Genesis Motor launched its first SUV this year, the GV80. Like any current film starring Ryan Reynolds or Samuel L. Jackson, the 2021 Genesis GV80 became a hit. How? By offering buyers something that is familiar in a uniquely styled package. The SUV market has been expanding over the last 30 years, meaning Genesis had to make up for a lost time. However, instead of thinking outside the box by building a track-bred family hauler or a land superyacht, Genesis focused on simply making a sexy-looking box that’s comfortable to sit inside. When I say that the new Genesis GV80 is attractive, I’m referring to the fact that people are drawn to this vehicle. It’s the first vehicle I’ve tested that was cat-called by strangers.
At gas stations, parking lots, and even at a Border Patrol checkpoint, men, women, and agents would ask, “What is this?” Their eyes grow wide at the sound of the word “Genesis,” as if to tell that it’s a brand they are familiar with in name only. Part of the job is giving people a chance to satisfy their curiosity with a new vehicle. Allowing them to sit inside, listen to the engine, and walk around taking in all its details. It’s hard not to like a shiny new car, but I noticed in the Genesis GV80 people’s genuine admiration for it. They praised its sensual exterior styling, inviting luxury interior, and surprisingly competitive price point.
At gas stations, parking lots, and even at a Border Patrol checkpoint, men, women, and agents would ask, “What is this?”
However, in my experience, people often do not recognize the brand Genesis without hearing the word Hyundai before it. This is understandable considering the South Korean luxury automaker was launched as a standalone brand in 2015. It’s young blood amongst century-old manufacturers. Nevertheless, Genesis Motor is currently experiencing a glow-up and deserves to be noticed.
The Genesis of Genesis Motor
The Genesis brand launched in the U.S in late 2016 with the 2017 G80 and G90 sedans. However, the name goes back to the early 2000s when Hyundai envisioned the concept of a luxury full-size sedan. In 2008, Hyundai unveiled the Genesis nameplate at the North American International Auto Show. By 2015, Genesis Motor became its own marquee under Hyundai – the same year I actively started working as an automotive journalist.
I still remember seeing the Genesis booth at motor shows in 2016. People’s first reaction to the brand was a Mercedes-Benz knockoff. Yet, Genesis has continued to prove that it’s a serious luxury brand that backs up its style with quality. When you start to research who is making the decisions at Genesis Motor, the brand’s impressive attention to luxury and performance starts to make sense.
When you start to research who is making the decisions at Genesis Motor, the brand’s impressive attention to luxury and performance starts to make sense.
Genesis’ list of personnel is a who’s who list of dream car makers. People like Albert Biermann, executive vice president of Genesis performance development, the former head of BMW’s M Performance division. The head of design for Hyundai and Genesis is Sang-Yup Lee, the designer who gave us the Bentley Continental GT and Corvette C6. The chief designer is Filippo Perini, former head of design at Lamborghini. Finally, the current CEO of Genesis North America is Mark del Rosso, former president of Audi of America.
Flexin’ in the All-New Genesis GV80 3.5T
The model tested in this review is the 2021 Genesis GV80 3.5T AWD with the optional Advanced+ interior package. It’s a six-passenger midsize luxury SUV available with two engine options and a host of interior comforts with plenty of performance to leave a lasting first impression. My favorite thing about the Genesis GV80 is that it looks more expensive than its retail cost. The starting price for a base GV80 is $48k. For that price, you get a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 300-hp with available all-wheel drive, a panoramic sunroof, leather interior with wood trim, and a heated steering wheel as standard.
Not to mention that the GV80 looks like no other SUV on the market thanks to its distinctive quad headlamps and G-Matrix crest grille. It’s a fashionable vehicle with a long sweeping roofline that gives the SUV an almost shooting brake profile with a slap-shot hockey stick window silhouette. As a result, the SUV has an athletic stance, fooling the eye into thinking it’s hunkering down like a cat calculating its next leap from the chair to the kitchen counter.
The interior of the Genesis GV80 manages to be elegant with a sense of genuine modesty that can be seen in its matte finish wood trim and single-spoke steering wheel. Its leather seats are upholstered in a quilted pattern and offer the right amount of cushion when you sit down. They are plush without feeling like you’re sinking into grandma’s worn sofa. The GV80 cabin is quiet on the road, and if optioned with the top-of-line Prestige trim level, which adds a whopping $11,800 to the price tag, you get Active Road Noise Cancellation.
The 2021 Genesis GV80 shown came equipped with the Advanced+ interior package, the middle-child of the SUV’s trim levels. This $5,800 option includes heated seats for second-row passengers with three-zone climate controls. In addition, it also upgrades the standard 12-speaker stereo to a LEXICON 21-speaker premium audio system.
