The 2021 Genesis GV80 marks a mileston as the first luxury large crossover SUV for the premium brand. When parent company Hyundai established Genesis as its premium offshoot in 2015, it started off with two sedans, G90 and G80. In 2018, Genesis added another sedan, the sporty G70. Now, here comes the GV80. Even in a year of disruption, this is an important debut for Genesis, a genuine litmus test for the young Korean premium brand. A car brand without SUVs is like a burger stand without French fries, leaving customers disappointed. No matter how good the burgers (or sedans), without the fries, it’s not a full-service business. The 2021 Genesis GV80 starts at around $49,000.
Mature brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW have a whole catalog of legacy features to draw on for a new model, as well as a broad lineup of current product to echo and emulate. Genesis only has the present. GV80 brings 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 front 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), the 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. 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. For a vehicle loaded with technology, the dashboard is remarkably sleek and uncluttered, with an emphasis on the horizontal accentuating width and spaciousness. 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 Thanks to shift-by-wire technology, the traditional gear-selector lever has been replaced by a rotary dial and button.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.
GV80’s 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, not available as an option on any other trim level.
GV80’s sixth-generation Genesis UX 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, and the system gets over-the-air updates. Navigation is standard on all GV80 models.
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 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.
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 lb-ft of torque; and a twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 gasoline direct injection plus multi-port injection with that puts out 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard on V6 models (3.5T), while rear-wheel drive is standard on four-cylinder models (2.5T) with all-wheel drive available. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with each engine, and comes with paddle shifters.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the GV80 2.5T are 21 mpg city/25 mpg highway/23 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive, 21/25/22 with all-wheel drive. The 3.5T AWD is rated at 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway/20 mpg combined.
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 component 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. 300 hp is perfectly sufficient for the GV80 2.5T’s curb weight, which is between 4,506 and 4,850 lbs, depending on 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 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.
The GV80 trim list is actually pretty simple, with prices ranging from around $49,000 to $71,000.
- The 2.5T RWD Standard starts around $49,000; Advanced starts at $53,000; and Prestige starts around $57,000.
- The 2.5T AWD Standard starts near $54,500; Advanced starts at $59,000; and Prestige starts at around $64,000.
- The 3.5T AWD Standard starts at about $59,000; Advanced starts around $64,500; Advanced+ starts near $65,000; and Prestige starts at almost $71,000.
If you are looking for a more accurate idea of pricing, you can build and price a GV80 on the Genesis official web site.
The big differentiators between trim are engine size and drive. Standard is well-equipped, with navigation included. Advanced and Advanced+ are exactly that, piling on the luxury and tech features, while Prestige opens up the floodgates with more luxury features and upgraded materials.
GV80’s interior is truly special, with a unity of design and overall elegance that will surprise newcomers to the brand. We were taken with the details, like the way the HVAC vents are tucked in and integrated beneath the top layer of the dash. The bold choice of a 14.5-inch infotainment screen pays off well, mostly thanks to the landscape orientation. Some other vehicles have mounted big screens on the dash in portrait mode, which pulls the driver’s eyes from the road to see info at the bottom.
We recommend the 3.5T AWD models, because the V6 is better matched to the GV80’s character. If your budget allows, stretch for the Prestige and buy all the way into the Genesis experience.
Parent company Hyundai has made a point of equipping its vehicles with advanced active and passive safety features as standard equipment, and that philosophy carries over to Genesis. GV80 hasn’t received crash-test ratings yet, as a new release, but Genesis says they’re targeting top ratings.
Label-conscious shoppers will shun GV80, but they’ll be missing out. GV80 makes a logical point of entry to luxury for Hyundai and Kia owners who are ready to take the leap; or for German-brand owners who have tired of expensive maintenance and repair costs on their exclusive SUVs.
Being a skeptic is an easy position to take, because you’re rarely disappointed. But if you look at the 2021 Genesis GV80 with an open mind and ignore the newness of the brand, you’ll find a very competitive, highly capable new SUV. Genesis still has a ways to go before it is a top-tier automotive brand, and we have no way of knowing how well GV80 will hold up in the used market in years to come. But GV80 owes apologies to no one, and deserves due consideration in the luxury SUV category.
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