2021 Genesis GV80 7-seat luxury SUV review

Imagine trying to land your first job fresh out of university. You are one of hundreds applying for a handful of graduate positions and the competition is stiff. With no prior work experience, your CV is your only credential.

Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury upstart, faces a similar challenge. Established in 2015, the brand started off with the mid-size Hyundai Genesis sedan here in Australia before dropping the Hyundai connection a couple of years later to be known simply as the Genesis G80.

Then last year, Genesis officially became a standalone brand with its own ‘studio’, aka showroom, and a second model, the highly likeable G70 small sedan.

While it may lack the heritage and prestige of more established rivals, Hyundai has spent the last decade or so transforming its reputation from paddlers of cheap cars that people just settle for, to purveyors of stylish, desirable and quality vehicles.

Hyundai is consistently in the top five brands in Australia, with the i30 sitting in podium position for much of the last two years.

Now that it’s being taken seriously in the mainstream, the brand is taking the next step to establishing itself in the premium segment, much like what Toyota did 30 years ago with its now successful Lexus brand.

The first generation Genesis G80 was a good effort with decent dynamics, up-to-date technologies and luxurious finish, but the second-generation is a genuine threat to the established marques like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, with a driving and ownership experience that put some of them to shame.

However, in our SUV mad market, luxury sedans just don’t appear on buyers’ radar as much as a high-riding equivalent does. Meet the GV80, the G80’s lofty SUV cousin and genuine litmus test for the fledgling Korean premium brand.

Available as a five- or seven-seater, with rear or all-wheel drive, Genesis can now finally take the fight to luxury heavy weights such as the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and Lexus RX.

Prices kick off from $90,600 plus on-road costs for the 2.5T powered by a 224kW/422Nm 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol driving the rear wheels. All-wheel drive and a third-row of seats add $5,000 to the price tag.

Standard equipment is plentiful, with LED headlamps, 20-inch alloy wheels panoramic sunroof, a cinematic 14.5-inch infotainment screen, thumping 21-speaker Lexicon sound system with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, head-up display, heated and electrically operated front seats and dual zone climate control all included.

Other luxury features include the easy access function where the driver’s seat and steering column move out of the way to allow easier entry and exit without rubbing your knees on the steering column.

Genesis is even throwing in the first five services up to 50,000km for free, which are potentially worth a pretty penny as a further enticement.

Sitting in the middle of the three-tier line-up is the 3.0D, which is expected to be the main seller. Priced from $103,600, it comes with a 204kW/588Nm 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel driving all four wheels.

Topping out the range is the $108,600 3.5T powerhouse as tested in this review. It is powered by a brand new 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 pumping out 279kW and 530Nm of torque sent to all four wheels.

All variants are connected to an in-house developed eight-speed automatic transmission.

While not equipped to our test vehicle, a $10,000 Luxury Pack brings electric folding second and third-row seats, quilted Nappa leather, rear climate control, heated steering wheels, soft-close doors, massaging driver’s seat, active noise cancellation and a 3D digital instrument cluster.

The GV80 also comes with a long list of safety equipment. All models are equipped with:

  • Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with car/pedestrian/cyclist detection, junction turning function, lane-change oncoming/side function, evasive steering assist function
  • Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist
  • Blind-Spot View Monitor (a cool feature that swaps the tachometer with a camera view of the turning side of the vehicle)
  • Driver Attention warning
  • High Beam Assist
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Lane Following Assist
  • Pre-active front seat belts
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist
  • Rear Occupant Alert
  • Safe Exit Assist
  • Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go and machine learning function
  • Surround view monitor
  • Centre airbags that prevent front passengers from hitting each other

The most common comment from others when you’re driving the GV80 is “it looks like a Bentley”.

We can’t agree more. From the dominant “G-matrix” grille and twin-stack headlights at the front, to the chunky side profiles and D-pillars, there is more than a whiff of Bentley Bentayga in its proportions and detailing.

There is strong family resemblance to the G80 sedan, too, with its elegantly long and shapely bonnet, and short overhangs. Matched with huge 22-inch alloy wheels on the 3.5T (and 3.0D), the GV80 certainly stands out on the road.

Fit and finish are excellent, with all panels consistently lined and gaps kept to a minimum. It’s even better inside.

The GV80 isn’t just festooned with acres of leather and wood paneling, its wrapped around interior is rich in detail and uses horizontal lines to emphasise its width. The slim line air-con vents are seamlessly integrated between the top and bottom layers of the dash, while the old school, two-spoke steering wheels feels great in the palm of your hands.

The high-quality switchgear in the GV80 is unique to Genesis as opposed to being pilfered from the Hyundai parts bin. The various knobs with knurled finish remind us of those found in Audi’s, while the rotary shifter is made of real metal and glass with embedded LED light that changes as you select reverse.

A huge 14.5-inch high definition widescreen colour touch display with supporting console dial sits at the top of the dash, while a 6.0-inch touchscreen with haptic feedback sits further down to take care of climate control functions.

The centre console-mounted control dial acts much like an old iPod thumbwheel that allows you to scroll through songs, contacts and radio much easier while on the move. We also applaud Genesis for maintaining physical controls for the volume and various menu shortcuts.

