The 2021 GV80 is arguably the most important vehicle in Genesis' lineup, especially given America's seemingly insatiable appetite for SUVs. It's a model that faces a lot of robust competition -- from European automakers in particular. But the good news for Genesis is that the GV80 is, in a word, brilliant.
- Smooth and powerful turbo-four engine
- Great interior craftsmanship
- Excellent infotainment and safety tech
- Digital instrument cluster should be standard
- I4 engine doesn't sound that great
My test GV80 has the base engine: a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four, which puts out a healthy 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. The GV80 uses an eight-speed automatic transmission and while rear-wheel drive is standard, this one has all-wheel drive. In the US market, this AWD system includes an electronic limited-slip rear differential, which helps with power delivery and handling. The all-wheel-drive GV80 2.5T is EPA-estimated to return 21 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. Over a week of testing, I saw 21.8 mpg.
The GV80's ride is nicely controlled, and there's a noticeable difference between the different suspension settings. In its standard setting, the GV80 nicely coddles passengers while driving over broken pavement or highway expansion joints. Still, nice as it is, the GV80 lacks the driving-on-a-cloud sensation you get from the sophisticated air suspensions in German SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLE.
The 2.5T is so good it makes me wonder why you'd ever need the optional V6. The turbocharged engine's acceleration is brisk and smooth, though it doesn't sound all that great in action. Thankfully, the 2.5T is perfectly quiet at cruising speeds, and thanks to the GV80's excellent sound deadening, it's plenty hushed around town, too.
A highlight of the GV80 is its interior. The materials are all top-notch; the things you touch feel substantial and expensive. The finishes are all beautifully detailed and the whole cabin reminds you the Genesis GV80 isn't just another cookie-cutter SUV. My tester's heated and cooled front seats offer lots of adjustability and support, both of which are great on longer drives.
As far as ergonomics are concerned, it's easy to get comfortable in the GV80. Even at 6 feet, 4 inches tall, I have no issues with headroom or legroom, and I can sit in the second-row seats behind my own driving position without any hassle. There's enough room in the back for an average SUV's worth of groceries and luggage, and the third- and second-row seats fold down for increased storage space.
When it comes to infotainment and safety tech, Genesis doesn't skimp in the GV80. The 14.5-inch central infotainment screen is super wide, but it's not terribly tall, meaning it doesn't impede outward visibility. The display is sharp and bright, too, and it's a touchscreen, making it easy to use. There's also a clicky-wheel redundant control on the center console if you'd rather go that route. It works well enough, but I generally just find myself touching the screen or using voice commands through Apple CarPlay. Speaking of which, both CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, though Genesis' native infotainment system works perfectly well.
Higher-spec GV80s have a fully digital instrument cluster, but my tester has an analog speedometer and fuel gauge on the left with a digital tachometer on the right. This setup is perfectly fine, but this half-digital situation seems like a weird place to cut cost.
The GV80 comes with a ton of cool safety tech. The adaptive cruise control system uses machine learning to adapt to your own driving style. You can also get the GV80 with Genesis' Highway Driving Assist II tech, which pairs the adaptive cruise with lane-centering and lane-change functionality. It's an easy-to-use, unobtrusive bit of technology that never gets in the way. Genesis also offers remote smart parking assist, where you hold a button on the key fob, and the vehicle will park itself. I use this all the time to help ease getting in and out of my tight underground parking space.
My mid-grade GV80 2.5T Advanced tester with all-wheel drive comes in at a reasonable $60,425 including a $1,025 destination fee. A similarly equipped Mercedes-Benz GLE350 4Matic would come in around $65,000, while a BMW X5 -- with an inline-six engine -- would crest $70,000. Any way you slice it, the GV80 is a great value.
But value isn't the only reason to consider the GV80. This SUV is a seriously impressive first effort for Genesis, and it gives me high hopes for the forthcoming compact GV70. If Genesis continues on this impressive tear, European automakers should be very worried indeed.