials and finishes, occupants will enjoy the sensational 21-speaker audio system throwing out more than 1,000 watts of crisp, clean, musical energy.
Second-row passengers have electrically operated sun shades, lighted vanity mirrors, and their own climate controls beneath a massive panoramic sunroof, as well as heated and ventilated seats.
The driver is afforded a very effective adaptive cruise control system with stop-and-go traffic functionality, and a key fob that not only offers remote starting, but the ability to move the car into or out of a tight parking space at the push of a button, all without actually being inside the vehicle.
User Friendliness: 9/10
Modern luxury machines are faced with the challenge of managing a tremendous amount of technology in a format that’s manageable by a driver travelling at speed. These days, a driver should spend a considerable amount of time programming all the functions and features to operate to their tastes before setting out for a trip, and that’s the case here, too. But Genesis has done a decent job of balancing a clean design with a complex system, navigated by either touchscreen or the controller on the centre console. Menus are straightforward, and there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to provide a familiar interface. The climate controls feature large knobs for on-the-fly temperature adjustments, and while I’d prefer a similar knob for radio volume and tuning, the console-mounted spin wheels are almost as effective.
Passengers in the two front rows are afforded heated and cooled seats swathed in perforated, quilted Nappa leather in this top trim. The driver’s seat features seven air bladders that expand and contract to snug the driver into place during spirited driving, but also enable a basic massaging function. The front seats especially are adjustable in so many ways that occupants should be able to find a comfortable space regardless of body type or size.
The second-row bench isn’t much of a sacrifice, with ample space and adjustability for the two outboard passengers, although the monkey-in-the-middle will surely have drawn the short straw. The third row should be reserved for occasional seating by children due to the challenging climb back there met with limited space, especially for headroom.
The GV80 is very quiet with road, wind and engine noises all being impressively quelled, and while the ride is quite good, the low-profile tires wrapped around enormous 22-inch wheels that are tremendously heavy translate into some harshness over bigger potholes and road irregularities.
Despite my tester being finished in a stain-prone beige interior, the GV80 provides considerable functionality, being able to haul as many as seven people in a pinch, or four very comfortably, along with significant room for luggage. With all three rows up, the Genesis offers less cargo volume than an Audi Q7, and with the third row folded, less than a BMW X5, but with both rear sets of seats folded, the GV80’s 2,379 L is comparably cavernous. The GV80 is also rated to tow up to 2,700 kg (6,000 lb) for those looking to haul a few toys around, although that figure falls short of the Audi Q7 or Lexus GX within the class.
At 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, the GV80’s twin turbocharged 3.5L V6 is not wanting for power. It helps move the 2,300-kg (5,071-lb) SUV from a standstill to highway speeds with decent authority. Passing power is also abundant, and particularly when the sport drive mode is selected, the Genesis feels responsive.
Although it posts better power and torque numbers than the analogous six-cylinder models from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, the Genesis doesn’t feel any more spritely than those competitors. In fact, with hauling around an additional 200 kg (441 lb) or so than a comparable BMW X5, the Bavarian feels quicker in daily driving. What’s more, each of the German manufacturers offer V8 variants that start close to this top-tier GV80’s price.
Genesis utilizes an eight-speed automatic transmission in the GV80, and it does a good job of going about its business without calling attention to its shifts – just as it should be in a luxury vehicle. In sport mode, the revs are held longer and the shifts are a bit quicker, but not at the rate the German competitors can swap cogs.
Driving Feel: 7.5/10
Similarly, the GV80’s road manners lean much more toward a luxurious driving experience than a sporting one. With few exceptions, tall, heavy SUVs can’t bend the laws of physics enough to feel like sport sedans, and the GV80 never escapes its size or mass when asked to hustle around curvy roads. The body leans and dives somewhat, and except for the big, heavy wheels crashing over bumps, the ride is very good. When not prompted to dance like a much smaller, lighter machine, it cruises smoothly, even at elevated speeds, feeling stable and solid.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Given its size and weight, the V6 GV80’s combined fuel consumption average of 11.8 L/100 km is about mid-pack in the six-cylinder category. But Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes all offer electrified variants of their SUVs for those wanting even more efficiency, while Genesis hasn’t gotten there yet. Genesis does offer the GV80 with a four-cylinder base engine, but even then, it only delivers efficiency on par with BMW’s six-cylinder X5.
While the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety ratings aren’t yet available for the GV80, other models in the Genesis lineup have received top marks, and given the equipment offered here, it’s expected the SUV will achieve the same.
Beyond the usual ensemble of airbags throughout the GV80, Genesis fits active brake assist, blind-spot warnings, and both forward and rear automatic emergency braking, plus lane-keep assist. There’s also an attention monitor in the Prestige trim that watches the driver to ensure they* are paying attention to the road ahead, even when the adaptive cruise control system with its steering assist is in play.
With the base four-cylinder version of the GV80 starting at $64,500, it offers buyers a lot of lavishness for the money. Step up through the ranking to my V6-powered 3.5T Prestige and the cost goes up considerably, ringing in at $85,000 before tax. At first glimpse, this may seem uncomfortably close to the pricing of the notable German competitors, but where the European companies have mastered the art of charging extra for darn-near anything, the GV80 Prestige has no options, coming fully equipped for the price. What’s more, Genesis’s pricing is inclusive of everything besides taxes, meaning there’s no additional delivery fees. Beyond that, Genesis also includes maintenance for five years and at-home valet service that the competitors do not, elements that can add tremendous value for owners.
Given what we’ve seen from Genesis so far, it’s unsurprising the brand’s first SUV offering is as well-executed as it is. The GV80 fits a very specific spot within the midsize luxury SUV segment that puts far more emphasis on style and luxury than it does driving engagement, and for most buyers, that’s likely to be a smart move – especially considering the tremendous value offered here.
|Engine Cylinders||Twin-turbo V6|
|Peak Horsepower||375 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque||391 lb-ft @ 1,300–4,500 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.9 / 10.4 / 11.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||328 / 991 / 2,379 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2021 Genesis GV80 3.5T Prestige AWD|
|Price as Tested||$85,100|