The first problem with this car is the winged badge on the front of it. The emblem closely resembles that found on Bentleys, though here the wings flank a Genesis-scripted shield rather than a large B. This choice of course invites comparisons between the GV80 and Bentley’s own Bentayga luxury crossover, which is horribly unfair. To the Bentley.
Because the second problem with the Genesis GV80 is that there really isn’t a second problem with it. As the company’s largest and therefore flagship crossover, it is a stunningly convincing effort. Bentley wants four times the money for a vehicle that looks worse. No thanks.
Genesis’ design language isn’t universally flawless — the all-electric GV60 looks like it was inspired by Angry Birds — but the way it is deployed here is highly effective. The split headlights and taillights, carefully restrained details, and long dash to axle ratio are pure luxury. This top-line Prestige trim beats you over the head a bit with its massive 22” wheels, but overall the GV80 makes its point subtly. Whenever the marketing types start yapping about capital-P Premium, this is the visual presence they wished their cars achieved.
If anything, it’s even better on the inside. Rivals seem to veer between adding touchscreens until the cabin looks like the surveillance room for Minority Report, or adding buttons to the level of Deranged Elevator. Genesis’ designers split the difference with Goldilocks-precision, then fill the cabin with discreet wood trims and easy to use controls.
Things look well-tailored and relatively minimalist, and on top of that the controls are intuitive. Standard features load-out for the nameplate is very good, slightly better than that found from Acura or Infiniti. At this trim, passengers are treated to everything from heated and ventilated seats to soft-close doors.
The quilted-look front seats are very good, but rear seat passengers aren’t shortchanged. Adding a third row of seats into a crossover is always a bit of a space compromise. The execution here is just large enough to be usable, rather than the sort of thing you only deploy in a junior soccer team transportation emergency.
In our frenetic, over-informed modern world, there is perhaps no greater luxury than not being constantly annoyed. To that end, the GV80’s infotainment interface is among its many successes. Control is achieved by an easy-to-use rotary dial, and the wide 14.5” touchscreen is mounted high enough to require a glance rather than taking your eyes off the road.
There are some fun Easter Eggs in the system: would you like to drive around with the heated seats and steering wheel on, listening to a crackling fireplace through the 21-speaker premium stereo? You can! Overall though, the Genesis/Hyundai infortainment is easy to use either on its own or with the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
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Putting a rotary dial as the transmission shifter immediately below the infotainment control seems a bit of a silly move. In practice it takes no more than a day or two for the layout to feel entirely natural. Unlike with push-button transmission layouts, the rotary shifter does actually free up some real estate between the seats, and adds the feeling of a de-cluttered interior.
On the move, the GV80’s engineers clearly understood their mission well. This is no sporty crossover, yet neither does it wallow.
Under the hood is a 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6. Peak horsepower is rated for 375 hp at 5,800 rpm; torque is a grunty 390 lb-ft from just 1,300 rpm. But really, its engine is pretty much the least interesting thing about driving the GV80.
The power is simply there, in the manner of what an old Rolls-Royce brochure would call “adequate.” The GV80 is capable of a sprint to highway speeds in times that would rival a hot hatch, but that’s not really how it’s meant to be continually driven. Body motions are controlled and the eight-speed transmission downshifts quickly when provoked.
However, the GV80 feels happiest at the sort of wafting pace most owners will actually drive it at. If you’re looking hard at a German crossover with an S, M, or AMG badge, this Genesis is not that sort of vehicle. Instead, it offers the sort of torque-rich cruising that gently suggests that the “Competition” badge on the back of your kid-hauler is, just maybe, trying too hard.
The most impressive thing about the GV80 was how the suspension handles bumps. The 22” wagon wheels on this Prestige trim vehicle should hamstring ride comfort, clomping over pavement breaks like a ballerina wearing lead-soled diving shoes. Instead, the Genesis is clearly tuned for its big boots, and rides smooth and unruffled.
Steering effort is on the firm side, and the GV80 handles fast sweeping turns well. It is an ideal highway tourer, and luxurious enough at low speeds to handle occasional traffic snarls well.
With that in mind, the heads-up-display does a good job of showing when driver assists like automated cruise control and lane-keeping are activated. The display also shows you blocky images of the vehicles the system is seeing, which imparts confidence. There are more advanced driver assist systems on the market, but the GV80 is not overpromising and underdelivering here.
Fuel economy is rated at an unremarkable 11.8 L/100 km mixed, and in real world use the GV80 delivered just over 12 L/100 km. Again, this is an example of an unobtrusive powertrain being something of a luxury feature. It doesn’t get your attention, but neither does it frustrate, leaving the driver free to enjoy the rest of the experience.
Finally, there is the rest of Genesis’ strategy, which includes concierge servicing and entirely sensible pricing. This 3.5T Prestige costs $86,000, not $85,999, nor $75,800 plus $6,500 for the options you want. That’s quite a bit more than something like an MDX, but the GV80 is a cut above in every department.
It feels sure of itself, or at the very least, a product from a company that is sure of itself. Despite being one of the newer players in the luxury market, Genesis seems to have a clear vision of what its brand stands for. The GV80 delivers on that promise. It’s good enough, distinct enough, that it could really use a badge that stands apart.