Home Reviews First Drives Genesis GV80 First Drive Review: The Fledgling Luxury Brand hits a Homerun

Genesis GV80 First Drive Review: The Fledgling Luxury Brand hits a Homerun


The GV80 makes you question why the competition charges so much more.

Hyundai’s luxury brand, Genesis, finally has released their entry into the SUV market. Why did Hyundai choose to start the Genesis brand off with three sedans in a declining sedan market? Perhaps it was to make sure they got their SUV right, and the GV80 gets a lot right. During my short time with the GV80 I came away very impressed by the overall execution from such a young brand. 

Looking over the spec sheet, the GV80 stacks up well against The German, American, and Japanese competition. With two powerful  engines available, you can choose the right balance of power and fuel efficiency.  Our tester was fitted with the  2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder producing 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque.

If you’re feeling spirited, there’s a snappy 3.5-liter turbocharged six cylinder making 375 hp and 383 lb-ft. Both engine options are matched with an 8-speed automatic transmission and your choice of rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive, if you spec the V6. These drivetrain combinations closely match their competitors such as the BMW X5 40i and the Mercedes GLE350. I was able to spend a couple days with the RWD, 2.5-liter version.

Genesis GV80 Turbo engine under the hood

Is that a Bentley?

“Is that a Bentley?” was a question I was asked more than once while driving the GV80. I can see some resemblance in the exterior design to the Bentley in question, the $160,000 Bentayga SUV. This speaks volumes about the great job Genesis’s designer, Jung MyungJin, has done on the exterior. With its quad LED headlights and full LED tail lights that wrap around the rear quarter panels like the headlights up front. This is one of the most unique Genesis design elements to make the GV80 stand out from its competitors and become instantly recognizable. Our tester has 20-inch wheels, but 22-inchers are available and look much better as they fill the wheel arches. Be sure to avoid the base alloys as they make the GV80 look like a low rent airport limo with only 19-inch, 10 double spoke alloys that leave too much tire sidewall.

Genesis GV80 pictured from the front

The GV80 is a head turner on the outside, however the interior is where the GV80 shines. Genesis used the concept of “luxury-in-space” when designing the interior of the GV80 and that shows as soon as you open the door.  You are greeted with high-quality materials, gorgeous two-tone leather interior trim, and a huge panoramic sunroof. In the case of our tester, the interior color combination was “Ultramarine Blue” over “Dune”beige.

This interior design selection, combined with the “Adriatic Blue” exterior color makes the GV80 look and feel very upmarket. Once you sit down on the diamond quilted leather seats that are heated and cooled up front, you realize how lovely of a SUV this is. The driver seat even has massage settings which Genesis calls “Ergo Motion”, sadly this feature is only available for the driver. The seat has three different massage settings, I preferred the “pelvic stretching” mode over the full body massage or just lumbar massage settings. There are even settings that can help with your posture. You do this by entering your physical data into the menu on the infotainment screen. Then the car will automatically calibrate the seat to find the ideal seating position for you, which is pretty impressive.  Volvo, the king of comfortable seats doesn’t even offer a setting to help with your back. The driver seat in the GV80 is a wonderfully comfortable space.

As a passenger, you are left out a little bit. The front passenger seat is heated and cooled but lacks a lot of adjustment. The passenger seat could not be adjusted low enough for me, I felt as if I was sitting on top of the car. During my time with the GV80 I also learned that there are two adjustment buttons on the side of the passenger seatback, facing the driver. These buttons are used to adjust the seat forward and tilt the backrest forward from the rear seat. However, these buttons are not deactivated when someone is sitting in the front passenger seat.

The front seats and dash of the Genesis GV80

So, if you have children or friends in the back seat and they figure this out, you can be moved forward until your knees smash into the dashboard or are folded in half like a piece of paper. The rear seats in the GV80 are also very comfortable. The rear seats were heated in my tester but they can also be cooled on the six-cylinder Prestige model. Passengers in the back seats get their own climate control as well, so no complaining about being too hot or too cold. The rear seats also can be moved in many directions; forward, backward, and backrest reclining  to an almost gangster like lean.

