by Ian Wright
The Genesis GV80 is an all-new offering from the Korean luxury automaker and its first-ever SUV. It follows in the footsteps of three excellent sedans and as a much-needed SUV in a market crazed with high-riding crossovers. If Genesis is to move forward and succeed, not only does it need a halo SUV, it needs an excellent luxury model that can ride with the equivalent offerings from BMW and Mercedes. On paper, it does just that. The GV80 is powered by either a 300-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 375-hp twin-turbo V6.
In four-cylinder trim, power is perfectly adequate, while the six-cylinder engine gives the GV80 a much more athletic demeanor. However, while the GV80 can deal with corners, it's more about the luxurious ride and competes with the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class more directly than the sportier competition like the BMW X5 and Audi Q7. In the midsize luxury SUV segment, this is South Korea's warning shot to the Germans, and it's game on!
The 2021 Genesis GV80 is a new product for the South Korean luxury car manufacturer and is the first SUV to wear a Genesis badge. It's the newest entrant into the luxury midsize SUV segment in the USA, and despite what you may think, it rides on a bespoke platform and does not share with the similarly-sized Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade.
See trim levels and configurations:
A luxury car has to have a pretty exterior for buyers to be intrigued enough to look into it further, and the Genesis GV80 does an excellent job, especially for a first attempt. Quad-LED headlights and taillights provide a refreshing yet elegant take on lighting while a massive chromed grille indicates that this car deserves to be considered among the luxury elite. Strakes in the front fenders and a switchback accent on the rear fenders combine to give the profile greater definition while a chrome accent runs from front to back, giving the SUV the appearance of greater length. A subtle roof spoiler and dual exhaust exits also play a part in making the GV80 look modern while a panoramic sunroof is a popular option for an airier cabin. 19-inch wheels are standard with 20s or 22s available elsewhere in the lineup.
Whether you have the five-seater or the seven-seater, the length of the GV80 remains the same at 194.7 inches with a wheelbase of 116.3 inches. Width is measured at 77.8 inches while height is 67.5 inches. Ground clearance is 8.1 inches, making mounting curbs easy. Speaking of curbs, curb weight starts at 4,506 pounds for 2.5-liter models while 3.5-liter models - equipped with AWD as standard - range from 4,907 lbs in two-row guise to 5,104 lbs in three-row format.
On the base model, Alta White is the only no-cost option, but you do have access to other shades like Savile Silver, Uyuni White, Himalayan Gray, Lima Red, Vik Black, Gold Coast Silver, and Adriatic Blue for $400 each. Only the upper Advanced+ trim gets access to that signature Cardiff Green hue, also at $400. While the halo color is by far one of the most attractive, other hues like Gold Coast Silver and Adriatic Blue also suit the GV80's bold design.
The GV80 is available with a choice of two engines, each of which is capable of pulling up to 6,000 lbs in towing capacity. The base engine is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder developing 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox for smooth shifts. Power goes to the rear wheels as standard but an AWD system is available too. Opt for models with the 3.5T suffix and you'll have no say in whether you get AWD or not as it's standard here, along with the same eight-speed auto. Here you get a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that produces an impressive 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. In terms of acceleration and top speed figures, Genesis hasn't provided any information, but don't expect the GV80 to be a class-leading performance SUV - this vehicle is all about comfort and luxury, as evidenced by the availability of features like active noise cancellation and electronically controlled suspension. Refinement and smoothness come second to speed, but this isn't an underpowered hunk of technology either and will happily pottle along just as well as it can cruise on the highway.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter turbo-four with specs of 300 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque while the upper trims see the use of a bigger, 3.5-liter V6 twin-turbo power plant with 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. Both models are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Either way, the power is there for smooth and quiet acceleration, and there's plenty for getting into that gap in traffic when needed. Both engines do that commendably, but the V6 model we tested does it with a more authoritative surge and a sense of athleticism. The Genesis eight-speed transmission has all the hallmarks of an excellent luxury unit. It's smooth, unfussy, and you'll forget it's there quietly going about its business of managing the power.
