This luxury SUV is beautiful, but it’s smart and fun to drive, too.
“Dear Genesis GV80: I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve long been a fan of your luxury sedans but I need a luxury SUV. You know why: kids, long days behind the wheel, a higher seating position that gives me a firmer command of the road.”
From the moment I first saw the Genesis GV80 as a concept vehicle at the New York Auto Show in 2017, I was excited for the addition of an SUV in the Genesis family. I especially loved the GV80’s elegant and modern design, with sleek lights and a modern silhouette, and I hoped the actual production model would resemble the concept. It was gorgeous. Fast forward to the 2021 model, and the Genesis GV80—priced from $49,000 to over $70,000—is even more beautiful.
Genesis calls the design “athletic elegance,” and I can see that. You’ll feel perfectly at home in lululemon and a Lagos-banded Apple watch, but you won’t be out of place on dressier occasions that demand Pomellato stacking rings and YSL pumps. The GV80’s design is anchored by a luscious wide diamond-cut front grille, sleek slashes of head and tail lights that frame each corner of the car, and a sloping roofline that gives it a lighter, more nimble look.
The Deep-Luxe of Genesis’s DNA Gives This SUV Its Soul
Before I dive in with details about the Genesis GV80, let me share why this car is so remarkable: Its design and engineering teams carry a world-class pedigree that can only be bested by Audi, Bentley, and BMW. That’s because they came from Audi, Bentley, and BMW to design and build Genesis to world-class luxury standards (as well as Hyundai and Kia, which also benefit from this dream team).
The team, headed by former Audi chief designer Peter Schreyer, former Bentley designer Luc Donckerwolke, and former BMW M-series engineer Albert Biermann, crafted a luxury SUV designed to win over buyers with gorgeous design, an excellent drive experience that ranges from relaxing to sporty, and pricing that is hard to compete with.
Fresh, Refined Driving Is the Soul of Genesis GV80
This SUV is more about how we live in our cars, seeking — or needing — comfort, depending on technology, and demanding of performance. In the GV80, ‘performance’ is more about confidence in hectic traffic, relaxing in the feeling of soaring on the highway and having fun on curvy, hilly backroads. It’s less about off road driving (though with all wheel drive it’s certainly capable on light off-road trails); this is not a rough-and tumble SUV designed to conquer mountains and dunes, but it’ll climb the Park City peaks just fine, and it’ll do it in style.
A Truly Elegant and Innovative Interior Design
From first glance inside the GV80 (and in its sister, the G80 sedan), you’ll be smitten with the innovative command center: the gear selector is a glass-topped dial swathed in diamond cut metal, bringing the diamond cut theme of the front grille into the cabin. The gear selector, it’s worth noting, is clearly marked for the gear you’re in so there’s no confusion. Genesis’s designers even used colored lights to reinforce safety ideas; when you’re in park the P lights up red. You know you’re in park.
In tandem on the center console with the gear selector is the media controller, a concave glass-topped touch-sensitive multi-function dial. You can turn it, tap it or swipe to control the 14” media screen. Or, you can touch the screen; it works that way, too. But you’ll want to learn to use the control dial; having your fingers on the diamond cut metal is like holding a David Yurman bracelet, and you know how lovely that is.
The center console itself may also cause you to gush a bit. Its floating design allows you to prop your elbow on the arm rest and reach any control easily. The media dial is at your fingertips. Floating just above is the climate control panel, a flat glass panel with dials for temperature and an easy to swipe or tap fan control. The panel, like your phone, has a haptic pop that you can feel as you tap or swipe to change fan speed. It’s elegant and feels good.
Surrounding the climate panel are buttons for the media screen: navigation, map, radio, home and more. And, on the near right of the console, you’ll find the drive mode selector. Pop it into sport when you want to feel the thrill of the road or into comfort when the trek ahead is less than thrilling.
Take Your Pick of Luxury SUV Engines and Trims
Buyers can choose between two different engine choices, a 2.5L 4 cylinder turbo with 300 HP and a larger, more powerful 3.5L V6 with 375 HP. Buyers can also choose between rear wheel drive and all wheel drive, though all 3.5L models are only available in AWD.
And, buyers have broad array of design choices in terms of colors and interiors. The nine paint colors are named for exotic places that will inspire you to travel there, such as Adriatic Blue or Cardiff Green, and the five interior choices range from light to dark leatherscapes. Genesis has packaged the GV80 into 6 trim levels, three of them offered in rear wheel drive (in the 2.5L engine only), that allow buyers to choose between pragmatic but still luxe leatherette to true luxury Nappa leather surrounds.
All trims except the 3.5L Advanced model seat 5 passengers, and the second row, which has seats that recline at a very deep angle, have the option of power controls. The Advanced model has an optional third row for convenience (this is not a huge SUV, after all). This is great for grandparents or small families who occasionally need room for an extra passenger or two but don’t want to commit to a full-sized third row.
And while the third row is not huge, it is brilliant: you can raise or lower the third row from the driver’s seat via the touch screen. I tried this, and it is awesome.
Related: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Review: A Little Less Power, but a Little Less $$$ In this Elegant Luxury Sedan
Technology That Gets You—Literally
The GV80 is loaded with great tech, and you’d expect that from Genesis. Its parent company Hyundai is very tech-forward. But the company takes it a step further with machine-learning technology that will learn how you drive using adaptive cruise and further adapt to your own driving preferences for speed, follow distance, and reaction time. The company also added blind spot collision avoidance assist, which essentially watches traffic around you and anticipates when another vehicle may pull into the lane in front of you. I learned first hand how great this feature is while driving in LA traffic. It saved a Fiat from being crushed when it swooped in front of me.
Other tech features in the GV80 include:
- The full suite of driver assist and safety features including lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, blind spot monitoring, forward collision assist, rear cross traffic avoidance, surround view camera, and more
- Digital phone-as-key that lets you open, start, drive and lock the car with your phone. You can also share the key to other drivers by using the Genesis app; this currently is only available with Android phones, however
- Remote smart parking: you can back the car into a spot from outside using your key, or you can start the parallel or perpendicular self-parking process inside the car, then get out and let it finish the job for you
- 14” media screen
- Lexicon custom sound system with 28 speakers
- Head up display
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- 4 USB ports (framed with white lights so they are easy to see) and a household plug for keeping your devices charged
Getting to Know Genesis — On Your Terms
A few years ago, Genesis rolled out a novel approach to selling cars: Bringing them to you for test drives, sales and service. The Genesis concierge concept was developed in response to what customers most wanted — to buy a car without having to go to a dealership. These days, the idea is at work at all auto brand dealerships, but Genesis has the process down and continues to refine it. If you really want to go to dealer you may need to head to your local Hyundai dealership where Genesis has a store-within-a-store; the brand is still in the process of building stand-alone dealerships.
But that is the nature of a journey, and of luxury: do it right, be customer-intuitive and focus on what matters most. And, that is where the GV80 will lead Genesis. I’m so glad I don’t have to wait any longer.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Genesis for this test drive. All opinions are my own.