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2021 Genesis GV80 Test Drive Review
Genesis adds its first luxury crossover SUV to its lineup.
Parent company Hyundai Motor Group announced the formation of a new luxury brand—Genesis—in 2015, and it launched its first sedans—the G90 and the G80—in late 2016, followed by the G70 sedan in 2018. The 2020 Genesis GV80 is the brand’s first SUV, sharing a platform with the second-generation G80. A three-row luxury crossover vehicle, the GV80 promises to open a whole new audience for Genesis as it strives to compete in the ever-growing luxury SUV market.
Look and Feel
A young brand like Genesis has advantages and disadvantages over mature brands. With half of its models just now entering their second generations of production, a new model like the GV80 is not hampered by a long legacy of design language and expectations. As Genesis’ first SUV, the GV80 is, in some respects, a clean-sheet design. Still, it must tie in with the sedans in the lineup, too, carrying styling cues the brand wants to establish as signature looks.
Mature brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Cadillac, have a whole catalog of legacy design features to draw upon when they bring out a new model, as well as a broad lineup of current products to echo and emulate. This legacy can be a burden at times, which gives Genesis an advantage when it comes to innovation.
The GV80 does a good job of walking this tightrope, bringing some of the design flair of the new G80 sedan to its SUV form. The SUV’s two-box design is made elegant by a long hood with a short front overhang and long front-axle-to-dashboard distance, accented by two slit vents on each front fender. A massive trapezoidal grille opening is filled by a diamond mesh, with the Genesis flying “G” cloisonné badge mounted above. Along with the “Quad Lamp” LED headlight array (two lines of lights on each side of the grille), this grille/badge/headlamp arrangement has been developed as the signature Genesis look.
Big wheel arches hover closely over 19-inch, 20-inch, or 22-inch aluminum-alloy wheels (depending on trim level). The rear of the GV80 echoes the front with Quad Lamp taillights that wrap around the corners of the vehicle onto the tailgate. Twin trapezoidal tailpipes in the same shape as the grille poke out from the lower rear fascia. Paint and trim quality are both excellent, and panel gaps are all uniform and tight.
Inside, the GV80 is really special. For a vehicle loaded with technology, the dashboard is remarkably sleek and uncluttered, with an emphasis on the horizontal accentuating width and spaciousness. The HVAC vents are tucked beneath a top layer of the dash and are incorporated as a horizontal design element. The center console and center stack are integrated into a bridge-like structure, with plenty of storage, two cupholders, and minimal controls and buttons. Thanks to shift-by-wire technology, the traditional gear-selector lever has been replaced by a rotary dial and button. A 14.5-inch high-definition LCD color widescreen display is mounted at the top-center of the dash. The cabin is full of authentic materials—real wood, real metal, genuine leather—beautifully finished and fit. It’s a really lovely luxury SUV interior.
The GV80 comes with a choice of two engines: a turbocharged 2.5-liter gasoline-direct-injection-plus-multi-port-injection four-cylinder engine, tuned to produce 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque; and a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 (also both direct injection and multi-port injection) that puts out 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard on V6 models (3.5T), while rear-wheel drive (RWD) is standard on four-cylinder models (2.5T) with AWD available. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with each engine and comes with paddle shifters.
The GV80 rides on a 116.3-inch wheelbase, with independent multi-link suspension at each end. 2.5T models can be ordered with a self-leveling rear suspension, while 3.5T models come with standard electronically-controlled suspension with road preview, which can smooth your ride by using the forward-facing camera to help predict road conditions and pre-load suspension components accordingly. An electronic limited-slip differential is available on 3.5T models as well, handy for off-pavement excursions and extreme weather conditions.
Each model (2.5T and 3.5T) has a unique character, wrapped up in more than just the size and output of its engine and involving the GV80’s packaging. The four-cylinder engine's 300 hp is perfectly sufficient for the GV80 2.5T’s curb weight, which is between 4,506 and 4,850 lbs, depending on the configuration. It is quick enough and lively enough for most driving situations you’ll encounter but may sound and feel a little thrashy when pushed.
The 3.5T, which weighs in at between 4,907 and 5,104 lbs depending on configuration, is smoother and stronger, and it doesn’t feel or sound like it’s being pushed to its limits even when flogged on public roads. Part of this is pure physics and mechanics—the V6 has more power on tap and its layout has a more pleasing sound (to most ears). Part of it is technology, as the 3.5T is equipped with active noise cancellation, which quiets the cabin by emitting sound waves that cancel undesirable noise. Many potential buyers will not notice the difference; others will find the difference between the two engines fundamental.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the GV80 2.5T are 21 mpg city/25 mpg highway/23 mpg combined with RWD, 21/25/22 with AWD. The 3.5T AWD is rated at 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway/20 mpg combined.
Form and Function
The GV80 is a complex and sophisticated machine. We had only a few hours behind the wheel to explore, which was just enough time to scratch the surface of its features and capabilities. Just looking at the center console and center stack, there’s a confluence of technology, design, and ergonomics, resulting in some cool-looking and cool-feeling controls.
We’ve already mentioned the rotary gear selector. Above that, there’s a circular multimedia controller with a concave design and knurled metal finish. Its outer ring has a dual control capability, both four-way and rotational. The center pad inside the controller is both a clickable button and a character-recognition pad. The HVAC control panel at the top of the center console/stack has capacitive touch buttons that give both audible and tactile feedback, with a shortcut function that allows you to swipe to affect fan speed. The panel employs “intelligent masking” to lock out buttons that are not involved in the current function, preventing accidental misuse. If all of this sounds involved... well, it is. But it’s the kind of involvement that will become second-nature to owners after a few days of use, and may prove to be a better interface for many.