Our less-than-healthy addiction to screens means one tends to constantly look at the infotainment screen while driving, even if we already know what it’s displaying. It’s sort of like checking your phone when you know you have zero new notifications – it’s a bad habit.
My favorite detail in the 2021 Genesis GV80 interior is its 14.5-inch infotainment screen. For the sole purpose that it has a screen saver when not in direct use, making it the least distracting screen I’ve tested in a modern vehicle yet. Our less-than-healthy addiction to screens means one tends to constantly look at the infotainment screen while driving, even if we already know what it’s displaying. It’s sort of like checking your phone when you know you have zero new notifications – it’s a bad habit. In the GV80, the screen shows a digitalized representation of whatever the sky is doing that day, like a screen saver. Unless you interact with it, the only information it displays is the weather outside and the time. Not having that compulsive need to read the digital text in the corner of your eye certainly helps the Genesis GV80’s driver quality.
Canyon Carving in the Plush Genesis GV80 3.5T
The GV80 model tested for this review featured the higher-end engine option with a starting price of $59k. It is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 producing 375-hp. According to Car and Driver, the V6 powered GV80 can reach zero to 60 mph in 5.3-seconds. It uses an all-wheel-drive system with big silver brake calipers and various drive modes. Given that so many mid-sized SUVs on the market offer handling with their performance, I decided to test out the Genesis GV80 in the Texas hill country.
The GV80 worked hard to keep me safe and comfortable on these twisty roads overlooking the scenic Lost Maples State Natural Area. However, its soft steering meant it wasn’t sharp enough to carve a canyon road. Even when set to its sportiest drive move, the steering in the Genesis GV80 feels numb and artificial. Of course, this is not an issue when you’re maneuvering through parking lots using two fingers to turn the wheel or holding it steady at 75 mph on the interstate.
The twin-turbo V6 responds to your throttle commands with the urgency and subtlety of a trustworthy butler: No-fuss, no drama, just crisp acceleration.
However, when you’re flirting with disaster on a two-lane road with 12-inch shoulders overlooking a cliff, you find yourself gripping the wheel tighter, hoping to squeeze any information into what the front wheels are doing. Although the steering is responsive, it doesn’t have the road feel you’d expect in a vehicle with this much temptation under the hood. That being said, the brakes on the 2021 Genesis GV80 are excellent, and the body-roll was minimum during hard cornering. The twin-turbo V6 responds to your throttle commands with the urgency and subtlety of a trustworthy butler: No-fuss, no drama, just crisp acceleration.
The Genesis Model Line Up
Similar to BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Genesis Motor names its vehicles using an alphanumeric system. Each car starts with the letter “G,” followed by a two-digit number. The higher the number, the larger the vehicle: G70, G80, and G90. Crossover and SUV models are designated with a “GV” before the number.
Currently, the entire Genesis lineup has been redesigned with matching quad lamps and crest grilles. It starts with the mid-sized Genesis G70 sedan, the all-rounder G80, and its electric variant before getting to the flagship G90 sedan. Then you get into the new GV70 crossover before arriving at the GV80 SUV. Lastly, there is the compact electric crossover Genesis GV60, which is coming soon.
Hyundai’s Luxury Brand is Glowing Up
In total, I tested the 2021 Genesis GV80 for 897 miles and averaged 19.4 mpg. I should also note that Genesis recommends premium fuel for the GV80 to get the best performance. If I had anything negative to say about this luxury SUV, its air conditioning system struggled during a 103-degree day in South Texas. But, that is not entirely fair since people in this part of the world demand AC units strong enough to give a penguin goosebumps. Also, the rotary dial used to navigate the infotainment screen takes some getting used to. You want to grab and turn it the same way as the shifter dial but meant to be operated similar to an iPod where you press and turn.
Beyond those two little nitpicks, the 2021 Genesis GV80 is an outstanding vehicle. It provides luxury at a price point below many competitors in its class. The GV80’s MSRP stays well under the $75k border even at its highest trim level, with amenities that can go wheel-to-wheel with SUVs starting at $90k. Genesis has everything to be a contender for the best. However, the genius of this brand is that it knows that once you’re at the top, everyone wants to knock you down. A Genesis is for the type of person who understands quiet victories to avoid inspiring envy amongst others. It’s a car maker born out of ambition and backed by experience. It does not need to be the best luxury brand. It only needs to prove that it belongs – and it has with the 2021 Genesis GV80.