Raising the bar and turning heads

This photo provided by Genesis Motor North America shows the Genesis GV80, a new entrant in the midsize luxury SUV class. It is just as impressive as rivals from more established automakers, but undercuts the competition by thousands of dollars. (James Lipman/Courtesy of Genesis Motor North America via AP)
This photo provided by Genesis Motor North America shows the Genesis GV80, a new entrant in the midsize luxury SUV class. It is just as impressive as rivals from more established automakers, but undercuts the competition by thousands of dollars. (James Lipman/Courtesy of Genesis Motor North America via AP)

Credit: James Lipman

Credit: James Lipman

2021 Genesis GV80 challenges luxury brands with masterpiece

I try not to get too carried away with the hyperbole when I review vehicles. Some vehicles are better and more memorable than others. This week’s review might have a few more superlatives and hyperbole than other ones.

This week I’m behind the wheel of an SUV that was a finalist for the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. It eventually lost to the Mustang Mach-E, which had a little more attention on it and it’s hard to argue with it winning. But the 2021 Genesis GV80 would’ve gotten my vote had I been on that jury.

There have been very few luxury SUVs to come around (at such an affordable price point) and left me with such a wow factor. (Here comes the hyperbole, sort of): The 2021 Genesis GV80 is an absolute work of art in car design.

The exterior is stunning, distinctive and bold. The interior is even more so with features you’d expect to see in an ultra-luxury brand like Bentley. But this is a Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand. The GV80 raises the entire bar for the midsize luxury SUV segment – and not a little, but a lot. Lexus, Acura, Infiniti all have their work cut out for them with what Genesis did with this brand new vehicle.

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I mentioned Bentley as a comparison and that is no exaggeration. Even the grille has a Bentley vibe. It’s big and bold with the Genesis winged logo residing just above it. The horizontal LED headlights flank the grille and add balance and distinction. The profile loses a little personality, but then quickly finds its groove again on the back end where similarly-shaped rear tail lights once again add style and personality to the GV80.

There are two engine options for the GV80: a turbocharged 4-cylinder or a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. Turbocharging a gasoline direct-injected engine makes a big difference. It sets the GV80 apart from some of the other brands in the segment and it also makes the 3.5-liter V6 that I drove an ideal combination of fast and refined (forget fast and furious).

For the midsize luxury SUV segment, consumers want and demand a combination like this and they get it with the GV80. My tester had all-wheel drive (standard on the V6 engine) and an eight-speed automatic transmission that had just a slightly noticeable bit of turbo lag. Otherwise, the 375 horsepower output is absolute the right amount of power.

Inside, the design cues from the outside are even more amplified inside. There is no doubt that you are in a luxury vehicle when you sit in the GV80 and look around.

My tester was the standard five-passenger configuration. There is a seven-passenger set up, but that would likely be cramped in the third row. As such, the second row has cavernous legroom with quilted, plush seats. I saw one reviewer describe the GV80′s interior as opulent. I had to look that up but felt the definition fit perfectly: Ostentatiously rich and luxurious or lavish.

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Lavish it is with every single high-quality touch point having detail down to the metal door sills, adjustable ambient interior lighting and leather seats throughout. I stated this once, but it is worth repeating, that the interior is absolute work of art that shows Genesis means business pouring the luxury everywhere into this SUV.

Cargo room behind the second-row is 33.9 cubic feet (reduced significantly if you choose the third-row option). Total cargo room is 84 cubic feet which is better than some of the more established names in the segment.

Tech-wise, the Genesis GV80 doesn’t go over the top and offers a clean, well-organized and intuitive system. Too often automakers in this segment can over engineer things and make the technology more complicated than it needs to be. The Genesis GV80 doesn’t have the most advanced tech but the learning curve is much smaller too and for that it should be appreciated.

The Genesis GV80 3.5 with AWD has an EPA rating of 18 mpg/city and 23 mpg/highway. This is the only area it could use a little improvement, or at least what some members of the NACOY jury said. And sure the GV80 lost Utility of the Year to an electric vehicle, but with an average of 20 mpg it was just adequate enough. And it’s so special in other ways I can forgive the fuel economy numbers.

There are multiple tiers and pricing specs for the GV80. My tester was the 2021 Genesis GV80 3.5t AWD Prestige. As such it had a base price of $70,950. This is the higher end of the pricing specs, as the lowest trim with the 4-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive starts at $48,900. Final MSRP for my tester after destination charges and upcharge for a gorgeous red metallic paint finish was $72,375.

The hardest thing to do is convincing the luxury consumer to consider a “Hyundai.” But you could definitely tell someone that the GV80 was a new SUV from Bentley, and they would likely not bat an eye and believe you. Seeing is believing with the Genesis GV80.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at jimmydinsmore73@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2021 Genesis Gv80 3.5T AWD Prestige

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $70,950/$72,735
  • Mileage.......................................... 18 mpg/city; 23 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 3.5-liter turbocharged V6
  • Horsepower................................. 375 hp/391 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Ulsan, Korea