Fun Stuff

Genesis Flexes Its Design Muscle with GV80 Coupe Concept

Seldom has there been a concept vehicle as production-ready as the Genesis GV80 Coupe.

To be clear, this sportback sport utility isn’t officially headed for production – at least not anytime soon. However, it’s about as close as it gets to the real deal that there ever has been. And according to the brand’s chief creative officer, it’s only the beginning of what Genesis is capable of.

A True Head-Turner

It’s not just the searing orange paint that had me and my colleagues talking after the cover was pulled off the GV80 Coupe at an event prior to the 2023 New York Auto Show. Concept or not, it’s proportionally perfect, with the bulging fenders introduced on the conventional GV80 accentuated by the sharply tapered rear end that earns it the “coupe” moniker. (This, of course, isn’t the only SUV like it to be incorrectly called a coupe because of a sloping roofline, with both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz using the same misnomer.)

Luc Donckerwolke, the charismatic man who’s both chief creative officer for Genesis and president of its parent company, the Hyundai Motor Group, said after seven years of studious effort to establish itself as a proper premium brand, it’s time for Genesis to show it has a fun side, too.

“Once we’ve done our homework, we want to start to have more fun,” Donckerwolke said after unveiling the GV80 Coupe concept at Genesis House in New York. “This is basically the Genesis for me – the Genesis I want to have more fun driving, I want to have more extroverted – and this is the facet of Genesis that we’re going to amplify.”

A quick and easy way to amplify any vehicle is to finish it in a flashy colour, and, well – just take a look at the lava-inspired hue this concept is sporting. Dubbed “Magma,” the deep and rich paint pairs perfectly with the bulging bodylines and high-contrast black accents both inside and out. While automakers often use outlandish terms to describe their vehicles, they work with hypnotic persuasion here. “Muscular blisters?” Yep. “Optimized aerodynamic fluidity?” You bet.

OK, those are still silly, but what isn’t is just how amazing the GV80 Coupe looks – especially in person. To date – and, of course, to my eye – there hasn’t been a vehicle from Genesis that’s done a better job of elevating expectations while keeping them firmly rooted in reality. As a design exercise, last year’s X Convertible concept was flawless. However, so much would have to be done in order to make it ready for the real world. In the case of this SUV, it’s about as close as it gets – heck, it even has a VIN plate.

Making the Move to Muscle

According to Donckerwolke, the GV80 Coupe doesn’t so much usher in a new generation for Genesis – bear in mind the brand’s only seven years old – as it helps grow its current stable so that it checks more boxes. Any premium brand worth its salt knows performance matters as much as perforated leather and plush suspension, and that’s what this concept is all about.

“This is about the brand expanding its territory from having luxury vehicles ... to athletic vehicles and sportier vehicles,” he said.

This being a concept vehicle, there are no specs to share as far as output figures or even engine size – although the latter is an important point to note, as I’m told there’s a fully functioning gas motor under the GV80 Coupe’s hood as opposed to an electric one. Genesis is still committed to its electrified future, and plans to phase out its internal-combustion powertrains by the beginning of the next decade. The caveat, however, is that it still has two years before it stops developing gas-powered propulsion – that’s on its way to an emissions-free lineup by 2030 – and it provides a rough timeline of when we might see this performance-oriented SUV make it to market.

In case the brand’s sporting intentions weren’t clear, the GV80 Coupe’s cabin screams it as loudly as the orange paint. It’s also where the production readiness of this concept comes into question, with a quartet of carbon-fibre seats inside and a massive chassis brace behind the second row. Of course, the latter is easy enough to send to the scrap heap, while the former wouldn’t be the first set of such seats inside a sport utility; for another, please see the outrageous Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT that’s also designated as an SUV coupe, it’s worth noting.

Final Thoughts

Like some of the brand’s other concepts before this, the Genesis GV80 Coupe was designed to evoke emotion and passion, according to Donckerwolke. The X Convertible that was revealed ahead of last year’s Los Angeles auto show is another example of the potential paths Genesis continues to explore as it grows beyond the sedans it started with just a handful of years ago.

“It’s not a coincidence,” Donckerwolke said of the emotional connections the brand is trying to establish. “It’s all about exploring potential for Genesis.”

That has put pressure on the product development team and the accounts as they explore the viability of the concept vehicles that have been well received by the public, he said – although it doesn’t seem like a bad problem for a brand that’s still making a name for itself to have. And after being part of the Genesis design team from the very start, Donckerwolke said he has learned one lesson in particular that stands out from the rest as he and the team continue to churn out stunning concepts.

“Since arriving in Korea, the only thing I have to be careful of is not to think out loud,” he said with a laugh. “Because as soon as somebody hears something they run and (design) it.”