Forget Q7, X5, RX and GLE for now. Genesis’s first sports utility vehicle needs to make an impression by defeating our favourite large luxury SUV, the Volkswagen Touareg.
Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand has introduced the sedans that are still a requisite for an aspiring premium carmaker – the G70 and G80 – but now it’s time for one of its new SUVs that will be most critical to its success… Or otherwise.
The Genesis GV80 is the larger of two SUVs, sitting above the forthcoming GV70 and sharing its platform with the G80 limo.
The exterior design is certainly no shrinking violet and will no doubt have both its admirers and detractors, though it’s arguably better to be polarising than anonymous when you’re a new brand looking to establish itself.
If you’re detecting hints of Bentley styling – most notably via the large grille, but also the uncannily similar Genesis badge – the GV80 is the work of the British luxury brand’s former head of design, Luc Donckerwolke.
Four variants have been lined up for Australia, providing potential buyers with a usefully varied selection. There’s a four-cylinder turbo available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, an all-wheel-drive six-cylinder turbo diesel, and an all-wheel-drive six-cylinder turbo petrol.
The two four-cylinder models feature a five-seater layout, while the all-wheel-drive variants add a third row for seven seats.
And for simplicity, the equipment grade is almost identical for each variant, with prices starting from $90,600.
For good reasons, we chose the GV80 3.0D AWD model for this comparison. Diesel power remains significantly popular in this segment, and it’s our first chance to try Genesis’s brand-new 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder oil-burner.
Genesis may have aspirations of taking on the Germans, as well as Japan’s Lexus, but we’ve opted to skip the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Lexus RX and Mercedes-Benz GLE, and instead pitch the GV80 against our current benchmark large luxury SUV.
The Volkswagen Touareg may be from a carmaker known as more of a semi-premium brand, yet in a 2019 CarAdvice comparison it defeated both the X5 and GLE.
That was a 190TDI Premium model that recently disappeared, but more than replaced with a four-strong range comprising three versions of the same V6 diesel, plus a V8 borrowed from the aforementioned Bentayga.
With the Genesis GV80 diesel priced at $103,600 before on-road costs, and our test car equipped with a $10,000 optional Luxury Package, we’ve matched it with the Touareg 210TDI R-Line. This is priced from $108,990, with our test car pushed up to $114,590 with a couple of options.
The third-generation Touareg is a five-seater, as the model has always been. This gifts the diesel GV80 one advantage as it’s a seven-seater as standard.
PRICING AND EQUIPMENT
The Genesis GV80 starts from $90,600, making it the most expensive start point yet for a vehicle range from Korea. And the 3.0D follows the G80 to take the Hyundai Motor Group into even fresher, six-figure territory.
Don’t necessarily expect the opportunity to negotiate a better deal, either, as Genesis has adopted a firm fixed-price strategy, instead aiming to indulge potential buyers with an abundance of features plus ownership bonuses such as free servicing. (Mercedes-Benz Australia is set to follow suit with fixed pricing in 2022.)
It has also adopted a more Lexus-like approach to equipment, loading each GV80 with lots of kit and just that single option package, rather than the plethora of extras offered by the likes of Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes.
Standard feature highlights include huge 22-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated electric front seats, 14.5-inch infotainment display, head-up display, electrically adjustable steering wheel with heating, panoramic sunroof, surround-view, leather upholstery and a 21-speaker Lexicon audio system.
Key additions via the $10,000 Luxury Package are three-zone climate control, massage function for the front seats, digital instrument cluster, advanced LED headlights, soft-close doors, heated and ventilated rear outboard seats, and an upholstery upgrade to nappa leather.
Volkswagen may not be renowned for astounding value when its models are compared with mainstream rivals, but the manufacturer is clearly aware it needs to outgun the established German luxury brands with equipment to partly compensate for its relative lack of badge cachet.
That’s particularly true of the Touareg 210TDI variants. While the entry Touareg 170TDI sits down at $81,600, the 210TDI Elegance and our featured 210TDI R-Line are priced surprisingly close to the Audi Q7.
