2021 Genesis GV80

By December 30, 2020

The 2021 GV80 is the first crossover from Genesis, and the South Korean brand—an offshoot of Hyundai—has pulled out all the stops to build a luxury car with a more affordable price tag. The GV80’s a stunning crossover, one with all the latest tech wizardry in its features list.

Under the hood can be found one of two different turbocharged powertrains. The standard-issue setup is a 2.5-liter turbo-4 that generates 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. That power gets directed to the rear wheels unless the optional all-wheel drive is selected. An 8-speed automatic handles gearchanges.

The GV80 marks the first appearance of Hyundai’s new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, which generates 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. It bolts up an 8-speed automatic that distributes power to all four wheels.

At 21 mpg city, 25 highway, 23 combined, the rear-drive, turbo-4 GV80 is the most efficient model in the lineup. Adding all-wheel drive only drops the combined cycle by 1 mpg. The twin-turbo V-6 is a bit thirstier at 18/23/20 mpg.

Genesis builds every GV80 with an impressive assortment of standard safety features, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, parking sensors, and a driver attention warning. Optional equipment includes a surround-view camera system, an automatic parking system, and a video display of what’s in the blind spots.

Crash-test results haven’t been made available just yet, but Genesis has thus far done well with federal and private testers alike: all the brand’s sedans have been deemed an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, and the NHTSA awarded the G80 a five-star rating overall. We’re confident the GV80 won’t mar this unblemished safety scorecard.

Model Lineup

Genesis keeps things straightforward with the GV80 by only offering three different trims for both the turbo-4 and twin-turbo V-6. The cheapest of these is the base model, known as 2.5T or 3.5T depending on what engine is under the hood. Standard equipment includes a 14.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated 12-way power front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and 19-inch wheels. Pricing for the 2.5T begins at $49,925, while the 3.5T commands $60,175.

The mid-grade Advanced starts at $53,825 with the turbo-4 or $65,375 with the V-6. Additional standard features include leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, cooled front seats, wireless smartphone charging, and a 21-speaker Lexicon audio system. A third-row seat is available, but only with the V-6. The extra row of seats isn’t available elsewhere in the lineup.

The most opulent GV80 is the Prestige, which costs $60,175 for turbo-4 models or $71,795 for V-6 versions. Among its luxuries are heated rear seats, tri-zone climate control, automatic parking assist, and a blind-spot camera. All-wheel-drive models also get a head-up display, and V-6 models add nappa leather, power-closing doors, power-adjustable rear seats, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

Exterior

Just as the 2005 Chrysler 300 was often compared to looking like a budget Bentley when fitted with the right grille, the GV80 has a similarly uncanny resemblance to the ultra-luxury brand’s Bentayga SUV. The look isn’t identical, of course, but something in the athletic proportioning of the GV80 is suggestive of the big Bentley. For a nascent luxury brand like Genesis, this isn’t exactly a bad thing, though Bentley owners might be a bit miffed.

But don’t think the GV80 wears copycat styling. It doesn’t. Lots of details distinguish the GV80 from its competition, especially the front fascia. Those double-streak headlights have emerged in the last year or two as a hallmark Genesis feature, along with the pentagonal mesh grille. The look is classy and cultivated.

Those with an eagle eye might also notice how the hood sits distinctly above the bulging fenders, giving the impression of width and power. Let the eye work its way rearward and the body tapers in slightly at the doors before expanding outward once more at the rear fenders. That sort of surface play makes for a muscular, sinewy body that backs up the GV80’s luxury bona fides.

Interior

The interior of the GV80 will likely be the most compelling reason for buyers to trade in their Mercedes. For the price, the design, materials, and features of the cabin are unmatched. Little touches like knurled knobs and haptic climate controls are proof Genesis took time to sweat the details. The two-spoke steering wheel might seem a bit odd at first, in this day and age of three-spoke everything, but consider it a reminder that sportiness is not (yet) a core tenet of the brand.

The touchscreen measures a sizable 14.5 inches, but sits a bit far from the driver for our liking. The rotary control on the center console will prove a more ergonomically sound option for most drivers. Other options to fiddle with the settings include voice commands, steering wheel controls, and, if you can believe it, physical buttons.

We’re smitten with the front seats, which rivals Lincoln for pure comfort. Again, sportiness isn’t a priority here, so you won’t find stiff bolsters or firm cushions. Lumbar support, heated cushions, and a thigh extender are all included with the base seats. The party trick here is the Smart Posture Care feature, which automatically preselects a seating position for you once you’ve entered your height and weight into the infotainment system. It’s a great starting point for finding that perfect position.

The back seat is decidedly less indulgent, but it does boast 39 inches of leg room, earned the honest way: Genesis didn’t resort to cutting the cushions too short or aggressively scalloping the front seatbacks in order to boost spec-sheet stats. The middle seat is a bit uncomfortable but the outside seats are more than adequate for long rides.

A third row is available, but only on the 3.5T Advanced Plus model. We wouldn’t bother with it. The tight quarters back there make it mostly unusable except for brief runs across town. Check out the Palisade if you want a nice Hyundai with three rows.

Those who do opt for the third row end up with 12 cubic feet of space if all the seats are in place. Up to 84 cubic feet of cargo space is available when all the seats are dropped.

Driving Impressions

Four-cylinder power in a SUV with this much curb presence seems a bit of an oxymoron, but in this case the standard 2.5-liter turbo-4 delivers, putting out 300 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. Those are impressive numbers for a boosted four, even in 2021. Credit the extra half-liter of displacement versus most turbo-4 models on the market these days.

The GV80’s 0-60 mph with the 2.5T is a hasty 6.4 seconds, making it faster than 4-cylinder competitors like the Mercedes GLE and Lincoln Nautilus and about on par with the V-6-powered Lexus RX350 and Acura MDX. It will also tow up to 6,000 pounds. Considering the cost savings over the bigger engine, the 2.5T offers many good reasons to skip the twin-turbo V-6.

But driving the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 quickly nullifies those arguments. The big engine is only half a second quicker to 60 mph, but it has a character that is in step with the GV80’s bold styling. If there’s any laziness to the 3.5T, it arises from the excess displacement and ample power, not a lethargy to get to work. That said, turbo lag is noticeable when you suddenly step on the gas pedal. Sport mode is the only drive mode of the five that doesn’t suffer from this character flaw.

Sitting on a rear-drive platform, some might posit that the GV80 could be a dark horse handling champ. The GV80 does many things well, but it’s not yet offered in a performance-handling edition. Corners serve to amplify the fact that nearly 5,000 pounds of metal, chrome, and leather are trying to continue in a straight line while the wheels are changing direction. Despite its relaxed handling, the ride can come off as firm despite the available adaptive dampers; the GV80’s bigger wheel sizes are at the root of some of its lumpy ride moments.

Final Word

The 2021 Genesis GV80 marks a turning point for the fledgling luxury brand. It’s a vehicle that stocks all the style and features drivers want from today’s SUVs. The only thing it’s missing? Heritage. That comes with time.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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