Genesis is serious about being a luxury brand, and it shows in the interior and ride quality. While most brands try to mix a genuine sporty feel into its suspension, the South Korean automaker has dialed it back for a smoother around-town experience. The suspension is cushy and heavy on the damping, but even with the optional adaptive suspension and its high-tech sensor system reading the road, you don't feel like you're riding on a cloud. The ride is better than most but can still be fun to push around on a back road if the driver is so inclined. For freeway driving, the GV80 excels, and Genesis' Highway Driving Assist is one of the best hands-on packages available for taking the sting out of heavy traffic.
Sport mode feels unnecessary, but it does change the demeanor of the GV80 dramatically. The 4,500-pound SUV has a surprising amount of initial turn-in that starts to become oversteer when provoked. We didn't feel compelled to throw the GV80 around more than once for fun, but we like that it reacts well under pressure from a safety perspective.
We can't help but think with an even cushier air suspension option, the GV80 would start to give Mercedes even more of a problem to consider. Already, though, Genesis has given the German brand enough to ponder upon.
According to the EPA, RWD versions of the base model will return figures of 21/25/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles while AWD versions will drop the combined figure by one mpg. 3.5-liter models are naturally thirstier, returning figures of 18/23/20 mpg on the same cycles. With a 21.1-gallon gas tank fitted to all models, the RWD versions will get you furthest with an average mixed driving range of around 485 miles.
Our V6 tester delivered the 20 mpg combined despite freeway miles being offset by mountain road exploration. While 20 mpg combined isn't excellent, the Genesis engine is consistent and won't be prone to surprising the bank account. However, like most of its luxurious rivals, the turbocharged motors do require a steady diet of premium gasoline.
Of course, a pretty body and an impressive engine won't sway the car-buying public from walking into a German dealership if the interior of the vehicle isn't gorgeous. Fortunately, Genesis hasn't missed an opportunity to show off here, with stunning wood and aluminum accents, configurable ambient lighting, the availability of quilted Nappa leather, and standard heated front seats. You also get an immersive 14.5-inch split-screen touch infotainment display in all models, and the build quality is highly impressive. However, you have to pay for the uppermost trim variant to get a 12.3-inch digital driver display with 3D graphics. Nevertheless, even the top trim is competitively priced when you consider all the features you get. The detail is sublime, the ergonomics on-point, and the overall impression is that this is one of the best thought out interiors of any luxury car we've been in.
Like most midsize SUVs of the modern era, two configurations are available to GV80 buyers with either two rows and five seats or three rows and seven seats, although the latter can only be equipped to V6-powered GV80s in Advanced+ form.
Our test model was a five-seater, but we've jumped in a three-row version and discovered how cramped it is for adults. Everyone else has plenty of room, though. Up front, there's a generous 41.6 inches of legroom, and the second row gets a still-generous 38.7 inches to stretch out with. It's a subjective thing, but we found the 12-way adjustable seats to be remarkably comfortable and would happily choose the GV80 for a cross-country road trip. Standard heating on all trims and ventilation from the 2.5T RWD Advanced only adds to the levels of comfort.
By default, the GV80 makes use of leatherette seating surfaces in either black or beige with black highlights, but genuine leather is available from the Prestige variant of the RWD 2.5T and the Advanced variant of the 2.5T AWD 3.5T AWD with additional hues added such as Ultramarine Blue/Dune and Beige with Urban Ground accents, the latter equipped to our 3.5T AWD Advanced tester. Each of these is accompanied by its own trim inserts, with gloss black on the base leatherette and various matte-finish wood trims on the genuine leather combinations. For added luxury, the 3.5T AWD with the Prestige Package gets ultra-soft Nappa leather with quilted perforated seat inlays and contrast stitching. Certain paint colors preclude specific upholstery combinations being specced, though.
While the GV80 is a two-row SUV by default in 2.5T guise, affording 34.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, the three-row 3.5T eats into cargo volume with 11.6 cubes behind the rearmost seats. According to Genesis, though, the three-row doesn't compromise volumes with the third-row stowed away - a feat performed via standard power operation - so you still get 34.9 cubes behind row two and 84 cubic feet behind the front row of seats.
Internal storage is generous with a deep bin beneath the center armrest, a large, accommodating storage binnacle in the center console with a pair of cupholders, and another storage tray ahead of this. The glovebox is standard, and the door pockets, although spacious, are tucked beneath the armrests on the doors which makes placing tall objects in them a bit tricky. The rear center seatback folds forward as an armrest with cupholders.
