2021 Genesis GV80 3.5T review: A lead-off home run

Those double slit headlights work wonders on just about anything.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Nobody really is great something the first time they try it, but Genesis is working to reverse that trend. The 2021 Genesis GV80 is the Korean carmaker’s first SUV, and just like the heavily revised G80 before it, this midsize luxury SUV is poised to make its mark in a fast-paced – and fast-paced segment.

Like it

  • Sharp exterior
  • Suitably luxurious interior
  • Top notch infotainment graphics

I do not like

  • The ride could be softer
  • Fuel economy just OK

A stunner, inside and out

The Genesis GV80 of 2021 really attracts attention. A driver approached me on the road and honked their sedan until I turned my head, at which point I met a car full of thumbs up. The exterior of the GV80 is unique; in fact, I would consider it the cutest ute in the segment. The headlights are like no other and the way the fastback-style roofline sweeps back leads to a car that appears to be constantly in motion.

The interior of the GV80 manages to impress even more than the exterior. This beautiful design is an integral part of the GV80 experience, regardless of the upholstery. I might not fully embrace the two-spoke steering wheel, which is a bit greasy for 9 and 3 hand placement, but the layout is uncluttered and the leather-baked patterns exude luxury. The GV80 is right up there with Mercedes-Benz in terms of interior quality and at its price, I’d say it actually outperforms the Merc only in terms of value. My tester is a little monotonous with her beige attire, but there are some really wild combinations out there, including a two-tone pattern with lots of blue leather.

Everything I touch is made from leather or metal, with high-quality knurling on the stems and infotainment controllers; the cabin of the GV80 feels ultra premium. One of my favorite parts is the climate control, which has a small touchscreen that allows me to configure the airflow and fan speed independently of the automatic function. Temperature controllers also seem expensive.

Even the interior of the GV80 does not give up functionality in favor of all that form. Sure, the door panels are a little light on storage, but the flowing center console has decent-sized storage under the transmission dial and the armrest opens for a bit more space. It’s also roomy, with a second row that saves no headroom despite a slightly trimmed roofline. Advanced Plus trims also have an optional third row which, according to my colleagues, is not appropriate for fully adult humans, but works for children.

Serenity on the road

The 2021 GV80 isn’t a lean type, clocking around 5,000 pounds with AWD and all the bells and whistles, but my tester packs the larger motor option from the Genesis. The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 produces 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque, and while it may not be the loudest six-pot on the block, it will propel the GV80 forward with promptness. Shoot at any distance you want; there’s more than enough torque on tap and the eight-speed automatic transmission smoothly swaps gears as needed. There’s plenty of throttle and brake modulation on offer for smooth, drop-free starts and stops, which play very well in the appropriate luxury angle.

Most European midsize luxury SUVs try to bring some sportiness into their existence, with relative success. The GV80 tries to give more than an angle of pure luxury to its driving characteristics and is mostly successful. The Advanced-trim model in my driveway comes with Genesis’ street scan adaptive suspension, which uses cameras to preload the suspension in case it needs to handle a bit of nastiness, which can be a big deal for the territory Korean car manufacturer. In Michigan, it does a commendable job devouring bumpy roads, but the whole experience feels a little tougher than I’d prefer, even with everything set in its most luxurious setting. An optional air suspension would turn this thing into a damn cloud, so hopefully Genesis will find a way to fit something like that here later. The GV80 is never really exciting to throw around, because that’s not what it’s made for, but it’s very safe if your commute involves a few twists.

The interior of the GV80 is interesting no matter where you look or where you touch. Leather, metal, that’s all.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Luxury continues to be the priority even when looking at other aspects of the driving experience. The cabin is very quiet, thanks in part to thick glass and an active noise canceling system that works like headphones on your desk. It is a suitably quiet time for both the driver and the driven.

Fuel economy is competitive for the GV80 class, but outside of that bubble, it’s not quite all that and a lot of chips. The 3.5-liter models, which come standard with all-wheel drive, are EPA rated at 18 miles per urban gallon, 23 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined – with premium gasoline, no less. The 2.5-liter variants are a little less thirsty in 21 cities and 25 on the highway, but still thirsty enough.

World-class technology

In my G80 review, I talked at length about how much I loved Genesis’ new infotainment system – and it’s no different on the 2021 GV80, which is to say it rules. The 14.5-inch display atop the dashboard grabs attention with its delightfully calm home screen and easy navigation, whether I’m reaching to touch the screen itself or (more likely) manipulating the rotating dial on the center console. The buttons above the climate control provide quick access to normal functions such as navigation, audio or settings menus. Every corner of the system is not only attractive, it’s intuitive and it doesn’t take me long to figure out my favorite way of doing things. Apple CarPlay is Android Auto are available, but not wirelessly, and as my boss Chris Paukert pointed out in his review, there’s no option for a Wi-Fi hotspot or rear-seat entertainment, which seems like a silly omission when most some of the GV80’s competitors have all that. It’s not a puzzle, just a headache.

Only the Prestige trims get the wild cluster screen that uses digital deception to give the impression of physical depth, meaning my GV80 is stuck with the proven physical cluster that includes a moderately sized information display in the middle. This is the only corner of the vehicle that reminds me of where the Hyundai-based car came from, since it looks and behaves like the same look seen in cars as the Sonata. All right; it does the job it should, it’s just the only part of the cabin I wouldn’t call special.

The home screen of the new Genesis infotainment system is gorgeous and changes according to the weather.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Each GV80 is equipped with an impressive amount of safety technologies, including parking sensors, rain sensitive wipers, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking that can detect pedestrians and cyclists. Advanced trim offers a surround view monitor, mirror-mounted cameras, and auto rear brake in the mix, as well as Remote Smart Parking Assist (aka Smaht Pahk), which can slide the vehicle back and forth while the driver presses the remote control from the outside. It’s interesting stuff, even if I only use it to show off.

All GV80s also include the Genesis Highway Driving Assistance System, which combines active and passive safety aids to keep the vehicle in its lane on the highway, keeping up with traffic. It helps reduce some of the tedium of a traffic-laden commute, but it’s a practical system, so vigilance remains a requirement. It does a commendable job, but the GV80’s lane-centering technology can be a little aggressive at times and I’m a pretty active driver, so I generally leave the system off.

Up to brass tacks

While it represents the complete luxury experience better than almost any of its competitors, the 2021 Genesis G80 is not a failure. Starting at $ 49,925 including destination, the GV80 3.5T AWD Advanced before me kicks off at $ 65,375, which is impressive in context; a BMW X5 xDrive40i starts at around $ 62,000, while a Mercedes-Benz GLE450 costs around a thousand dollars. And then there’s the Audi Q8, which costs nearly $ 70,000. All three of those vehicles are before options too. Hoo boy.

It’s a strange day where a car can be both serious value is an example-setter in its legendary segment, but this is the 2021 Genesis GV80 in a nutshell. It manages to deliver an excellent luxury experience in its truest form, avoiding the idea that every vehicle needs a sporty corner underneath, while somehow beating its major competitors on price while maintaining a quality that rivals them. You’d think the GV80 was the Genesis third crack in a luxury SUV, but no; sometimes, you hit gold on the first shot.

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