Yet, the 210TDI R-Line not only includes some features found on the flagship SQ7 that cost tens of thousands more, this Touareg also competes strongly with the GV80 even with the Genesis in Luxury guise.
Although it sits on relatively smaller 20-inch wheels, it too offers high-tech headlights (‘Matrix’ LED), heated/ventilated/massage front seats, all-digital displays including a 15.0-inch infotainment screen, electric/heated steering wheel and premium R-Line seating (‘Savona’ leather appointed).
With a $3500 Sound and Vision Package, the VW has dual-zone climate control for the rear seats as well as up front, while also adding a 730-watt, 14-speaker Dynaudio hi-fi, heating function for the outer-rear seats, parking auto-brake, Park Assist Plus, and surround-view camera.
The Touareg only can’t match the ventilated outer seats or soft-close doors of the Genesis, though a panoramic sunroof is also an unexpected option. However, we would be bargaining with a VW dealer to throw that into the deal for no cost.
And the 210TDI R-Line has two technical features shared with the flagship V8 Touareg that the GV80 doesn’t offer: all-wheel steering and active roll stabilisation (which you can read more about in the On The Road section).
|2021 Genesis GV80 3.0D||2021 VW Touareg 210TDI R-Line|
|Engine||3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel||3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel|
|Power and torque||204kW at 3800rpm, 588Nm at 1500–3000rpm||219kW at 4000rpm, 600Nm at 1750–3000rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed automatic||Eight-speed automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||8.8L/100km||6.8L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||10.2L/100km||8.7L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||724L (third-row seats down); 2144L (all rear seats down)||810L/1800L (rear seats folded)|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not yet tested||5 stars (tested 2018)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Audi Q7, BMW X5, Lexus RX, Mercedes GLE, VW Touareg, Volvo XC90||Audi Q7, BMW X5, Genesis GV80, Lexus RX, Mercedes GLE, Volvo XC90|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$113,600||$114,590|
The GV80’s interior design shares much with the related G80 large luxury sedan, including its range of two-tone colour combinations and all-black option, plus a variety of genuine wood panels.
There’s some visual differentiation. Beyond the obvious higher-set seating, these include driver and front passenger kneepads, chunkier door trim that incorporates stylish, diagonal stitching, and a bridge-style centre console that rises to meet the dashboard.
We’ve yet to experience a G80 or GV80 with standard leather, though the Luxury Package’s diamond-quilted nappa leather seating certainly helps emphasise cabin plushness – as does its suede for the headlining and pillars. Fit and finish are impressive.
If there’s a fault, Genesis hasn’t taken a particularly progressive approach to luxury interior design. It still looks fairly traditional – including a steering wheel that is seemingly inspired by a 1990s Jaguar XJ – and there’s a missed opportunity for greater use of sustainable materials.
The front cabin could also be more practical for an SUV. The door compartments are slim and unable to properly accommodate drink bottles. However, the ‘bridge’ centre console is highly useful – providing both a twin-lid cubby and a storage section beneath.
Explore the lower levels of the Touareg’s cabin and the Volkswagen proves to be more semi-premium with fairly extensive use of hard plastics. From mid-level upwards, the German SUV is far more convincing – and its dashboard does a better impression of high-tech luxury than its Korean rival.
The Touareg’s 15.0-inch infotainment display is visually arresting, almost single-handedly making a statement that this is Volkswagen’s flagship model. No other vehicle in the company’s line-up features this screen. (And while not standard in the cheaper 170TDI Touareg, it is an option.)
VW Group digital instrument clusters are also among the best in the business, regardless of segment.
The Touareg’s door pockets, as in all VW’s SUVs, are brilliant for their generous size and flocked bottoms, though overall the GV80 has more useful storage places up front. The Touareg’s centre console compartment is surprisingly tiny, and its cupholder section can’t be secreted away with a lid as in the Genesis.