As standard, every version of the all-new GV80 comes with an impressive array of features that includes hill start assist, start/stop, LED headlights with auto high beams, heated and power-folding wing mirrors, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, and rain-sensing wipers. You also get a hands-free power liftgate, 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and even adaptive cruise control. An eight-inch color driver display in the cluster, keyless entry with push-button start, forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, multicolor configurable ambient lighting, lane keep assist, evasive steering assist, front-cross traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning, and a driver attention warning are also included.
Available features include a surround-view camera, remote park assist, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats which become standard on all but the base RWD trim, heated second-row seating, wireless charging, tri-zone climate control, rear sunshades (powered on the top trim), rear collision mitigation, a panoramic sunroof, active noise cancellation, electronically controlled suspension, a head-up display, and a blind-spot view monitor.
The array of infotainment features is also extensive. The 14.5-inch screen sitting atop the dashboard has a screensaver that's a foreshadowing of how attractive and intuitive the system is. We should also take a pause and acknowledge how minimalist, yet pretty, the illuminated glass-style dial control for the infotainment system is.
The navigation system is as well thought out as the rest of the interior, but while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is normal Bluetooth connectivity, HD Radio and Sirius XM, and a 12-speaker audio system. A 21-speaker Lexicon audio system is also available, and it is one of the best out there. Voice recognition is also part of the standard features list and one of the better manufacturer implementations.
A Wi-Fi hotspot is conspicuous in its absence. That and the omission of a rear-seat entertainment option are head-scratching in the segment.
The GV80 is brand new and has not yet been subject to any recalls, but we'll have to wait for the SUV to be on the road for some time to determine how reliable it is.
Should anything go wrong, Genesis offers a similarly impressive coverage package to what Hyundai does. You get a limited warranty for five years/60,000 miles, a powertrain warranty for 10 years/100,000 miles, and complimentary scheduled maintenance for three years/36,000 miles. Roadside assistance is also offered for the first five years, along with packages that offer standard valet services when performing maintenance and an anti-perforation promise. Nobody else in the industry comes close to the Hyundai group's after-sales care.
Thus far, the NHTSA does not yet have a review of the Genesis GV80 and neither has the IIHS. That said, the Genesis G80 won the highest possible honor that the IIHS bestows with a 2020 Top Safety Pick+ award given to the sedan. With the brand's other offerings being so safe, we're pretty sure that the GV80 will attain excellent ratings when testing does get underway in the future.
As standard, every GV80 is equipped with the obligatory rearview camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with vehicle exit warning and rear cross-traffic alert, front cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, evasive steering assist, a driver attention warning, and forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection. You also get 10 airbags: frontal, side-impact, front center, driver knee, second-row side-impact, and side curtain. Optionally available are enhancements like a surround-view camera with remote park assist, rear collision mitigation, a blind-spot view monitor, and forward attention warning, which alerts the driver when the car detects that his or her gaze is not directed at the road.
Genesis has come in hot with its first SUV. It's a complete package from the inside out, and Genesis has set itself a high bar with the first iteration of the interior. The four-cylinder engine is a viable option, but the V6 brings the power and refinement the GV80 deserves. There's little to fault in terms of technology and ride quality and, added to its looks and price point; the new SUV is a compelling package ranking highly in our opinion. It's an excellent example of why more automakers should drop the sporty angle on luxury vehicles in order to make them, well, more luxurious. That said, we'd love to see an air suspension option and rear-seat entertainment packages.
As much as we love the GV80, we wouldn't blame people for giving the GV80 a year before charging in to make sure there are no teething problems for Genesis to sort out. However, we also wouldn't blame anyone for just dropping the cash based on what they see, and the reputation for reliability Genesis has already.
The price of the 2021 Genesis GV80 starts at $48,900, before a $1,025 destination charge. Although not a separate model, the AWD version of the 2.5T comes with some added features, so we'll mention its starting price here too: $54,650. Next up is the 3.5T, which only comes with AWD; this costs $59,150. The only seven-seater in the range is the 3.5T AWD Advanced+, with an MSRP of $65,050 before options and other charges. Fully loaded, you'll spend a little over $72,000 on the top-tier GV80.
