“That was quick. Ten minutes in, and we’re already lost!” Five minutes earlier, our dense printed deck of directions had indicated a right turn at 0.9 miles on the odometer. Yes, miles.
We’re in Edinburgh, Scotland’s ancient capital city, whose medieval warren of cobblestone streets mock your quaint expectations of a grid with 90-degree angles. Being British, their distances here are Imperial measurements.
We’re guests of the unapologetically Korean automaker Genesis: driving its electric vehicles (EVs); visiting its newest branded retail space, just two days old; attending the pro golf tournament it's sponsoring; following directions it got from Visit Scotland, the local tourism board.
And that first direction was wrong – unless it was supposed to be 0.9 km?
Anyway, now, just five minutes down the winding West Approach, a proto highway sneaking out of or into central Edinburgh, it seems those directions brought us onto a sleepy street in Gorgie, a traditionally working-class neighbourhood that’s fast gentrifying. Ourselves, we’re fast learning why Visit Scotland provides these directions by numbered auto routes instead of named streets: the names change so often, you’d empty the ink cartridge before leaving town.
“Not lost, as much as confused,” my drive partner concurs.
On the plus side, we haven’t hit anything; I’ve been living in Edinburgh for seven months and am accustomed to driving on the left. Moreover, any unplanned detouring only means extra time in the Genesis GV60, an EV I gushed so fulsomely about last year after I drove it in Ontario that readers should’ve worn bibs.
Released last year, the GV60 was the first all-electric Genesis vehicle. The company has committed to only manufacturing EVs by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2035. That’s a big, hairy goal, but that’s Genesis. Just seven years since the brand's launch, it has racked up unprecedented numbers of awards for its cars. Now it seems it wants to turn its brand into something more akin to a French perfume or Italian handbag than a traditional car badge.
Hence these few days of hosting a passel of Canadian and American writers on the wrong side of the road. Activities will include backdoor access to the Genesis Scottish Open golf tournament; an interactive whisky history tour in the Johnny Walker building – like that unique Scotch Whisky-maker, Genesis is deeply invested in promoting its brand as it does its actual products; multiple meals by celebrated Scottish chef Tom Kitchin; and this day’s driving amid bucolic splendour … that is, after we find the way out of Gorgie, then out of town.
Well, the word genesis literally means starting something.
Getting started is as good a theme as you need to encapsulate these four days of sampling the Genesis brand from the inside. Starting here in the GV60. We discard the printed directions, choosing to follow the streetside autoroute signs. Our first destination on today’s tour is an immense art installation called the Kelpies and having lived in Scotland for seven months, I know that’s just outside of Livingston.
On the edge of Livingston, I remember that the Kelpies are actually near Linlithgow, not Livingston – and that I’ve only been living here seven months, so what do I know? We discard the sign-following strategy for phone directions, which provide the extra thrill of mispronouncing nearly every road on the way. (We would use the magnificent infotainment/GPS available in the GV60, except we don’t know the password. It’s that kind of day.)
So anyway … briefly lost twice within our first half hour on the road, we’re still not the most hopeless pair of auto writers on this event. Two Americans we just passed were being pulled over by the local constabulary for driving too slow in the right lane, which they assumed was the slow one. Hurray, them!
Despite being briefly lost, we’re the second of the four cars to arrive at the Kelpies, a pair of metal-plated horse head statues with bewitching eyes towering 30 m (aka 100 ft) tall.
We park and get some photos. Kelpie? It’s a mythical shape-shifting horse-like ghost that supposedly haunts Scottish bodies of water. They’re not nice. This body of water they’re seemingly emerging from is a 235-year-old canal. The effect is slightly unsettling. Don’t visit this art installation at night.
The ride from the big horse heads to the Trossachs National Park is lovely – curvy and rural – providing my driving partner several smiles behind the wheel. Our next destination? The southernmost edge of the Scottish Highlands: those bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond. The Cameron House on said bonny banks is prettier than the Toronto boozerie of the same name. It’s where we lunch, then trade our morning ride for an afternoon in the Electrified GV70, the larger electric Genesis SUV.
This is my first experience with the GV70 and, I hope, not my last.
We immediately set to testing the Electrified GV70. At 4.7 m long and 2.9 m wide without mirrors (careful you don’t strip them on these narrow roads flanked by tall stone walls), it offers a surprisingly sporty ride if you want it. Especially considering the long 2.875-m wheelbase, that space between the axles. First though: in comfort mode, those many sleeping policemen – speed bumps – on Cameron House property double as a testing course for the front-wheel McPherson multi-link and rear five-link multi-link suspension. The verdict? Imagine floating on an electrified cloud.
Like its smaller sister from this morning, the Electrified GV70 has a feature called Boost. Buckle up and hold on! It unleashes 483 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque for up to 10 seconds. Remember: unlike internal combustion engine cars, an EV is either on or off. Plus, this EV’s lighter than the gasoline-powered GV70, with 82 fewer body parts and 24 per cent better rigidity.
Bottom line? When you press that Boost button and stomp on the accelerator, quaintly known as the gas pedal, you get enough extra juice to launch everything but your stomach two minutes into the future. If our American colleagues had used it this morning, they would’ve been pulled over by the local police for quite a different reason.
We’re careful not to use it when we drive by signs warning of speed cameras on our return to Edinburgh. It’s a less attractive route than this morning’s: the elevated M8 highway through Glasgow. Despite its rough reputation, Glasgow has cleaned up its city centre and features some of Britain’s finest Art Nouveau architecture. Sadly, you see none of that from the M8. Instead, you enjoy views like the bleaker scenes of Trainspotting. Funnily, we had started our day in Edinburgh beneath the very bridge where Trainspotting’s junkie antihero Renton was hit by a car. (See the staged photo herein.)
This was all on my mind when I noticed someone pacing us for a good 10 seconds, paralleling our Electrified GV70’s speed in the blind spot. We wonder whether we should feel threatened when the driver finally moves on. He’s driving a Jaguar I-Pace. Good thing for the GV70's blind-spot view monitor. It seems he was simply checking out the vehicle.
Half an hour later, we’re back in Edinburgh. We’ve sampled the vehicles, and now we’re ready for two more days of sampling the Genesis brand as their son-nim, Korean for honoured guests.