There’s a key sign in the rear of the GV80 that the SUV isn’t being pitched as the chauffeured-conveyance equivalent of the G80 sedan: the Luxury Package for the high-riding model doesn’t bring the rear entertainment system complete with dedicated armrest console and dual seatback screens. (Explaining why the option pack is $10,000 for the SUV rather than $13,000 for the sedan.)
In every other respect, though, passengers should feel sufficiently spoilt. There’s generous space, the outer-rear seats feature electric cushion and (extensive) recline adjustment (in addition to heating/ventilation functions), there are electric window blinds (via the Luxury Package), and even vanity mirrors that can be flicked down in the ceiling.
The sunroof is divided into two sections, but while not truly panoramic, it serves the purpose of adding welcome extra light to the cabin.
Cupholders slide (impressively smoothly) out of the leading edge of the armrest, and USB and 12V sockets are positioned below the rear vents. There are also seatback pouches, though the door cubbies are poor for storage.
A third row is a bonus over the Touareg, though the GV80 should be considered more of a 5+2 than a full seven-seater. It’s not a comfortable area for adults, with cramped leg room and negligible head room, while smaller children are precluded by the absence of both ISOFIX and top-tether points.
Knee space is similarly an issue in the third rows of the Audi Q7 and Lexus RX L, though those models feature top-tethers.
Ingress and egress aren’t particularly graceful, with a fairly slim gap after a convenient one-touch button has slid and tilted the outboard middle-row seat forward in one movement. There is a smart return function where, once the third-row passenger has clambered in/out, the seatback angles back to its original position automatically once the cushion has been pulled backwards.
Side curtains cover all three rows.
Over in the Touareg, rear passengers are also treated to a significant amount of leg room as well as similar head room to the GV80. It, too, can fit three adults across its bench, though its taller transmission hump impinges on middle-seat leg room.
The Volkswagen doesn’t match the plushness of the Genesis, though. As nice as the R-Line upholstery is, it doesn’t feel or look as expensive as the GV80’s leather, while harder plastics are more prevalent.
The Touareg’s seatback recline is manually rather than electrically adjusted and has less range. The outer rear seats have heating but not ventilation, and the side blinds are manually pulled up/down.
There’s greater travel for its second-row bench (split 60/40), however, and the VW’s rear door cubbies are much more practical. There are two USB-C ports and a 12-volt socket below the central rear air vents.
Raise the electric tailgates and the Touareg leads on quoted capacities: 810L versus 727L.
With second-row seats in their default positions, the GV80 has the longer cargo floor – 1100mm v 1000mm – though the Touareg’s seats move further forward if extra luggage space is needed.
The VW’s boot also offers a width that is wider by 25mm and consistent from loading lip to seatback, where wheel housings encroach more on the Genesis’s boot space.
Both boots feature a reversible mat, cargo cover, tie-down points and 12-volt socket. The Touareg also provides flip-out bag hooks, floor net and a cargo barrier net.
There are electric buttons galore in the GV80’s boot, which with one touch automatically fold/raise both the second- and third-row seats. There are pull-release levers in the VW.
Each set of seatbacks is configured in the most versatile 40-20-40 arrangement. The GV80’s fold the flattest, though the Touareg’s aren’t far off. Maximum cargo capacity is in the former’s favour: 2144L versus 1800L.
The GV80 is not only the first SUV in Genesis’s portfolio, but it’s also the first model to offer diesel power. It’s not the 2.2-litre four-cylinder motor familiar from the Hyundai Group, either, but an all-new 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder. It produces 204kW and the most torque of any Genesis engine: 588Nm.
And it’s a peach of a diesel. With minimal vibrations even at standstill, the GV80’s straight-six is silky smooth and remarkably free of traditional diesel clatter. It’s also satisfyingly responsive in the key areas of its rev range – down low and in the middle. Lag is virtually non-existent from a turbocharger that employs variable geometry and a water-to-air intercooler.
Genesis’s in-house-developed eight-speed torque converter auto makes its own valuable contribution, with smooth and well-timed shifts befitting a luxury vehicle.
Combined with an on-demand all-wheel-drive system aiding traction, the 3.0-litre turbo diesel’s acceleration helps disguise the GV80’s portly 2267kg.
For those interested in performance numbers, Genesis says the GV80 3.0D can reach 100km/h from standstill in 6.8 seconds. That’s 1.3 seconds slower than the flagship 3.5T variant, and also seven-tenths shy of VW’s 6.1-second claim for the Touareg 210TDI.
The 210TDI, which also uses a 3.0-litre six-cylinder but in a more conventional vee configuration, serves up a bit more power and torque, with 210kW and 600Nm.
With the added benefit of being asked to propel a vehicle nearly 100kg lighter than the Genesis, the 210TDI feels the more potent performer – delivering the sensation of being pushed back into the seatback under hard acceleration that’s not quite there in the GV80.
This is another nicely refined diesel, too, and paired with an equally slick eight-speed auto.
The Touareg, however, isn’t as prompt as the GV80 when you’re looking to quickly move off from a standing start, such as to enter a roundabout or join a road from a junction. Push the VW’s throttle pedal hard and, after an initial movement, there’s a distinct pause before everything hooks up.
Official, lab-derived results suggest the Touareg’s turbo diesel is about 30 per cent more fuel efficient, rated at 6.8 litres per 100km compared with 8.8L/100km for the GV80 3.0D.
The widest gap of indicated consumption during our time with the cars was during intra-suburban driving, when the GV80 returned 12.1L/100km to the Touareg’s 10.5L/100km. The VW’s figure may have improved with the stop-start function it has over the Genesis, though the system was locked out for this trip owing to the need for the air-con to keep its driver cool on a very hot day.
A 20km cross-city commute, though, produced identical consumption of 8.3L/100km, while our long-distance testing that involved significant freeway time had the Touareg slightly ahead with 7.2L/100km versus 7.4L/100km.
Volkswagen’s diesel is also an emissions step ahead – classified Euro 6 to the GV80’s Euro 5, courtesy of a separate AdBlue tank that reduces nitrogen oxide in the exhaust system via a sprayed solution of urea and distilled water.
The 2021 Touareg also adopts a larger fuel tank, increasing from 75L to 90L to extend its driving range between fills. The GV80’s fuel tank isn’t small at 80L, though.
For buyers looking to hitch up a boat, caravan or trailer, the Touareg 210TDI has a 3500kg maximum towing capacity with a towball download rating of 230kg (down on the 290kg towball rating of the Touareg 170TDI), while the GV80 3.0D’s respective figures are 2722kg and 182kg.
ON THE ROAD
There are some interesting technologies found on both the Genesis GV80 and Volkswagen Touareg that influence the driving experience.
The GV80 3.0D (as well as the 3.5T) features an auto-adaptive suspension that uses the vehicle’s front camera to pre-empt upcoming bumps and adjust the reaction of the dampers accordingly.
If the tech sounds familiar, it was pioneered by the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, where it was called Magic Body Control. It’s still available on the German brand’s rival for the GV80, though it’s a $13,000 option.
The GV80 doesn’t ride as consistently comfortably as its G80 limousine twin. The SUV is less successful at fully absorbing bumps around town, while at higher speeds on typical country roads it feels underdamped – especially in the softest Comfort setting of the driver-selectable damping – and generally lacks the desired body control.
Experiencing the back seats for one section of countryside motoring, the GV80’s shuddery, fidgety nature was a start contrast to the relatively soothing nature of the Touareg 210TDI. You could happily work away in the back or read a book in the VW’s back seat and be pleasantly oblivious to the bumpy surface beneath.
Choosing Sport slightly improves the Genesis’s body control but not comfort.
It’s true the GV80 comes standard with massive 22-inch wheels, though Audi’s e-tron proves a big SUV on rims of this size can ride very well. We’ve yet to test 2.5T variants to assess whether their standard 20-inch wheels improve matters.
