It’s not often that we slide behind the wheel of something totally mind-blowing, but that all went to a new level with the new Genesis GV80 SUV. The experience has stayed with me long after I very reluctantly returned the keys (and sadly, the car too).
Permit me a metaphor to give you a sense of what I felt. Remember when going to the movies was one part excitement and entertainment and another part discomfort because you were sitting upright in nothing like your couch at home for up to three hours. Then, along came Gold Class. That’s what the sensation of the Genesis GV80 has been for me.
Yes, there are luxurious SUVs like the Bentley Bentayga and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but they are almost over-engineered in their luxuriousness. Then there are the BMW X5/X7 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE/GLS and the Audi Q5/Q7/Q8 trio. All are great SUVs, but where they all tap out in terms of luxury and safety, the GV80 keeps going – into rarified air that the Range Rover has owned for over 40 years.
Let me be clear, however, the GV80 is in no way an off-roader in close to the same league as the Range Rover or Toyota LandCruiser. One of its most appealing qualities is that it doesn’t pretend to be a capable off-roader even though it has a very clever electronic Limited Slip Differential (e-LSD) that’s easily accessed via the Terrain selector on the centre console.
Much like that great quote from Ted Lasso “…how many countries are in this country?”, the Genesis GV80 is a number of cars in terms of exterior design. That being said, they are all great sections of handsome SUVs.
There’s plenty of Bentley Bentayga forward of the firewall, and BMW X5 at the rear of the roofline. But the longer you live with the GV80, the more its unique looks diminish the sense of a lot of use of tracing paper by the Genesis design team.
From almost any angle the GV80 turns heads – which is all that matters when you’re driving it. The matte-finish Brunswick Green paint (a $2,000 option) and the polished 22-inch alloy wheel combination on our test model are stunning. At the front, the crest grille that is a signature of the Genesis G80 and GV80 models is imposing, but what it does achieve, is a sleekness that no other SUV has at present. Have a look at the front of a Mercedes-Benz GLE, or an Audi Q7 and you’ll see what I mean – there’s a lot going on with cameras, radar, and parking sensors. All of which are standard fare on the GV80 – just sculptured into the design with a lot more care.
There are quad-lamp LED headlights at the front with daytime running lights and turn indicators integrated into the upper and lower light sections. The high-beam on the GV80 is worth pointing out as it is as good as I have seen on any SUV recently.
At the rear, the GV80 is a little less conventional and comes in for a bit of stick from passers-by. Again, with cleaner lines than others in its class, thanks to an all-LED light cluster, the GV80 makes its case very strongly as you live with it from day to day. The rear access lip for example is much lower than most and with a single electronically operated rear door, access is far easier for bikes, prams and pets.
Twin chrome exhaust pipes are the only hints at the power and torque available from the 3.5 litre twin-turbo V6 engine mated to a silky smooth 8-speed shift by wire transmission driving all four wheels via the active AWD system.
The interior of the GV80 is where I think the team from Genesis have worked some real magic. After an hour in the GV80, was it any wonder that it was a finalist in the 2021 Wheels Car of The Year award.
The view from the driver’s seat is commanding to say the least. The two-tone leather steering wheel is pure luxury with the stainless steel indicator stalks behind the wheel having the feel of a well-weighted kitchen utensil. The 12-way electrically adjustable front seats with multiple memory positions are tremendously comfortable and avail the driver and passenger a view of your surroundings that is both imperious and almost obstacle-free. A very clever active road noise cancelling system mated to the 21-speaker Lexicon sound system that is a world-first. According to Genesis, “…the GV80 minimises noise from the road surface coming into the vehicle. Using accelerometers and microphones, it detects noise coming into the cabin and releases reverse-phase soundwaves through speakers inside the vehicle to create a quiet ambience.” I can assure you that it is super impressive and works incredibly well.
Every switch, every screen, and every piece of beautifully crafted wood trim is unique to the GV80. The quilted Nappa leather even matches the grille design and is some of the softest fabric ever fitted to a motor car at this price point. The front and second-row seats all feature heating and ventilation in the top-spec 3.5 version.
The HVAC system in the GV80 is very capable, especially in the middle of an Australian Summer. The touch-screen system in the front and rear is super easy to use and with large dials for the four temperature zones, individual comfort is moments away on the hottest or coldest days of the year. The touch-screen for the fan and recirculating air switches are a little tricky to nail on anything but long stretches of freeway, but these are items on a very short ‘niggle list’ with the GV80.
Above the HVAC controls and the slim-line vents for the front passengers, emerges the 14.5-inch display. With an integrated Blue Light filter, the capacitive-touch enabled screen houses most importantly Apple Car Play and Android Auto, as well as all the settings and customisation functions for the GV80.
The screen is connected to the integrated controller in the centre console that has some of the best hand-writing recognition that I’ve used. Rather than a coarse track-pad this is a smooth, concave pad that is far easier to move your finger about in. The knurled outer ring is not so easy to use to scroll through lists as your left hand not actually gripping anything and will easily slide off. First-world problems, I know!
The outer 2nd-row seats are on-par in terms of comfort with the front seats. The centre seat is not anywhere near as comfortable and any protests from your younger passengers can be dealt with via the in-car PA system where the driver’s voice can be piped through the rear speakers, thus saving your voice on those long car trips with the kids.
The twin 3rd-row of seats are not for long journeys and are very much for the occasional lift from A to B for your children’s friends. The upside is that the 2nd and 3rd-row of seats can be electrically folded dead flat meaning cargo-space in the GV80 is extremely generous with over 2100 litres of capacity. Even with just the 3rd-row folded flat, there is plenty of space for four passengers and luggage to enjoy a weekend away.
The Genesis GV80 is a bit like a great bottle of wine. Once you open it, you can’t stop until it’s finished and invariably, you open another.
I’ve driven a lot of SUVs and I have many yet to drive. The Genesis GV80 will remain for me right now the benchmark on so many levels because they have studied their competition, learnt from their mistakes, and built a truly luxurious SUV that should have a price tag that starts with the number three but in this top-spec only costs ~$130,000 drive-away.
On the road, the GV80 is silky smooth thanks to the 3.5 litre twin-turbo petrol engine and that wonderful 8-speed transmission. There is a bit of roll on tighter corners, but the electronic dampers take care of most of that. Fuel consumption isn’t great around town, but that’s a large turbocharged engine pulling you about. We put 211km on the clock at an average of 18.9L/100km (~12MPG) which was all city driving. I’m sure with some country driving that would come down to around 12-13L/100km.
In terms of safety, the GV80 is loaded with driving systems such as Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist System (BAS), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Multi Collision Brake (MCB), Traction Control System (TCS), and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM).
Other active and passive safety systems include; Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance-Assist -Rear/Side (BCA-R/S), Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), and 10 Airbags, including; Front airbags – driver & passenger, Front centre side airbag, Knee airbag – driver, Side (thorax & pelvis) airbags – driver and front passenger, Side (thorax) airbags – 2nd-row outboard passengers, and Side curtain airbags – for all rows. If the GV80 can save golfer Tiger Woods from what might have been catastrophic injuries then it’s going to be good for you too.
With my own money I would certainly put the Genesis GV80 on my consideration list for the family SUV. I’d likely buy it too.
Find out more at the Genesis website.
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