2021 Genesis GV80 long-term review

Big luxury SUV arrives as a message of intent from Korea

Genesis GV 80 Main 1 Jpg

Update 1: Genesis (take two)

Price as tested: $120,600
This month: 582km @ 11.0L/100km

Spoiler alert: the images accompanying this review were taken during 2021 Car of the Year testing. This means two things: 1) COTY is a goer after months of COVID-inflicted uncertainty; and 2) The Genesis was deemed worthy enough to be included in this year’s shortlist of contenders.

That second point is no small achievement. We’ll publish our full COTY coverage in the March 2021 issue, though I can disclose this year’s field was limited to the 10 best cars of 2020. So simply making the starting grid is a big vote of confidence. And for Genesis, it’s crucial that the GV80 receives a warm reception.

There’s a lot riding on this car. After years of trying (and largely failing) to crack the Aussie market with big sedans, Genesis finally has an SUV to tackle our SUV-mad market. And with a smaller GV70 set to join the local ranks soon, there’s a sense that this is a fresh start for Genesis and a chance to gain some much-needed sales traction in its quest to become a genuine alternative to the established luxury players.

Genesis GV80

On the luxury front, it’s clear Genesis has gone all-in. Every GV80 is richly specced, though my car is fitted with every possible bell and whistle from the Genesis parts bin. I’m driving the flagship 3.5T AWD, which starts at $108,600 and uses a new twin-turbo V6 with 279kW/530Nm paired to an eight-speed torque converter automatic. A 2.5T four-cylinder petrol is also available (from $90,600), as is a silky-smooth 3.0-litre turbo-diesel ($103,600).

On initial impressions, I have a sneaking suspicion that the diesel could be the pick of the drivetrains, though I’m keen to spend more time with the V6 petrol before making that call.

Inside, ‘my’ GV80 screams luxury. Diamond-stitched seats are made from soft Nappa leather, the carpets are thick and lush, and all of the materials and touch-points feel of a quality to rival Audi. The interior colour combination of blue over tan might not be to everyone’s taste (personally, I like it), but the list of standard equipment is enormous: 14.5-inch central touchscreen, a full safety suite, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a powerful 21-speaker sound system from Lexicon and a head-up display.

Genesis GV80 dash

This GV80 also has $2000 worth of matte paint and the optional ‘luxury pack’, which for a whopping $10K adds the aforementioned Nappa leather, fully digital dials with a ‘3D function’, 18-way adjustable driver’s seat with massage function, soft-close doors, heated/cooled seats in the front two rows, active noise-cancelling for a quieter cabin, and active high-beam that ‘paints out’ oncoming vehicles so as not to dazzle other drivers.

Those lights quickly prove to be useful. Perhaps drawn to its size and overt luxury, the Genesis became the go-to vehicle for the COTY photo and video crews to lug about their gear and drive back to our nightly digs.

“Man, it’s so comfortable,” was the initial feedback. “And those headlights! The best I’ve ever experienced!” The only negative concerned the way it handles bumps. “It’s not quite as plush or as controlled as I was expecting,” said a fellow COTY judge.  

Genesis GV80 seat

The comment about the ride is interesting. I’ll dig further into how the GV80 drives next month, though it’s worth noting at the outset that top-spec GV80s are fitted with ‘adaptive control suspension’ that uses a front-facing camera to read the road and prime the adjustable dampers for bumps.

Without giving away too much about how the GV80 performed at COTY, I’m happy to report the GV80 feels like a ‘coming of age’ vehicle for the brand. It’s distinctive to look at, is richly equipped and delivers a sense of ‘business class’ travel on the highway. Whether it’s a match for the established players is something we’ll discover in the coming months.

Genesis GV80 badge

Fancy going on a date?

This year’s COTY judging panel includes Richard Ferlazzo, the long-time Holden designer and the man who gave us the Efijy concept car. His verdict on the GV80? “The cabin is nice but the exterior feels dated to me. It reminds me of the Chrysler Portofino concept from the 80s.”


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