The Ride

The GV80 I tested was the entry-level, rear wheel drive version, with the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine which was upgraded with the Prestige package which adds 20inch alloys, the Ergo-Motion seat, heated rear seats and Remote Smart Parking Assist. This setup is good to launch the Genesis to 60-mph in 6.4 seconds which places it just behind comparable vehicles in its class.

While the Genesis can accelerate quickly on paper, I suggest avoiding hard accelerations as the four cylinder sounds very harsh and unrefined at higher RPMs. Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. I managed to match the city rating during my short time with the GV80. Based on my impressions of the interior and exterior design, my mind was firmly made up that the GV80 must have a comfortable, plush, and relaxing ride. However, out on the road I realized that Genesis had a different idea in mind.

Genesis GV80 from the rear

While driving the GV80 you feel almost every bump in the road. The suspension rebound over potholes or frost heaves would cause harsh thumps and jolts throughout the cabin. The rear of the vehicle would even hop over highway expansion joints. Genesis appears to have tuned the suspension to be on the sporty side. This is in stark contrast to how I perceived this car getting into it for the first time. I just want to sink into the comfortable seats and let the world melt away on my commute. Changing the drive modes does little to improve the suspension harshness, comfort mode is still much too aggressive for a luxury car ride. 


The GV80 is bristling with modern technology. Everything from Advanced Driver Assistance features to built in audio settings to make driving a more calming experience.There’s a gorgeous and functional 14.5-inch touch screen sitting atop the dashboard. The infotainment has small bezels, crisp graphics, and is very responsive to my inputs.

The most common use functions are closest to the driver and I found using the touch screen to be much easier than the alternate way to control the system, using the scroll wheel on the center console. Like other Hyundai products, there is a star button which can be used to save your favorite function. I found myself saving mine to Apple CarPlay. One of my favorite menus in the infotainment was the setting for “Nature Sounds.” In this setting the GV80 can replicate a “Lively Forest” or an “Open Air Café” and after a stressful day at the office, it was actually relaxing to listen to, even just for a few minutes.

The Lexicon audio system is excellent. I did not spend any time with the base audio set up, but I highly recommend the 1050 watt, 21 speaker Lexicon option. With the Lexicon, my playlists were crisp and clear, even at high volumes. Of course, the GV80 comes with a full suite of driver assistance and safety features. Including a 360-degree surround view camera system, Smart Cruise Control with Machine learning which, according to Genesis, “learns the driving characteristics of the driver and implements autonomous driving similar to that of human drivers.”

The parking and gear shift for the Genesis GV80

Another ADAS function is Highway Driving Assistant II active lane centering, which includes automatic lane changes, forward collision warning and avoidance, blind spot monitoring with collision avoidance, rear cross traffic alert, and a driver attention monitor. Genesis has given the GV80 all the above features as standard, so even the entry level model with no additional features will be just as safe as a fully spec’d model.

The Value Proposition

Our tester came in at $58,475. (Adding all-wheel drive would increase that price by $5,750). That is an amazing value compared to the competition. To get the options outfitted on this GV80 you would spend $10,000 more on a rival brand such as the BMW X5 40i or a Mercedes-Benz GLE350. Which really does make me ask the question “why do the others cost so much more?” After spending just a few days with the GV80, I am smitten by it. Will Genesis win over steadfast BMW or Mercedes Benz buyers? I am not sure. Genesis is still a new, young brand and I think that will hold them back from winning over legacy buyers, much like Lexus and Acura in the nineties. 

I think that Genesis will sell to new buyers in the luxury market. Young professionals looking to differentiate themselves will be the ones to buy the GV80 first. The Genesis GV80 is just hitting showrooms now and it won’t be long until we start seeing them on the roads and parked at your local Starbucks.

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