I remember being at the NY Auto Show 4 years ago when late in the day on a small stage out on the concourse the fledgling Genesis brand unveiled the GV80 Fuel Cell Concept.
At that point, they only had 2 cars to sell but now, minus the fuel cell part, the GV80 is a reality with its concept look very much intact.
This is exciting because it’s not every week that I get to drive a first-ever model from a relatively new brand.
And though there are some familiar parent compant bits in here, this GV80 truly feels like a Genesis and not just a premium-level Hyundai. It’s exhilaratingly fresh in every way and for those who play close enough attention to 1) even know what Genesis is and then 2) where to find a dealer, discovering the GV80 will be automotive bliss.
Sharing a rear-wheel drive platform with the equally new G80 sedan, this is the vehicle that Genesis hopes will propel them into car shoppers’ consciousness. The compact-sized GV70 will complete the 1-2 SUV punch later this year.
Because this is an all-new model, let’s do a little primer here. Pricing for the GV80 starts at about $50,000. Now, that’ll get you a rear-wheel drive, 300 horsepower turbo-4 that seats 5.
At the other end of the spectrum is this 3.5T AWD Advanced + with a 375 horsepower twin-turbo V6 – the only trim available with a 3rd row. But you can’t get the 7-seater with the big Prestige Package so if you want all of the goodies you’ll have a decision to make.
The 3rd row is a small one designed to accommodate young kids and in-a-pinch 7-seat transport. Still, Genesis provides one-touch access to the way back and power recline 3rd row seats to boot. But for the most part, you’ll probably be stowing them flat and that’s handled by the press of a switch, as well.
Simple and intuitive is an overarching theme in the GV80 with the possible exception of the infotainment controls to which I’m still acclimating.
The cabin is really sharp and I love this Ultramarine Blue/Dune combo. It’s minimalist in the Volvo style. But it’s taking me some time to warm up to this dial-touchpad combo for controlling this huge screen. These controls are needed however because it’s such a long reach but the dial could use some more texture as it can feel slippery on the fingertips and here’s one that’ll drive the obsessive types nuts – the driver display isn’t centered with the steering wheel.
Towards the end of my 1-week loan, I’m now more efficient in getting to what I want; learning when to spin the dial and when to press or swipe the touchpad. If it’s something I want on the left side of the screen I’ll probably just reach up and touch it but the one thing I’ve learned is a waste of time is the voice control which never gets it right. This is an evolution of the infotainment we’ve seen from Genesis before which organizes main groupings in tiles over several pages and contains a small dual screen pop out. But one thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to get this detailed small navi map over here to the big portion on the left in place of this vague, ethereal one.
When you drive the GV80 it feels as though you’re behind the wheel of something even more expensive. For instance, the shocks are fed information from the forward-facing camera which previews the road ahead so that the GV80 can preemptively keep the ride comfortable. And even without the noise cancellation feature, this is one quiet SUV. It drives beautifully in all situations backed by an engine that delivers its turbo power with maturity. For $66k, this is very hard to beat.
With 391 pound-feet of torque on tap this GV80 is certainly quick and lag-free but by in large goes about business with a luxury bent so there’s not really any acoustical fanfare or other sensations when you get on it…even in Sport mode. But it’s a very qualified drive on country roads where the suspension suppresses body roll, the steering is true and the 8-speed knows what to do. Also, the side bolsters grip you a little harder when driving in Sport which is a nice touch. But push the GV80 really hard and it becomes evident there’s room for a higher-performing trim if Genesis so chooses. The all-wheel drive system on this model doesn’t benefit from torque vectoring or the limited slip differential from the Prestige package, but it still contributes to more confident handling, able to apportion up to half of the available power to the front wheels.
And with a snow mode, a competent set of 20” Michelin all-seasons, and a locker that keeps all 4 wheels in play, the GV80 has felt more than comfortable in the white stuff.
But for me, the cherry on top is the GV80’s self-driving capability. It’s called Highway Driving Assist II and it’s the best hands-free driving experience I’ve had since Cadillac’s Super Cruise. It’ll still ask you to put your hands on the wheel from time to time but far less so than others.
And the heads-up display is awesome showing you adjacent cars, providing blind zone alerts and more. OK Genesis; now it’s time to take it to the next level.
Other things I like: the massaging driver’s seat with 3 programs, the Sounds of Nature programs that create relaxing ambiance, the Passenger Talk and Quiet Modes perfect for family communications and preserving nap time, the Surround View Monitor with an easy access button, and the slide and recline theater-style 2nd row seats that provide lots of long trip comfort and lastly remote start on the fob.
Another feature that’s very cool but I doubt I’d use very much is the remote parking assistant, or what Hyundai refers to as Smart Park. It also works with parallel parking. How about that? Needless to say, there’s a lot going on with the Advanced+ trim – it’s loaded – but there’s even more waiting in the Prestige Package if you leave the 3rd row behind – with one of the biggest gets being the 3D Digital Cluster because this one isn’t much to write home about. It also doesn’t split right and left-hand turn camera views but instead displays them both on the right.
The only other knocks I can find are 1) there’s no smart key entry on the rear doors and 2) the GV80 is thirsty. It’s rated at 20mpg on premium but I’ve barely been able to get over 15 this week. That trails its less powerful competitors like the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE. But dollar for dollar, Genesis is giving you a bargain here. Comparably equipped, $66 grand over at BMW is getting you an X3 M40i not an X5.
But as they begin their 5th model year, most people I know don’t even know what Genesis is or where to find one. And that will undoubtedly be their biggest hurdle.