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2021 Genesis GV80 Review: The Hard Part Comes Now

2021 Genesis GV80 | Photo: D.Rufiange
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Daniel Rufiange
On paper, the GV80 has everything it takes to succeed - but challenges lie ahead

Auto123 reviews the 2021 Genesis GV80, in its 3.5L iteration.

The Genesis luxury brand is still, we sometimes forget, in its infancy. The stand-alone brand debuted in 2017 with primarily Hyundai defectors on its roster, notably the G80 and the G90, the natural evolution of the Equus. The third member of the initial trio was the G70 sedan, which was all-new and served to reflect how serious the brand was about sticking around and becoming a player.

Hyundai had been planning and plotting the moment of its premium brand’s birth for a long time. At the end of the 2000s, the automaker was already toying with the idea of a luxury division. It had also tested the market with models that were a little more “posh”. There was the rather timid XG350, introduced in 2001; it was called Grandeur XG in Korea, to give you an idea. Then came the aforementioned Equus, which made its debut at the New York Auto Show in the spring of 2010.

The Hyundai Genesis sedan, offered by the automaker starting in 2008, was a more substantial entry, especially starting in 2015 when it was redesigned to really make it stand out. With this model as its foundation, Genesis the brand then confidently entered the luxury vehicle segment two years later.

2021 Genesis GV80, profile
2021 Genesis GV80, profile | Photo: D.Rufiange

Atypically for the industry in the late 2010s, a time in which SUVs already accounted for the majority of vehicle sales, Genesis entered the fray with three sedans to its name, and nothing else. Realistically, though, we all knew it was just a matter of time before the brand got with the program. And so, this year we’re seeing the launch of the GV80 SUV, and very soon consumers will have the GV70, which we recently got to explore up close and in person; it makes its commercially debut this summer. And there are plenty of other models in the works.

Genesis has been hard at work behind the scenes for the past few years, and we're about to see the fruits of all that labour hit the road. And yet, for the automaker, the hardest work remains ahead. Why? Simple: ask anyone you know outside the automotive industry if they know the Genesis brand.

Four GV80s
The GV80 can be served four ways and with two engines. A 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder powers the 2.5T Select and 2.5T Advanced versions, while a twin-turbocharged 3.5L V6 powers up the 3.5T Advanced and 3.5T Prestige variants. Our tester was the last of these beefier versions.

The power delivered by that beefier powertrain totals 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. That's not outrageously high, quite frankly, because with a weight of 2,240 kg, the GV80 could do with a Weight Watchers plan. I had occasion to drive the 4-cylinder engine with the G80 sedan just prior, and frankly, with 300 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, the difference isn't as great as you might think. A colleague of mine confirmed this, having driven a 4-cylinder GV80.

Which one you should go for is a matter of taste and preference, but also of price: $64,500 and $70,000 with the 4-cylinder GV80, $80,000 and $85,000 with the V6.

Genesis GV80 , front
Genesis GV80 , front | Photo: D.Boshouwers

Genesis uses an interesting, even refreshing approach in that it serves up its models with everything included. No options, no nasty surprises. And the equipment is generous everywhere. Some competing brands, notably certain German ones, would do well to take notes.

And as for the 3.5T Prestige version we drove, it of course comes very generously equipped everything, but the difference in equipment is not huge compared to the less-expensive Advanced variant equipped with the same engine. It's up to you to decide if you really want the extra features, such as Nappa leather seats, microsuede headliner, a 16-way driver's seat with massages instead of 12, a more sophisticated driver attention alert system (it works with a camera), as well as remote intelligent parking assistance.

This version also lets you enjoy an electronic limited-slip differential, a digital display instrument cluster with 3D effect, ventilated second-row seats, and power rear side sunshades.

It's all about luxury. Up to you to decide what those extras are worth to you.

2021 Genesis GV80, three-quarters front
2021 Genesis GV80, three-quarters front | Photo: D.Boshouwers

The driving experience
So Genesis wants to play the luxury card and that's fine. But in turn, it should be ready for consumers’ high expectations, not just in regards to a well-presented interior (which it is), rich materials (which there are) and a full list of features (which it is). But it also has to deliver on the road. In fact, that’S where it most needs to deliver.

And actually, the first few miles were convincing. The smoothness of the ride is really impressive. At highway speeds, however, things got a little disjointed; the model I’d been so enjoying took to vibrating noticeably. This may be a minor issue (the previous driver may have piled through a mega-pothole for all I knew), but that colleague I was referring to earlier had the same vibrating experience with the 4-cylinder engine version.

Once, it's not a big deal; but twice? hmm. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, I still haven't heard back from Genesis regarding the issue.

So for those who are considering a GV80, I would suggest taking it out on the highway and paying attention. Again, this is probably minor, but it's my duty to report it. Note that with the G70, G80, and G90, I never experienced this kind of problem.

2021 Genesis GV80, interior
2021 Genesis GV80, interior | Photo: D.Boshouwers
2021 Genesis GV80, three rows
2021 Genesis GV80, three rows | Photo: D.Boshouwers

The job ahead
I mentioned earlier that for Genesis, most of the work remains to be done. Let me explain. The company has produced, in its short lifespan, several really impressive models, and more are on the way. If that’s so, then, Genesis, can just sit back and kick its feet up, collect the awards and count the sales. Right?

In fact, the opposite is true. Everything depends on how the company manages things over the next few years, how it promotes its products and organizes their distribution and follow-up service, and how well its vehicles do in terms of resale value.

To the latter point, two or three years after Hyundai sold its new Equus for $70,000, you could find models for $25,000 or $30,000 (selling prices, not advertised) on the used-car market. That kills a model. Genesis needs to avoid this kind of situation. If it does, it will prosper quickly. If not, patience will be essential.

2021 Genesis GV80, front grille
2021 Genesis GV80, front grille | Photo: D.Boshouwers

As far as the GV80 is concerned, I wouldn't worry about getting this vehicle. However, I would opt for a lease, just to see how this brand-new model does over the next few years of driving. The G80 has just been recalled for a short-circuit problem related to the brakes, and there’s this vibration issue that frankly left me perplexed.

As for the mechanics, both iterations of the GV80 are interesting. I'd be partial to the V6, because a 4-cylinder engine to power such a heavy beast is not my thing, even if the power is there. It's up to you.

For the rest, you can go ahead, but with caution.

2021 Genesis GV80, name
2021 Genesis GV80, name | Photo: D.Boshouwers

We like

Bang for buck
The novelty effect, the uniqueness of the product
Energetic powertrains

We like less

Those vibrations felt on the highway
Uncertainty about long-term resale value
The multimedia system could be improved (sometimes-complex menu navigation)

The competition

Acura MDX
Audi Q7
Buick Enclave
Cadillac XT6
Infiniti QX60
Jaguar F-Pace
Lexus RX
Lincoln Aviator
Mercedes-Benz GLE
Porsche Cayenne
Volvo XC90

Genesis GV80 2021, three-quarters rear
Genesis GV80 2021, three-quarters rear | Photo: D.Rufiange

Road Tests and Reviews

2021 Genesis GV80
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Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists