2021 Genesis GV80 Test Drive

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Jan 08, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Genesis deals!

2021 Genesis GV80 front shot

Photo: Ron Sessions

With eye-catching curb appeal and a lush cabin worthy of a six-digit premium luxury offering, the 2021 Genesis GV80 is the brand’s first sport-utility. The all-new GV80 shares a platform and many components with the brand’s new premium midsize G80 sedan. It’s available with 5- or 7-passenger capacity.

The midsize GV80’s lineup includes 4-cylinder turbo 2.5T models with rear- or optional all-wheel drive in base, midlevel Advanced or range-topping Prestige trim and twin-turbo V6 3.5T models exclusively with all-wheel drive in base, Advanced, 7-passenger Advanced+ or Prestige trim. Starting prices including the $1,025 destination charge range from $49,925 to $72,375.

Except for optional paint colors, a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive on 2.5T models and a handful of extra-cost accessories, the new Genesis SUV has few options. Each trim level is packed with a long list of standard features and amenities. The well-equipped Genesis GV80 seriously undercuts competing premium midsize SUVs from established European competitors on price such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Audi Q7 and BMW X5 when comparably equipped.

For this report, J.D. Power spent an afternoon driving the 2021 Genesis GV80 lineup over suburban and rural 2-lane roads in Southeastern Michigan, including an extended stint in the photo vehicle, a Prestige-trimmed 2.5-liter 4-cylinder turbo with all-wheel drive. Including the quite reasonable $1,025 destination charge and $400 optional Saville Silver paint, the well-equipped GV80 Prestige 2.5T AWD stickered at $65,225.

Styling and Design - Find the best Genesis deals!

2021 Genesis GV80 rear view

Photo: Ron Sessions

With a presence and curb appeal worthy of a blue-blood European luxury brand offering, the new GV80 showcases the brand’s distinctive pentagonal shield grille which comes off as a tad oversized on the Genesis sedans but looks as right as rain affixed to the handsome SUV. The GV80 sports all-LED exterior lighting in the form of striking horizontal twin hash-marks, which wrap around the four corners of the body and make for an eye-catching light signature at night.

As with all of the new Genesis models, the GV80 has a fresh look that moves it significantly upscale from parent Hyundai and a bold design that sets it apart both from traditional luxury offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz as well as more value-oriented luxury fare by Lexus, Infiniti and Acura.

Sizewise, the new GV80 is close to the Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5, slightly longer and wider but a good 2-3 inches less tall with a tastefully plunging rear roof line and a rear end design that’s more wagonish than blocky SUV. There are a lot of custom touches.

For one, a built-in rear window spoiler continues the trajectory of the plunging roofline and also connects visually to a slicing daylight opening that arcs cleanly over the side windows. The GV80’s longer dash-to-front-axle side proportion gives the Genesis SUV an intrepid cab-rearward, back-on-its-haunches look. The GV80’s clean-but-slightly-muscular flanks are pure sculpture, as if the design went directly from clay to steel. It especially looks great with the dub-worthy 22-inch five-spoke alloy wheels that come with the Prestige AWD trim. All models get pert flat-oval dual exhaust outlets, even the 4-cylinder 2.5T model shown here. 

Features and Controls - Find the best Genesis deals!

2021 Genesis GV80 dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

As alluring as the GV80’s exterior is, the Genesis SUV’s interior is even more striking, a class above traditional cabin masters such as Lexus and Audi. The GV80’s interior is welcoming with soft-touch surfaces everywhere. Even on lower trims, the dash and door trim is wrapped with premium-looking—and feeling—stitched faux leather. A horizontal-themed instrument panel with small, integrated face-level climate-control vents and reduced button clutter sweeps into the doors. Thin windshield pillars and the low-mounted dash convey spaciousness and aid outward visibility. The cabin is a richly tailored sanctuary, hushed by extensive sound-proofing. Materials are top-notch.

Standard on the least-expensive 2.5T RWD trim is faux-leather seating with power heated front buckets with memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, adjustable ambient lighting, pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, aluminum trim and a leather-wrapped power tilt/telescopic steering wheel with paddle shifters. All but the standard 2.5T RWD trim add a standard heated steering wheel as well.

Opting for the 2.5T Advanced trim, all-wheel drive or any 3.5T trim upgrades to ventilated front seats, three-zone climate control and matte-finish wood trim.

Moving up to 2.5T Prestige or Advanced AWD trim brings leather seat coverings, power driver’s seat lateral bolsters and a manual bottom-cushion extension. The top-line 3.5T Prestige model upgrades to sumptuous, quilted-pattern Nappa Leather seat coverings.

No matter the choice of seat coverings, all five of the GV80’s chairs offer premium-luxury comfort for trips both long and short. Prestige models take driver comfort a few notches higher with a standard Ergo Motion driver’s seat. It utilizes pulsations from seven air chambers to deliver seatback massage functions. The seat is also dialed into the driver-selectable drive modes, firming up lateral support for Sport mode and relaxing it when Comfort mode is selected. 

On 3.5T Prestige trim, the GV80’s base 8-inch LCD driver’s display is replaced with a segment-first 12.3-inch 3D instrument panel that appears to vary the depth of different screen elements depending on what angle the driver views them from.

All but the base 2.5T RWD model comes standard with Digital Key which allows the owner and designated friends and family to lock and unlock doors and perform other functions using a cellphone.

Comfort and Cargo - Find the best Genesis deals!

2021 Genesis GV80 dual sunroofs

Photo: Ron Sessions

Despite sharing its underbody platform with the G80 sedan, the GV80’s cargo hold is quite roomy. Providing cargo room comparable to its Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5 competitors, two-row GV80 models offer 34.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 84 cu ft with the rear seats folded. The three-row GV80 Advanced+ (the only model with 7-passenger seating) has 11.6 cu ft of cargo space behind the raised third-row seat, roughly equivalent to that offered in a compact sedan, and the same amount of space behind the second- and first-row seats when folded as the two-row models. The third-row seat has a power folding feature. A roll-out, window-shade-type cargo cover keeps cargo items out of the hot sun and away from prying eyes. Additional storage for small items such as a laptop, purse or camera is available in a compartment under the cargo floor. Cargo access is via a standard hands-free power lift gate that opens with a foot wave under the back bumper.

Spread-out space is ample in the second-row seats which are nearly as comfortable as the fronts and split 40/20/40 for cargo versatility. Rear seat legroom is about two inches less than that in the Mercedes-Benz GLE but an inch more generous than offered in BMW’s X5. There’s a cushy fold-down center armrest with cup holders back there as well as rear climate controls. Manual window shades are included for most trims for the rear doors and the top Prestige 3.5T model gets a power-operated shades. The outboard rear seats are heated in all Advanced AWD models as well as Prestige trim.

Adding to the GV80’s feeling of spaciousness in all but the base 2.5T RWD trim is a twin-pane panoramic sunroof that arches above the front and rear seats. Another premium luxury feature, power door-closers snug the front and rear doors shut on the top Prestige 3.5T trim.

The power folding 50/50 split folding third-row seat in the 3.5T Advanced+ trim is quite small, and technically gives the otherwise 5-passenger GV80 7-passenger capacity, but is suitable mainly for children keen on climbing back there. The third-row seat folds down into the spare tire well, so vehicles so equipped have no spare and come with a tire inflator/repair kit instead. GV80s with Prestige trim and the large 22-inch wheels also come with the inflator kit instead of a spare.

Safety and Technology - Find the best Genesis deals!

2021 Genesis GV80 blindspot monitor

Photo: Ron Sessions

The infotainment screen wars set off a few years back with the large displays offered in the Tesla Model S and Ram 1500 continue today with the huge new curved OLED screen in the 2021 Cadillac Escalade. The all-new GV80 arrives with its own upsized infotainment screen for our connected age, one that’s about three times as wide as it is tall. Perched atop the dashboard, the 14.5-inch high-definition touchscreen comes with embedded, voice-activated navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring.

Because the touchscreen is a long reach for the driver, the primary infotainment system controller for the infotainment system is a stylish, console-mounted knurled rotary knob that you swipe, toggle or rotate. It’s similar looking to the smaller rotary shift knob for the automatic transmission, also on the console. At the center of the infotainment controller is a small touchpad that includes a hand-writing recognition feature, allowing occupants, for instance, to jot down a destination address or phone number rather than peck away at menus. Genesis at least did include a Mercedes-Benz-like roller wheel on the console to adjust volume. The infotainment system can also be accessed via steering-wheel buttons and voice controls. There are four USB ports for charging or connecting portable devices, two up front and another pair for rear passengers.

The standard GV80 come with a more-than-adequate 12-speaker AM/FM premium audio with HD Radio and three months of SiriusXM satellite radio. Upgrading to Advanced or Prestige trim gains a rich-sounding 1,050-watt 21-speaker Lexicon Quantum Logic surround-sound system with two underseat subwoofers and a 5-speaker center sound bar that enables customized on-stage or concert hall sound profiles.

A wireless inductive charger for Qi-enabled phones comes with all but the base 2.5T RWD trim. Missing in action, however, is an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot and odd for a luxury SUV, no rear seat entertainment system.

Unlike many European luxury SUV competitors that offer much of their more advanced driver-assistive and safety technology at extra cost in optional packages, the 2021 Genesis GV80 makes nearly all of it standard fare. It’s a long list, but included as standard with all trims is front and rear park distance warning, driver attention warning, adaptive cruise control with full stop and go capability as well as AI machine learning, forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian and cyclist coverage, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, safe-exit assist (from the back seat), high-beam assist and semi-autonomous Highway Driving Assist (not hands-free).

All but the base 2.5T RWD adds an ultrasonic rear occupant alert, and Advanced AWD and higher trims add a 360-degree surround-view monitor that replaces the standard back-up camera, a blind-spot view monitor (in the driver’s gauge panel), remote smart parking assist and rear parking collision avoidance assist. The blind-spot view monitor displays an image down the left or right side of the GV80 in a dash window when the turn signal lever is activated.

All Prestige AWD and Advanced 3.5T models add a head-up display.

Driving Impressions - Find the best Genesis deals!

2021 Genesis GV80 engine

Photo: Ron Sessions

As with the 2021 G80 sedan it’s based on, the GV80 offers a choice of two engines. The 2.5T gets the brand’s first 4-cylinder, a 2.5-liter turbo making 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. It’s a cousin of the 2.5-liter turbo in the Hyundai Sonata N-Line and Kia K5 2.5 GT.

With EPA estimates of 21 mpg city/25 mpg highway/22-23 mpg combined, the 2.5-liter turbo four is the more thrifty of the two available engines while delivering 0-60 mph performance in the 6.5-second range. That’s decent considering the GV80’s near 2-1/2-ton heft, but the engine’s somewhat coarse and grainy sound combined with slight turbo lag at low rpm take some of the shine off the GV80’s otherwise impressive luxury presentation.

The 3.5T models are powered by a lively 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that’s a longer-stroke application of the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 used in last year’s Genesis G80 Sport. Output is 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, with good tip-in throttle response and a pleasant-sounding snarl that’s enhanced vis the SUV’s audio speakers. The GV80 3.5T can scoot from zero to 60 mph in about 5-1/2 seconds. While 375 hp is plenty for a midsize luxury SUV, there is no V8 upgrade available for those buyers looking for a performance edge. The EPA estimates for the 3.5T are 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. Premium unleaded fuel is recommended for both engines.

Both the rear- and all-wheel-drive versions of the GV80 are rated to tow up to 6,000 lbs.

All GV80s are equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission controlled by a rotary dial gear selector on the console. Shifts are luxury-appropriate smooth. A pair of steering-wheel paddle shifters enables manual shift control for mountain and sporty driving.

The GV80’s underpinnings are essentially the same as the smaller G80 sedan’s, except the larger SUV carries more weight and has a taller center of gravity. That means both get the same excellent multi-link independent suspension front and rear and in the GV80’s case, a near-even 51/49 front/rear weight distribution for balanced handling. With the 2.5T’s standard suspension, gas-charged shocks and 19- or 20-inch wheels, the ride is surprisingly firm with good control of vertical body motions, but sometimes abrupt over rough pavement.

V6-powered models come standard with driver-adjustable adaptive dampers. These have a Road Preview function which reads the road ahead and can firm up for sporty driving or back off to take the sting out of sharp ruts and bumps.. The adaptive shocks are particularly important in 3.5T Prestige models with 22-inch wheels that look great but have less air between the road and rim cushioning the blow of harsh impacts like potholes.

The GV80 is equipped with electric-boosted variable-ratio steering that’s precise, well-weighted and quick to respond but is somewhat skimpy on feedback. Large-diameter disc brakes at each corner offer satisfying top-of-pedal response and deliver reassuring stopping ability from speed.

Conclusion - Find the best Genesis deals!

2021 Genesis GV80 rear photo

Photo: Ron Sessions

Four years into a luxury brand rollout that’s populated its showrooms with a trio of well-received sedans, Genesis finally has an SUV to offer its buyers. The new GV80 was well worth the wait, bringing a uniquely Korean take on luxury with premium exterior and interior design, advanced technology and an extensive list of standard comfort, safety and driver-assistive features at prices several thousand dollars below its premium midsize European competitors.

As with other Genesis offerings, the new GV80 offers warranty coverage second to none with powertrain coverage for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles and bumper-to-bumper coverage for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Regular maintenance is also on the house for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

About the Author

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive web sites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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