The 2021 Genesis GV80 is a brand-new, midsize luxury crossover from Genesis, Hyundai's luxury brand.
The GV80 competes with the likes of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Acura MDX.
The SUVs come with either a four-cylinder engine or a V6 and either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Starting MSRP is $48,900. The two versions I tried out cost $58,475 and $64,825, respectively.
If you don't recognize the front grille on the 2021 Genesis GV80 — or, indeed, the name Genesis at all — you're not alone. All you need to know is that there's a new, midsize luxury crossover entering the fray. And it's quite a nice one, too.
The GV80 is brand new for 2021. It comes with two engine choices, either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and an optional third row of seating. By now, this is a pretty standard formula for the overly saturated luxury midsize crossover segment.
The trick is seeing what the GV80 does differently.
The genesis of a Genesis SUV
In 2015, Hyundai spun off its Genesis nameplate — which had previously been worn by a sporty coupe and then, later, an executive sedan — into a separate, global luxury brand. Five years and three Genesis-branded sedans later, Genesis launched the GV80 as the fourth Genesis model worldwide and the first SUV the brand's ever offered.
After this, we can expect the more compact and upcoming GV70 SUV to further balance out Genesis' sedan-heavy lineup. The brand may be new, but it follows in the current South Korean automaker philosophy, which is to make quality cars that people actually want to buy.
The quality aspect of the plan, at least, is taking off nicely. Genesis was among the top-ranked brands on J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study in 2018. It was also crowned Consumer Reports' top brand in the US that same year. This past February, Genesis took the top spot in J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study.
With high accolades come high expectations, and Genesis' newest offering certainly commanded the latter.
Details and safety ratings: Two engine options
Underpinning the GV80 is the rear-wheel-drive platform that's shared with the G80 sedan. Unlike the Hyundai Palisade, which shares its platform with the Kia Telluride, a Genesis spokesperson said the GV80 and G80 platform will only be found in Genesis products.
Two engine options are available, both with eight-speed automatic transmissions. The first is a 2.5-liter, turbocharged inline-four that's good for a claimed 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. In rear-wheel drive guise, it gets an estimated 21 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined. In all-wheel drive setup, those figures drop slightly to an estimated 21 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined.
The second engine is a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 with a claimed 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. The V6 only comes with all-wheel drive and gets an estimated 18 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined.
The GV80's all-wheel drive system has a rear-wheel bias, meaning most of the power gets sent to the rear wheels. But depending on the condition, it can achieve a 50:50 torque split, perfectly dividing the power sent to the front and rear wheels.
The GV80 can be optioned with a third row of seats, but the option is only available on certain V6 models.
As of the time of this writing, the 2021 GV80 has not yet been rated for crashworthiness by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
What stands out: Go sit in one right now
By now, I've made it pretty clear on this website that I don't care for touchscreen-heavy car interiors. I find them unnecessarily distracting. True, the GV80 has a long, 14.5-inch LCD display, but you don't have to touch it to use it.
Instead, the primary controls are handled via a click wheel-type interface down on the center console. With this, you can scroll through the menus and click on items. The dial turns in a satisfying sort of way in its cradle and gives a substantive feeling of scrolling, so I didn't mind using it.
Just don't get it mixed up with the car's gear selector, which is another dial right below it.
I only got seat time in the four-cylinder GV80 (first in the RWD Prestige trim, totalling $58,475, and then in the AWD Prestige trim, totalling $64,825), but I didn't think it was lacking in power at all. It did all the accelerating things (merging, passing) well. The rest of the time, it hummed along quietly, a cloistering cocoon of a chariot leaving me with my own thoughts.
That's the thing with cars like the GV80. They are so easy to drive that they only ask that you put about three brain cells' worth of thought into the actual act of driving. The rest of the car's onboard sensors — lane-following assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, high-beam assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, and highway-driving assist — act like a second (or third, or fourth) set of eyes to help you spot the worst of what's around you largely before you do.
