Variant: 2.5T 2WD
Engine / Transmission: 2.5 turbo petrol – 8 speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 9.8L/100km combined
Price: From $99,266 drive away
In a nutshell:
It’s a fine car, but parent company Hyundai’s Palisade Highlander is better in nearly every way.
When I first saw the Genesis GV80 at Hyundai HQ (Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury brand – think what Lexus is to Toyota), I was mighty impressed. This particular example in Lima red looked lux and unique, if not a little too American for my tastes.
Despite the GV80’s design being a result of an amalgamation of three of Hyundai’s design studios, Korea, North America and Europe, it is painfully clear that the US of A is where Genesis is expecting to generate the most sales. The grill and two spoke steering wheel screams Stars and Stripes. It even drives like an American car; soft and floaty.
One non-car mad friend raced out of his house screaming when he saw me pull up in the QV80, thinking I had picked up a Bently Bentayga. From a distance, if you squint, I can see how the mistake was made. Digging a little deeper into the GV80’s story and I can see even more how a case of mistaken identity could occur – one of the key designers of the GV80, SangYup Lee, had a major hand in the design of the Bentayga (much more successfully, Lee also designed the 2010 Chevy Camaro).
It is commendable that Genesis went to the effort to make the GV80 rear wheel drive (it is also available as an all wheel drive), but the suspension tune is such that all of the benefits and fun of a rear drive platform have been dialed out of the GV80’s chassis. The end result is it feels like a very bland front wheel driver on the road.
The GV80, as you would expect, comes with a full suite of safety kit including: blind spot warning (including blind spot view monitor), the world’s most aggressive lane keep assist (causing me to pull over and turn it off at the first opportunity), pedestrian and cyclists detection, junction turning avoidance (preventing you from turning in front of an oncoming car) and LED high beam assist. Despite all of this, for the money, the base model GV80 equipment list is surprisingly light.
For example, while the driver and passenger seats are powered, the rear seats are not heated. Annoyingly, the front seats do that very American thing of powering rearward and the steering wheel tilting upward when ‘Park’ is selected. For another $10k or so you can opt for the ‘Luxury Package’.
The ‘Luxury Package’ has all of the kit that you would expect to be included in the ‘base’ model: active noise cancelling, remote parking assist, active driver’s seat (massaging seats), 12.3″ full screen instrument cluster with 3D function, active headlights, heated and ventilated electronically adjustable rear seats and soft close doors. Definitely $10k well spent.
For me, the Genesis GV80 (especially in five seat configuration) makes absolutely no sense. To a retired couple or some empty nesters it starts to make more sense, I guess. It is beautifully built and, in ‘Luxury Package’ trim, well equipped. It is a supremely comfortable long distance freeway hauler, eerily quiet and, despite having ‘only’ 2.5 litre four cylinder, it packs a hell of a punch.
The fact that it is rear wheel drive is really interesting, however, it won’t tow much of any sort of caravan; the 2700kg tow limit is good, but the 180kg tow ball limit will restrict you to European style vans. If it sounds like you might be the GV80’s target audience you will also most likely love Genesis’ approach to selling; online ordering, no-haggle pricing and free servicing for the first five years of ownership.
Not So Impressive:
The biggest competition the GV80 faces is from within the Hyundai stable. Genesis may like to think of people cross shopping the GV80 with competition from Europe, but it’s just not going to happen. The Genesis’ flavour is just far, far too Americ-orean to appeal to anyone considering German machines.
Instead, the GV80 will most likely appeal to someone not already wedded to a particular make or brand image. If this is you, then I suggest that you would also be open to something wearing the Big ‘H’ rather than the wings of the Genesis. Apart from a much more consistent exterior design, I just can’t see what the Genesis offers over Hyundai’s excellent Palisade Highlander. Maybe I’m missing something?
The GV80 is a good car, for some people maybe even a great car, but I am struggling to fall in love with it. For me, I just can’t shake the feeling that the GV80 is like McDonalds releasing a Korean BBQ burger. My reluctance is further enhanced by the price of the thing – I am prepared to accept very few compromises once a car starts to cost six figures. Obviously, this is deeply unfair to the GV80. Feel free to prove me wrong – just remember, for this sort of coin you should be cross shopping with an Audi Q5, VW Touareg, Volvo XC90 or even a Porsche Macan.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
Take a top spec Palisade for a back to back drive against the Genesis. You will find that a direct comparison speaks volumes for the quality and depth of the latest Hyundai designs.