When Genesis split from Hyundai in 2015, the move wasn’t much of a surprise. The sub-brand already had its name splashed across some surprisingly value-packed premium vehicles that were being sold at shockingly reasonable prices, so why not mike it its own brand? Today, Genesis still makes vehicles fitting that mold, and its SUV, the 2021 Genesis GV80, takes that ethos to a whole new level.
2021 Genesis GV80 Review
The GV80 is Genesis’ maiden effort in the upscale SUV space, and it hit the ground running with impressive standard features, two solid powertrain choices, and an arresting style that literally stops people in their tracks.
I recently spent a week with the 2021 Genesis GV80 3.5T AWD Prestige, which has a price tag of $72,995 (including a $1,045 destination fee) and very reluctantly returned the keys. My week with the 2021 Genesis GV80 was also the first time that a vehicle in my driveway caused people to stop and take pictures.
A Luxury SUV That Nails Substance & Feel
Genesis has succeeded in replicating not only the quality and beauty of classic European luxury brands but also the sensation of those special vehicles. Genesis already offered vehicles that poked holes in the notion that upstart luxury automakers can’t make a compelling vehicle, but the GV80 elevates that concept. Yes, I realize that calling a Hyundai subsidiary “upstart” isn’t quite accurate, but it fits here.
So, what am I on about? Let’s compare the GV80 to a Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class SUV. Both come packing turbocharged 4-cylinder engines as standard equipment, but Genesis out-powers the GLE by 45 ponies, at 300 hp to 255 hp.
And while both SUVs carry similar standard equipment, the 2021 Genesis GV80 gets a full suite of advanced safety features, such as blind-spot monitoring, which are held back as an added-cost option on the Benz.
The point here isn’t that Genesis is shaming the Germans with its new vehicles. The point is that, in just a few years, Genesis has been able to build a vehicle lineup that not only competes with the Europeans but also can be seen as equals, both in quality and desirability.
Powertrain Options Lacking Nothing
The 2021 Genesis GV80 comes standard with a turbocharged, 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that makes 300 hp and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s paired with an 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive by default, but all-wheel drive can be optioned in.
My test vehicle came equipped with the available twin-turbocharged, 3.5L V6, which is rated at 375 hp and 391 lb.-ft. of torque. It came with the same 8-speed automatic transmission but was available only with all-wheel drive.
I took a short test drive in the 4-cylinder GV80 earlier this year and can say that it, in no way, felt underpowered. That being said, it’s not a stretch to say that the V6-equipped Genesis feels better to drive in all the ways that really matter. There’s more than enough torque and power available to make the hefty GV80 feel spritely. Even so, the SUV is far more at home on leisurely drives than it is rocketing down a backroad.
The GV80’s ride and tuning prevent jerkiness and unwanted movements under acceleration and braking, which makes the experience behind the wheel not all that unlike riding in a quick boat. The vehicle gently presses its passengers into the padded seats under heavy throttle, and braking feels equally as smooth.
If there’s a downside to the magic carpet ride, it’s that the experience from behind the GV80’s wheel can be a bit too isolated. The muted steering, braking, and throttle feel sometimes create a sense of delay, which I understand serves the purpose of making the experience luxurious, but it takes some time to get used to.
Bring on The Luxury Interior
As a list of features and options on paper, the 2021 Genesis GV80 reads a lot like any other luxury vehicle. My 3.5T AWD Prestige test vehicle featured Nappa leather upholstery, a 16-way power driver’s seat, heating and ventilation for the front-row buckets, heated second-row seats, and more.
The way that Genesis has implemented those features, though, is special. At this trim level, the GV80’s Nappa leather-covered seats feature a complex perforation and quilting pattern that makes the cabin pop with textures and shapes. They’re as easy on the backside as they are on the eyes, as the soft leather and deep padding make for a sublime experience from any seat in the house.
Premium Tech in All The Right Places
At the top trim level, the GV80’s list of standard tech features is in line with expectations from a premium SUV. My tester came with a 14.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, Bluetooth, a Lexicon 21-speaker sound system, and more.
At first glance, the ultra-wide touchscreen felt a bit out of place on the dash, but, over time, the shape and location started to make more sense. The touchscreen’s dimensions make it easy to view and use from either front seat, and its intuitive menus make it easy to use while the vehicle is in motion.
The steering wheel-mounted controls are standard, but you’ll rarely use them because the GV80’s frumpy wheel shape makes it hard to do anything other than steer. The large blob in the middle of the steering wheel houses the horn and airbag, but it’s also too wide even for drivers with large hands to comfortably spare a thumb to change settings or audio volume.
My top-trim tester also came with a unique digital gauge cluster that has a three-dimensional effect. It’s all simulated on the screen, but at a glance, it appears that the gauges are deeper than the screen itself.
All The Safety Bells & Whistles
On the safety front, the 2021 Genesis GV80 earned a 2021 Top Safety Pick + award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which includes Good ratings in all crashworthiness categories, along with Superior ratings for both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention.
Standard driver aids include forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane change assist, a driver attention warning system, and a safe exit assist system that warns of oncoming traffic when exiting the vehicle and locks the rear doors so a child can’t step out in front of another vehicle.
In addition to those features, my test vehicle came with forward attention warnings, rear occupant alerts, and a blind spot view camera system.
2021 Genesis GV80: A Winner on The Luxury Front
I spent the first few paragraphs of this review trying to convince you that the 2021 Genesis GV80 is every bit as good as the mainstay luxury models it competes against. But does it hold its own?
If it’s not clear already, on a personal level, I believe that it’s a better vehicle than its European counterparts in many ways. Its singular focus on comfort and luxury above sportiness and handling pays off with a sublime ride and cocooning cabin.
It should be on your shortlist if you’re looking for a premium SUV that checks all the boxes for features and comfort. And let’s not forget that it also gets the same 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Let’s see the Europeans match that.