Inside the GV80, plush leathers with diamond-quilted stitching cover the seats, brushed metal switches and toggles gleam in a muted sort of way, and the wood trim gives everything a very upscale feel. In a Genesis lineup full of great interiors, the GV80 fits right in.
The biggest thing you'll notice from behind the wheel of the GV80 is how quiet it is. Except for bursts of acceleration, you'll hardly ever hear the engine. Tire and wind noise are nearly nonexistent. This is likely due in part to the GV80's Road Active Noise Cancellation feature, wherein the speakers emit a frequency that cancels out the sound of whatever's coming in. Think of it as a noise-cancelling car.
I, however, am always skeptical of technology like this, so I'm more willing to chalk the GV80's whispery ride up to its superior noise insulation hardware.
As a final aural feature, there's also a "Sounds of Nature" menu item you can select, which plays a variety of ambient noises — like birds chirping in the woods, a bustling cafe, and a crackling fire — through the car's speakers.
The GV80 offers a spacious interior. It's airy for both front-and rear-passengers and also provides a decent-sized trunk.
What falls short: Light and numb steering
Low-speed steering in the GV80 is numb and on the lighter side — meaning that steering the car requires deceptively little effort. It feels overly sensitive without giving the needed feedback. Perhaps this is a plus to some, but for me, I felt quite disconnected from the road.
I like cars to have some weight in their steering; anything with too little resistance doesn't fill me with as much confidence as I'd like. Especially when I'm navigating something like a large SUV around a parking lot, I want as much feedback as possible.
Happily, the steering feedback gets heavier when you're traveling at highway speeds. But if you want a fix for the slower stuff, simply putting the car in Sport mode will help add a little weight to the steering.
Why something as cushy as the GV80 has a Sport mode at all is beyond me, but I suppose it must live up to the "sport" aspect of its "sport utility vehicle" name.
How the GV80 compares to its competitors: Deluxe interior
Since the GV80 is a luxury crossover, its competitors include the BMW X5, Acura MDX, and Mercedes-Benz GLE.
In base form, the GV80 has the 2.5-liter engine and is equipped with rear-wheel drive as standard. That will set you back $48,900. At the upper end of the spectrum, a 3.5-liter V6, all-wheel drive GV80 with a third row of seats will cost $65,050. The most expensive GV80 — also with all-wheel drive, the V6 engine, and 22-inch alloy wheels — will cost $70,950.
The GV80 definitely seems aimed more toward luxury rather than sportiness, unlike offerings from the German automakers. You get a lot of plush interior for the price and the car just feels more deluxe and upscale, like a more serene place to sit. Plus, it's brand new for the 2021 model year and its unique new looks will turn heads for at least a little while.
All MDX models, however, do come with a third row of seats. So if having three rows for under $60,000 is a must for you, the GV80 might lose out on that regard.
Our impressions: Quiet luxury
Perceived faults in everyday driving — road bumpiness, a loud cabin, sitting in an uncomfortable chair for many hours at a time — are wiped cleanly away when you get into the GV80. The suspension soaks up the worst of the road's imperfections. I want one of those seats as my office chair.
The car itself does all the basic car stuff — drive, brake, turn — and its driver-assistance features help whoever is behind the wheel know what's coming before they'd detect it themselves. With all that taken care of, what else is there left to think about other than simply pointing the car straight and getting to where you need to be?
This isn't a criticism, by the way, but an observation. As time goes on, luxury SUVs in particular isolate you further and further from the road because that, apparently, is what defines luxury. And if that's the standard, then GV80 absolutely nails it. It's a living room on wheels where hardly any road noise or bumps get through to upset its passengers.
Cars from Hyundai and Kia only account for 8.1% of the US market share. As a brand, Genesis is still very much in its infancy. But Genesis' approach to attracting buyers is by offering quality products for less money than the luxury German competitors.
An equivalent from Mercedes' AMG or BMW's M would be uncharacteristic. That's not what the GV80 is about. More so, its products speak to a sense of quiet luxury that more than hold their own against well-established competitors.
If the G80, G90, G70, and now GV80 are anything to go by, the automaker is well on its way to building out a solid lineup. What comes next will surely follow in the same mold.
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