The 2021 GV80 range is officially made up of three configurations for the US audience: 2.5T, 3.5T, and 3.5T Advanced+.
The base version is the 2.5T and is offered with a choice of RWD or AWD, although the latter actually provides additional features (wireless charging, heated steering wheel, manual rear sunshades, panoramic sunroof) too. The 2.5-liter four-pot turbo produces 300 hp and 311 lb-ft with an eight-speed automatic handling shifts. Standard features include 19-inch wheels, quad-LED headlights and taillights, heated power front seats, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, and a 14.5-inch touchscreen infotainment display.
The 3.5T models are AWD-exclusive, but the same gearbox manages ratios. Here, power comes from a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 generating 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. 20-inch wheels come standard here, along with electronically controlled suspension, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a panoramic sunroof.
The only seven-seater in the range, the 3.5T Advanced+ gets remote parking assist, leather upholstery, a 16-way driver's seat, a Lexicon 21-speaker premium sound system, a blind-spot view monitor, and of course, two more seats.
Adding the Advanced Package to the base model will set you back $3,900 and give you a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a Lexicon 21-speaker audio setup, wireless charging, and rear occupant alert. The Prestige Package is pricier at $8,150 but gives you 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a 16-way driver's seat, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated second-row seats, a surround-view camera, rear collision mitigation, and all the features of the Advanced package. On the 3.5T model, the Advanced package is more expensive by $600, but you get 22-inch wheels, a head-up display, active noise cancellation, and all the aforementioned options.
We believe those wanting that extra row of seats should consider the size of the people that will be occupying it and shop around first. For the $72,000, we suspect a two-row model optioned up is the best deal.
Genesis isn't expecting any more than 30 percent of its customers to choose the four-cylinder engine, and there's a good reason for that. The V6 is a strong engine that does the big Genesis GV80 SUV justice. Of those selecting the four-cylinder model, we expect even less to go with the rear-wheel-drive option, particularly with the added features like wireless charging, rear sunshades, and a panoramic sunroof included with all-wheel-drive.
For those wanting to step up into a large luxury SUV, the base model at $48,900 is compelling given the long list of standard features, even without wireless charging. However, those that would otherwise be shopping a German luxury brand should go straight for the 3.5T and enjoy all the goodness it brings. They can then add the Advanced package with the panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless charging, and the excellent Lexicon 21-speaker audio system. They will still come out saving money while driving something directly comparable.
Okay, so we've talked about how expensive some of the available packages are for the GV80, and how expensive a fully loaded model can get, but when you consider that the base model starts at $48,900 while the cheapest BMW X5 starts almost ten grand dearer, you get why the Genesis offers great value. With the Bimmer, the lowest output you get is 335 hp with 331 lb-ft of torque, with both figures greater than those of the base GV80. On the other end of the spectrum, BMW offers a wild M50i model with 523 hp and 553 lb-ft with which the GV80 simply can't compete. The X5 also offers similar standard safety features and will even give you heated armrests if you pay for them. More advanced adaptive LED headlights with Laserlight are also on offer, but you can't have a seven-seater here. In the end, the X5 is the ideal choice for those in search of a sporty drive and all the latest features, but at the GV80 SUV's price point and with its own impressive features, we'd be inclined to save some cash and go with the newcomer if you just want a stylish, powerful, and practical luxury SUV.
Volvo's contender in the segment, the XC90, is far more affordable than anything Germany offers and our reviews have looked upon it favorably in the past. It comes with a price premium over the GV80 of just a hundred bucks in its base guise and is widely regarded as one of the best luxury family cars out there. You do get less power though, with the base model offering 250 hp and the T6 models giving you 316 horses, but you also get a T8 offering with a whopping 400 hp too. You get a choice between six or seven seats, making it one of the most practical people carriers around, but like the GV80, the rearmost seats are not very accommodating. Standard features include wireless charging, a 12.3-inch driver info display, multi-zone climate control (four-zone in this case), and a panoramic sunroof - all of which you pay extra for in the Korean alternative. The XC90 is one of our favorite SUVs and is certainly worthy of your consideration, but if you want 6,000 lbs of towing capacity and luxury at an affordable price, we recommend taking a GV80 for a drive.
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