The GV80 is at its best on the freeway where its soft suspension works in its favour. It’s also impressively quiet at 110km/h, the GV80 using the same acoustic glass (windscreen and front side windows) and cabin-hushing technology that works in the same way as noise-cancelling headphones as the G80. The SUV’s bigger (but same-brand Michelin) tyres just produce more road noise compared with the sedan.
The Touareg 210TDI, relying on physical sound-deadening measures alone, is even quieter, though, offering a calm to its cabin on the move that almost alone qualifies it for genuine ‘luxury car’ status.
Riding on standard air suspension on 210TDI models upwards, the Volkswagen also delivers a refined ride at all speeds and on all types of roads. (The base 170TDI on steel springs is less successful in this respect.)
The Touareg 210TDI R-Line also gains all-wheel steering and active roll stabilisation over 170TDI and 210TDI Elegance variants – technologies that are available on the related Audi Q7, but only the $161,500 SQ7 flagship. Even then, the Active Roll is a $10,900 option.
Around town, all-wheel steering shaves a full metre off the Touareg’s turning circle – 11.2m instead of 12.2m – with the rear wheels being turned slightly by hydraulic actuators in an opposite direction to the front wheels up to 37km/h.
It makes the Touareg more manoeuvrable in tight spaces than the GV80 with its 12.0m turning circle. Above 37km/h, the Touareg’s rear wheels follow the direction of the fronts for better stability.
And the Touareg 210TDI R-Line indeed provides highly assured handling on the open road, with the active roll stabilisation feature that’s powered by a 48-volt lithium-ion battery under the boot floor.
Comprising electromechanical anti-roll bars front and rear, which each feature a motor that twists each end in an opposite direction to counter cornering forces and natural body movement, the Touareg sits impressively flat for an SUV when negotiating bends. On straight roads, the bars decouple for less stiffness.
The VW’s steering is arguably a little lighter than ideal for a vehicle of the Touareg’s size and weight, yet there’s a welcome smoothness and accuracy to its action.
The GV80’s steering feels better weighted in its Comfort mode (Sport is too artificially heavy), but feels woolly around the straight-ahead. The Genesis’s active lane-keep system is also a little too intrusive for our liking. This driving aid can be switched off by holding the Steer Assist button on the steering wheel for a few seconds, though as a default function it will return every time you restart the vehicle.
While most owners are unlikely to venture off-road in these luxury SUVs, the GV80 and Touareg are both capable on dirt and gravel with good traction and good comfort. The VW is just that bit better at filtering out corrugations.
The failure of Nissan’s Infiniti brand in Australia (and Europe) proves it’s no easy task for a mainstream manufacturer to challenge established luxury marques.
The mighty financial backing of the Hyundai Group means Genesis has the time and resources to eventually establish its identity, yet the GV80 follows the G80 in at least demonstrating the Koreans are leading with highly commendable products.
The GV80’s interior is genuinely luxurious and lavishly equipped, and Genesis’s new straight-six turbo diesel is an absolute gem of an engine that is a stand-out in the segment.
On freeways, the effortless diesel combines nicely with the SUV’s soft suspension to cover long distances with ease.
The GV80’s road manners are not quite the complete article, though, as Genesis’s large SUV isn’t as compliantly comfortable as it could be over the more challenging surfaces of urban and country roads.
Volkswagen’s Touareg in contrast scores highly for both ride comfort and roadholding, the 210TDI R-Line benefitting from sophisticated underpinnings combining air suspension and electro-hydraulic anti-roll bars.
Its cabin technology impresses, too, with digital displays that ultimately outsmart those in the GV80, and are fundamental in compensating for an interior that doesn’t feel as richly constructed as that of its Korean rival (or those from Audi, BMW and Mercedes).
And while the Touareg’s V6 diesel isn’t quite as marvellous as the GV80’s inline six-cylinder diesel, it’s still smooth and enjoyably rich in torque, while also having the edge in fuel efficiency.
As Volkswagen’s flagship model, the Touareg is highly convincing.