If there’s one area that the GV80 is related to a Hyundai, it’s the infotainment system, but that’s a good thing. It might appear a little fancier with a defused nightscape of Seoul in the background, but it’s essentially the same system you might find on the high-spec Palisade with layout and functionality that is a lesson in simplicity and user-friendliness.

However, unlike the latest BMWs and Mercedes-Benz’s, there is no fancy voice-controlled ‘personal assistance’ in the Genesis. You could still use Siri once your phone is connected to Apple CarPlay but that’s about it.

The GV80 is a tad longer than the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 but sits lower. Room is aplenty both in front and in the 2nd-row, and the seats are well contoured and comfortable, with electric adjustment at the front and memory for the driver.

Further aback, the third-row of seats come with decent legroom and are easily accessible by sliding the second-row forward although headroom back there is at a premium.

While we don’t have the cargo capacity figures when all three rows of seats are in play, cargo capacity is rated at 727L with the 3rd row stowed away and balloons to a cavernous 2,144 with the 2nd row folded.

However, it’s worth noting that there is no spare wheel in the AWD models. A tyre puncture repair kit is your only rescue should you get a leak.

Performance wise, our 3.5T is probably the variant you should aim for if you like driving. Besides an abundance of power (279kW/530Nm) from its muscular 3.5-litre twin-turbo petrol V6, it is also equipped with high-tech adaptive dampers that adjust their firmness based on information from a front-mounted camera.

The camera scans the road ahead and primes the dampers to tackle road imperfections, much like the one in the Mercedes S-Class. On our pock marked roads, it works relatively well, delivering a plush ride that fits the luxurious image of the SUV. Flick it into Sport mode and the suspension tightens up as expected for better body control around the bends.

Genesis’ engineers have also given the GV80 an Australian flavour through “one of the most comprehensive ride and handling programmes we’ve put cars through”, with particular attention to the dampers.

It’s by no means a hot hatch but you never feel as though it’s a bout to tip over. There’s a level of agility to its handling that belies its size, thanks to its precise steering, which is pleasantly weighted and isn’t over-loaded in Sport mode. However, on-centre feel is a little lacking.

Overall, the GV80 has a distinctly sporty feel to it but not at the expense of refinement or ride comfort. It doesn’t resort to a dizzying array of chassis configuration to achieve this, either, beyond the Sport mode’s more aggressive tip-in and the transmission’s preference for higher revs.

There are no squeaks or rattles in the car, a testament to Hyundai’s built quality and the rigidity of the GV80’s structure.

However, you do pay the price at the bowser, with the 3.5T returning a V8-like 14.7L/100km over our 500km mixed test, thanks to the absence of stop/start. It also requires 95RON premium juice.

Verdict

Design & Comfort

8.5/10

Performance & Handling

8.5/10

Quality

8.5/10

Economy

7.0/10

Equipment & Features

8.5/10

OUR SCORE

4.1/5

Our Score: 4.1/5

+ Plus

  • Excellent fit and finish
  • Sporty without sacrificing comfort and refinement
  • Useable 3rd-row of seats
  • Powerful biturbo V6

Minus

  • No spare tyre
  • Likes a drink

Overall

The new Genesis GV80 is what a luxury SUV should be – looks a million, tech-laden, comfortable and luxurious. It may lack the coveted brand heritage but for those willing to look past its badge, it is a genuine rival to the more established marques.

If your budget allows, the 3.5T offers excellent bang-for-your-buck, with a great blend of performance, luxury and comfort.

2021 Genesis GV80 3.5T pricing and specification

Price (Excl. on-road costs):From: $108,600

As tested: $108,600

Warranty:5 years/unlimited kilometres
Warranty Customer Service:5 years road side
Country of Origin:South Korea
Service Intervals:12 months/10,000km
Engine:Twin-turbo 3.5-litre V-type 6-cylinder direct/multi-point injected petrol:

279kW @ 5,800rpm, 530Nm @ 1,300-4,500rpm

Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):124.1
0-100km/h (seconds):5.5
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):Claimed: 11.7 / Tested: 14.7
RON Rating:95
Fuel Capacity (L):80
Body:5-door SUV, 7 seats
Safety:
  • 10 airbags
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist
  • Pre-active seat belt – front seats
  • ABS, BA, EBD, ESC
  • Driver Attention Warning
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Following Assist
  • Lane-Keep Assist System
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Rear Occupant Alert
  • Safe Exit Assist
  • Smart Cruise Control
  • Emergency Brake Assist
  • Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Multi Terrain Mode
  • High-Beam Assist
  • 360-degree rear view camera
  • Surround view camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
  • ISOFIX
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:4,945/1,975/1,715/2,955
Turning Circle Between Kerbs:11.98
Ground Clearance:205
Tare Mass (kg):2,248
Boot Space (L) (min/max):727/2144
Entertainment:
  • 14.5-inch wide touchscreen
  • 21-speaker Lexicon premium audio system
  • Satellite navigation
  • AM/FM/DAB+
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • AUX
  • iPod
  • Apple CarPlay / Android Auto

Competitors: BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Volvo XC90, Lexus RX

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