Genesis, as a brand, has only been around since 2017, but of course Hyundai's push to move upmarket started long before then. And over the last 4-years, Genesis has slowly but surely expanded their lineup. But with one big exception, no SUV. Well, it’s here, it’s the GV80, and it delivers everything we’ve come to expect from Hyundai and Genesis.
As the brand’s first utility vehicle, the 2021 Genesis GV80 will surely be under a lot of scrutiny, yet it also has the advantage of entering an automotive market that can’t get enough luxury SUVs.
But, stiff competition in a segment comprised of mostly established premium brands, means that just adding some nicer materials to an existing SUV won’t cut it these days.
The genesis of Genesis was of course not as a brand, but as Hyundai’s first foray into going upmarket with the 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan. But, it was always their intent to eventually turn it into a label of its own, which happened 8-years later. More sedans followed, mostly based on current Hyundai products, with that original Hyundai Genesis ultimately becoming the Genesis G80, on which their first utility, this GV80, is based.
When it comes to luxury vehicles, it’s all about the interior experience. And going in, they really had a mountain to climb.
The GV80 had to top the spacious Hyundai Palisade, which in top Calligraphy trim outdoes many luxury marques on its own.
Mission accomplished here, the GV80 is indeed another stratosphere inside the cabin; both materials and the overall ambience are befitting of a 6-figure vehicle, plus next-level tech to seal the deal.
Genesis calls it the world’s first 3D instrument cluster, it just looks like a really nice LED virtual gauge panel to us, the central screen is more impressive, both in clarity and unique display themes that we’ve not seen anywhere else.
Inputs are made through an elegantly styled and fairly intuitive console controller which recognizes handwriting.
Front seats are some of the most comfortable out there, with more than adequate space in the 2nd row for adults. A 3rd row is available, but oddly, only in top Advanced+ trim.
At 34.9 cubic-ft., cargo space is quite good for a midsizer; maximum space, with seats folded, is 84.0 cu-ft. and all GV80s are rated to tow 6,000-lbs.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are a necessary part of luxury cars these days, and the GV80 has Highway Driving Assist II, which we found very impressive; intuitive to use, and it feels like it knows what it’s doing, not bouncing around like an inexperienced driver. Smart Cruise Control with Machine Learning essentially brings AI into the mix, learning your driving habits and figuring out ways to assist with them. We heard a variety of opinions on the exterior design; some finding it beautiful, some feeling the proportions aren’t quite right. But all agreeing it looks very sophisticated and has some serious presence.
The signature Crest Grille sets the tone, bookended by Genesis Quad headlamps, whose shape is alluded to in the fender trim. Standard wheels are 19s, with 20s and 22s available.
Of course power is an increasingly essential theme of luxury vehicles; and there are two options here. Standard is this 2.5-liter I4 turbo with 300-horsepower and 311 lb-ft. of torque. A 375-horsepower twin-turbo V6 is the upgrade. Both come with an 8-speed automatic. All-wheel-drive is standard with the V6, optional with the 2.5.
Finally, a stop by Mason Dixon Dragway, where our 2.5T tester sent power strictly to the rear wheels, and the 4-banger puts out enough to spin them up a little bit at launch. But, a soft suspension means a lot of weight gets transferred back there, and the tires quickly gain traction and propel things forward to 60 in a fine 6.2–seconds.
Gears change swiftly and smoothly, with no real lapse in power throughout the 14.7–second ¼-mile, finishing at 96 miles-per-hour.
A lavish ride was clearly the priority here, as we haven’t driven anything with this much body roll in some time; but steering was quick, and it could be hustled through the cones quite spiritedly before any intervention by the traction control system.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 21-City, 25-Highway, and 23-Combined. Our average, at 21.8 miles-per-gallon of Premium, was certainly on the low end of that scale.
But it still rates an average Energy Impact Score, with consumption of 14.3-barrels of oil annually, and 6.5-tons of CO2 emissions.
Reasonable pricing is to be expected when it comes to any member of the Hyundai family; but after spending time with this entry-level 2.5T example, even we were surprised to see it starts at just $49,945. Top 3.5T Advanced+ starts at just $66,595.
So yes, the value proposition is high, but so is the indulgent experience. Throw in the fact that America’s appetite for luxury SUVs of all shapes and sizes remains extremely high, and it’s hard to see the 2021 Genesis GV80 being anything but a huge success. And, it deserves it!
Engine: 2.5L I4 Turbo
Torque: 311 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.2 seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.7 seconds @ 96 mph
EPA: 21 City / 25 Highway / 23 Combined