By Derek Price
Genesis, the upstart Korean luxury brand, launched with three cars designed to show the world it means serious business.
The G70, G80 and G90 put European and Japanese competitors on notice that Hyundai’s luxury ambitions were no joke. They’re serious contenders, not value players.
There was just one problem. Those first three vehicles all were four-door sedans, a segment of the market that has been shrinking at a time when consumers — especially the well-heeled consumers luxury brands battle over — are clamoring for bigger, more truck-like SUVs.
Finally, Genesis has released a product that could put it on the map in a more noticeable way with American buyers. And boy, it’s a good one.
The new GV80, Genesis’s first SUV, is one of the most impressive vehicles I’ve driven in years. It gets so many things so right, from the eye-catching lines of its body to the rich ambiance of its cabin filled with easy-to-use technology inside, that I think other vehicles will spend the next few years catching up to it.
It starts with a predictable staple in the luxury-car playbook: style it inside and out in a way that makes the owner feel special.
To my eyes, where most crossover SUVs look like bloated jellybeans, the GV80 looks more like a tailored suit. It seems tightly fitted and unique, especially in back, where horizontal lines and elongated taillights would look at home on an Italian exotic car.
I also love what Genesis did with the grille, which is monstrously big to keep up with today’s design trends but also not as garish as the contemporary BMW and Lexus schnozes. It evokes the spirit of a classic Bentley, right down to the winged logo on the hood.
If you think the outside is pretty, just wait until you step inside.
The GV80 has the nicest cabin materials and design of any SUV I’ve tested under $100,000. Some aspects of it — like the quilted leather seats, soft carpet and sculpted door panels — mimic the same look and feel that cost megabucks in a Rolls-Royce or Bentley.
The design is gorgeous, including natural feeling wood and cold-to-the-touch metal switchgear, but I think my favorite thing about it is the ventilation. All the vents are integrated cleanly into the dash as if they’re one piece, a very different and more visually refined approach than the awkward adjustable air nozzles found in most cars today.
Technology in the GV80 is abundant and easy to use, including a semi-autonomous driving mode that can change lanes when you command, a digital instrument cluster that looks three-dimensional, and a head-up display on the windshield that shows icons that represent the cars driving around you. It’s remarkable for its capability and simplicity.
The driving feel is no less impressive. With your choice of two turbocharged engines, acceleration feels effortless and responsive. Handling is surprisingly crisp and precise in turns considering how smooth it feels on the highway.
Given how enamored I was with my tester, you might expect it to be the most expensive vehicle in its class. But it’s not, not by a long shot.
Pricing starts at $48,900, and my test vehicle rang up under $65,000 with all the niceties, including the optional 375-horsepower engine.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2021 Genesis GV80 AWD 3.5T Advanced ($59,150). Options: Premium paint ($400), advanced package ($5,200). Price as tested (including $1,025 destination charge): $65,775
Wheelbase: 116.3 in.
Length: 194.7 in.
Width: 77.8 in.
Height: 67.5 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 (375 hp, 391 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 18 city, 23 highway
Why buy it?
It’s impressive in every way. Handsome styling, an incredibly plush cabin, easy-to-use technology, and a quiet and smooth highway ride make it a truly luxurious way to travel.