The GV80 second row is comfortable and roomy for two adults, three in a pinch. Power second-row seats are available, along with power second-row window shades, three-row climate control, and power rear-door closure—all luxury features. A third row of seats is standard on 3.5T AWD Advanced+ models only, increasing passenger capacity to seven, but it's not available on any other trim level even as an optional extra. The third-row seats have a power-fold function and are split 50/50.
The infotainment system has become the heart of a modern luxury SUV. The GV80 uses the sixth-generation Genesis UX. A four-year-old brand with a sixth-generation interface speaks to how rapidly technology evolves. It uses all of the real estate on its 14.5-inch HD screen with user-configurable split-screen displays. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported. The system is connected to the cloud and receives over-the-air updates. Individual users (drivers) can set up cloud profiles so the system will automatically configure to their liking. Navigation is standard on all GV80 models.
Android users can access a near-field communication (NFC) digital key function—replacing the key fob with an app in their phone and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors in the vehicle. The GV80 can recognize the driver’s profile, unlock the vehicle, and configure the SUV according to the cloud-stored settings. Owners can also share their NFC key with other Android users. However, Apple doesn’t allow third-party applications to operate BLE on their devices—yet.
The GV80 comes with three years of complimentary Genesis Connected Services, which provides Connected Care (automated collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, monthly vehicle health report, maintenance reminder, enhanced roadside assistance, and Genesis Intelligent Assistant app); Remote (remote start with climate control, remote door lock/unlock, stolen vehicle recovery, car finder, and remote horn and lights); and Guidance (destination search and download, destination send-to-car, and MapCare).
A head-up display is standard on 2.5T AWD Prestige, 3.5T AWD Advanced, Advanced+, and Prestige models. A 12.3-inch 3D digital instrument cluster is standard on the 3.5T AWD Prestige. The system uses an infrared camera to track eye movement and dual-layer LCD screens to display a 3D image to the driver.
The standard audio system comes with 12 speakers, but the crowning jewel is a Lexicon Quantum Logic Surround audio system with 21 speakers and 1050 watts of amplification.
The Genesis GV80 has not yet been rated for crashworthiness by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Genesis says they’re targeting IIHS Top Safety Pick + and NHTSA five-star ratings, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The GV80 comes with 10 airbags, including a front-center airbag, along with vehicle stability management system, electronic stability control with the traction control system, anti-lock braking, brake assist, blind-spot collision avoidance assist with rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and lane-following assist, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-change oncoming, junction-turning, junction-crossing, lane-change side, and evasive steering torque assist, driver attention warning, safe-exit assist with power child lock, and more.
The GV80 has adaptive cruise control with machine learning, which gives it the ability to learn each driver’s behavior behind the wheel in order to tailor cruise-control function based on following distance, reaction speed, and acceleration strength. Highway-driving assist helps maintain following distances and can perform lane changes (initiated by the driver) and adjusts its position within the lane in response to the proximity of other vehicles. When it gets to its destination, the GV80 can use its Remote Smart Parking Assist to automate perpendicular parking and parallel parking in both forward and reverse—in some cases, with the driver outside of the SUV.
The 2021 Genesis GV80 comes in a fairly simple range of packages and pricing:
The 2.5T RWD Standard starts at $48,900; Advanced starts at $52,800; and Prestige starts at $57,050.
The 2.5T AWD Standard starts at $54,650; Advanced starts at $59,000; and Prestige starts at $53,400.
The 3.5T AWD Standard starts at $59,150; Advanced starts at $64,350; Advanced+ starts at $65,050; and Prestige starts at $70,950.
So, you could buy a GV80 3.5T AWD Prestige; or you could buy a GV80 2.5T RWD Standard AND a Hyundai Kona SE and have $1,500 left over.
Genesis is hoping that you’re comparing GV80 with the BMW X5 (starting at $59,400), Audi Q7 (starting at $54,950), Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (starting at $54,750), Lexus RX (starting at $45,070), Acura MDX (starting at $44,500), and Volvo XC90 (starting at $49,000). We’d add the Cadillac XT6 (starting at $52,695), Land Rover Range Rover Velar (starting at $56,300), Infiniti QX60 (starting at $44,350), and Jaguar F-Pace (starting at $45,200) to this crowded field.
The GV80 comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, a seven-year/unlimited-mile anti-perforation warranty, and five years/unlimited miles of roadside assistance. It also comes with three years/36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance, Genesis Service Valet, Genesis Connected Services and Map Care.
The 2021 GV80 marks a very important milestone for Genesis as a brand, the point at which it begins to extend itself from a sedan brand with limited offerings to a full-line brand with both an SUV and sedans on the showroom floor. The GV80 will likely be just the first of a host of Genesis SUVs; the brand has already confirmed a smaller model called the GV70. Shoppers with open minds will find a lot to like about the GV80, from its looks to build quality, from its luxury and convenience to its technology features. While Genesis doesn’t have the history and legacy of its competitors, the GV80 represents a very solid foundation.
Jason Fogelson has reviewed hundreds of cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and ATVs for websites, magazines and newspapers. He is based in the Detroit area.
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