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:
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.
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.
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.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Genesis GV80: