Genesis is the latest challenger brand to the established luxury car makers, and it’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of Lexus rather than Infiniti (at least outside of the US).
The new premium marque from Hyundai started with a couple of executive sedans, but in terms of truly sales-critical models the most significant attention is naturally focused on its new SUVs.
You can add Volkswagen’s highly convincing Touareg to the mix, too, even if it’s only a five-seater when the rest are all offered either exclusively as seven-seaters (Q7, XC90), with a third-row option (X5 and GLE), or as a mix of five- and seven-seaters (RX).
The Genesis GV80 follows the Lexus, with two four-cylinder models offered in five-seater configuration and six-cylinder models standard with seven seats.
Pricing starts from $90,600 before on-road costs for a GV80 with a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, jumping to $95,600 for buyers seeking all-wheel drive rather than rear drive.
Six-cylinder (AWD) variants take a Korean model into uncharted, six-figure territory. The 3.0D diesel costs from $103,600 and the 3.5T petrol flagship is from $108,600.
Our test vehicle here is arguably the most intriguing of the group – the 3.0D that debuts a brand new inline six-cylinder turbo diesel engine for the Hyundai Group. And the GV80 is the only Genesis currently to feature the motor, at least in Australia.
|2021 Genesis GV80 3.0D Luxury|
|Engine||3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power and torque||204kW at 3800rpm, 588Nm at 1500–3000rpm|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||8.8L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||10.2L/100km|
|Boot volume||724L (3rd-row seats down); 2144L (all rear seats down)|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not yet tested|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Audi Q7, BMW X5, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Volkswagen Touareg, Volvo XC90|
|Price as tested (excluding on-road costs)||From $113,600|
You can read our more detailed Genesis GV80 price and specifications feature here, though in summary the large SUV is equipped more liberally than your average large luxury SUV.
And there’s only one option, applicable to all variants. The Luxury Package adds $10,000 to the above prices, grouping about a dozen upgrades covering technology, convenience and materials.
The interior’s fit and finish would impress without the package, though there’s no doubt the introduction of quilted nappa leather upholstery (over standard leather) and liberal use of suede for the headlining and pillars take the GV80 cabin’s plushness up an extra notch.
Genuine wood panels feature along the dash and on the doors and soft-touch materials are virtually everywhere you touch. The diamond-quilted leather even extends to kneepads for the front occupants.
Buyers have a choice of two-tone colour schemes plus an all-black option.
The steering wheel design is quite polarising and Genesis could have applied more sustainable materials to be properly progressive, though overall the GV80 succeeds in creating an amply posh interior that not only warrants worthy comparison with rivals but has its own visual identity.
Rear occupants are also pampered. Aside from generous space all round, including the ability to fit three adults across the bench, there’s a huge range of electric adjustment for the outboard cushions and seatbacks.
These also feature heating and ventilation with the Luxury Package, which also brings electrically operated side-window shades. (The front seats warm/cool as standard.)
The standard dual-section sunroof provides extra light for the interior.
Adults will prefer to avoid the third row, which has severely limited headroom and minimal legroom. While this is a similar experience to the rearmost seats of rivals like the Q7 and RX, the Audi and Lexus at least provide top-tether points to secure child seats in the third row. So, while there is seating flexibility, it is limited.
Keep the extra seats tucked away into the floor – via electric operation – and the GV80 offers a quoted boot capacity of 727 litres (marginally less than the 735L of the five-seater variants).
That’s less than the figures quoted for the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLE (in 7-seater guise) and Volkswagen Touareg but higher than those for the BMW X5, Lexus RX and Volvo XC90.
Under the bonnet, Genesis follows the Q7, X5 and GLE with a choice of petrol and diesel engines for the GV80. The RX is petrol or hybrid, the Touareg diesel only, and the XC90 offers petrol, hybrid and diesel.
The 3.0D adopts the same (longitudinal) inline six-cylinder format as the X5 and GLE diesels.
With 204kW (at 3800rpm) and 588Nm (from 1500-3000rpm), the GV80 3.0D’s outputs are also competitive with the power and torque produced by those German engines, as well as the diesel in the Q7.
The fractionally cheaper Q7 45TDI and more expensive Q7 50TDI have 170kW/500Nm and 210kW/600Nm, respectively; the slightly more expensive GLE300d has 180kW/500Nm; the X5 30d that costs about $120,000 produces 195kW and 620Nm.
Performance is also in the ballpark for an all-wheel-drive large luxury SUV. Genesis claims the GV80 3.0D will conduct the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.8 seconds, which is quicker than the 7.2sec quoted for the GLE300d though slower than the 6.5sec quoted for both the X5 30d and Q7 50TDI.
For range reference, the 3.0D is a tenth quicker than the 2.5T variants and 1.3 seconds slower than the 3.5T turbo petrol six-cylinder GV80.
Numbers aside, the Genesis diesel is terrific – and arguably the SUV’s best engine. Although a hard push of the throttle pedal doesn’t push occupants forcefully into their seatbacks quite like it does with some rivals, the GV80 3.0D is impressively responsive from low revs and accelerates with satisfying purpose.
It’s also remarkably quiet, devoid of the clatter typical of the diesel-engine breed. An ultra-smooth drivetrain experience is completed with the Genesis-developed eight-speed auto.
The main gripe is fuel efficiency, which at a rated 8.8 litres per 100km makes the GV80 3.0D noticeably thirstier than rivals.
The Q7 and Touareg are as low as 6.8L/100km, the GLE300d is 6.9L/100km and the X5 30d is 7.2L/100km.
It’s possible to achieve indicated consumption in the mid-7.0s if a large percentage of driving time is spent on freeways. We recorded an average 10.2L/100km based on a city-to-suburb commuting run (8.3L/100km) and an intra-suburb drive (12.1L/100km).
An 80-litre fuel tank at least ensures visits to petrol stations won’t be too frequent.
The GV80 doesn’t offer air suspension as with rivals such as the Q7, Touareg 210TDI or GLE300d, instead settling for a combination of traditional steel springs and (on higher-spec models) electronically controlled dampers that pre-empt road bumps.
Genesis’s Road Preview Electronic Control Suspension uses a forward camera to monitor the road surface ahead for potholes or prominent bump, then tailors the damping force depending on the abnormalities it spots.
It’s a technology that was pioneered by Mercedes on its 2013 S-Class, though for the GLE it’s a staggeringly expensive option at $13,000.
The GV80 3.0D’s ride isn’t as soothing as a G80 3.5T that features the same electronically controlled damping but weights nearly 250kg less and rides on 20-inch wheels compared with the SUV’s enormous 22s.
The SUV’s suspension works acceptably on urban roads, if a little busier than ideal at times (and not as impressively as an Audi E-Tron SUV on same-size 22-inch wheels).
On country roads, though, there’s excessive fidgeting and a shortage of body control with the dampers set in Comfort. Switching to Sport partly reduces lean through corners but brings a jitteriness to the ride.
The GV80 is in its sweetspot when rolling along smooth freeways, when it complements that delightfully effortless diesel engine.
This was also the case for the GV80 3.5T variant we sampled at Drive Car of the Year testing, and overall it leaves the Genesis struggling to match the relaxing all-round progress provided by direct competitors such as the Lexus RX450hL, Volkswagen Touareg 210TDI or an air-sprung Volvo XC90.
Some drivers may also prefer to switch off the lane-keep assist as it tends to be intrusive rather than helpful, tugging at the steering when there’s even the slightest sniff of a lane marking around. The system can be turned off either via the infotainment display or by holding a button on the steering wheel, but it reverts to the default setting every time you turn the vehicle off.
Although the GV80 3.0D’s huge tyres generate more noise than the 20s on the G80, Genesis’s SUV still provides respectably quiet motoring. As with the sedan, it benefits from both acoustic glass (for the windscreen and front-side windows) and an active noise-suppression system (via the Luxury Package) that works in the same way as noise-cancellation headphones.
It’s clear Genesis wants to replicate Lexus’s much-admired reputation for customer service.
After becoming the first luxury brand to introduce a five-year warranty in Australia (pipping Lexus’s then-benchmark four-year warranty), Genesis provides complimentary servicing for the first five years as well as 24/7 roadside assistance. This can save thousands of dollars compared with rival models.
Genesis studios will also collect and return vehicles due for a service, and provide a courtesy vehicle for the interim. The caveat is that owners must live within 70km of those showrooms – and for now there’s only a studio in Sydney, with Melbourne and Brisbane following later this year (Q2 and second half, respectively).
The forthcoming GV70 mid-sized SUV will be expected to be Genesis’s best-selling model, but the GV80 is also a crucial model – serving as a flagship model that needs to help the Korean luxury brand make a statement.
And, as with the G80 sedan, it’s clear Genesis has no intention of playing the shrinking violet, with both bold exterior styling and – in the case of this GV80 3.0D – bold, $100,000-plus pricing.
While a loftier pricing position increases the challenge of swaying buyers away from older brands, the GV80 looks and feels suitably expensive.
Importantly, the plush, well-crafted and feature-rich interior is elevated above the cabin of Hyundai’s most expensive SUV, the Palisade.
Genesis is also clearly aiming to make customers feel special with its concierge service for its complimentary (five-year) maintenance program, relatively long warranty, and an app-based Lifestyle service for the first two years of original ownership that brings various benefits.
A luxury vehicle isn’t complete without a refined driving experience, though, and in this respect the GV80 3.0D brings mixed results.
For performance and driveability, the brand’s all-new six-cylinder turbo diesel is a peach – a torquey, responsive and impressively quiet motor that is one of the best in the segment.
The adaptive suspension isn’t always as compliant as it should be for a luxury SUV, though, despite a Comfort setting that prioritises ride over handling. The overly sensitive lane-keep technology, which can interfere with steering, isn’t ideal, either.