Review update: 2021 Genesis GV80 is a budget Benz
Genesis has leapt into the luxury crossover SUV market and it stuck the landing.
The South Korean automaker’s first crossover SUV, the 2021 Genesis GV80 arrives with stunning good looks, a luxurious interior, and a price that’s substantial but still seems like a value. However, the infotainment system is barely tolerable, the third row is a joke, and the sporty looks can be deceiving.
I spent a week with the 2021 Genesis GV80 hauling the kids around town during spring break and learned where it hits and where it misses.
Hit: It’s so pretty
“Genesis is on a roll.” That’s the first thing my wife, Karen, said when she saw the GV80 in our garage. She’s always right, and this time was no different. It stands out in a sea of luxury crossover SUVs with its massive Superman shield-like grille flanked by quad LED headlights. The long nose and short overhangs imply sport sedan, while the greenhouse and fast roofline suggest it’s a sporty wagon. It all rides on 20-inch wheels wrapped in 265/50 Michelin tires. If only all luxury crossovers had this much tire sidewall, the world would be a better-riding place. It all just works.
Miss: Laughable third row
The GV80 offers a fold-flat third-row seat, but it’s only available in the mid-line 3.5T AWD Advanced+ trim. Like the third row in the Lexus RX 350L, it’s worthless. There isn’t enough headroom for an adult, the low-set seat bottom sends riders knees into their chins, and there’s minimal leg room. You might be able to stick someone you don’t like back there, but you’d show them mercy after just a short trip.
Hit: Fit and finish are tops
The fit and finish in the GV80 match the build quality of a BMW X5 or Audi Q8. The matte wood trim looks and feels like it belongs in something expensive. Everything from the radio’s silver volume roller knob to the dial for the infotainment system moves smoothly as if it were greased to perfection. Each button press results in a satisfying click. The doors shut with a hushed thud, though it doesn’t quite match the vault-like feel of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Miss: Tolerable infotainment system
Genesis is in the process of moving from an easy-to-use infotainment system, which is still found in the current G90, to a harder-to-use, albeit pretty, infotainment system. It’s a shame. The GV80 features a 14.5-inch touchscreen, but it’s placed too far forward on the dashboard to work as a touchscreen. Genesis also provides a circular touchpad and a silver scroll wheel on the center console as redundant controls. They’re distracting, hard to control, and require too much attention from the driver to complete the simplest tasks. The system feels like a poorly executed version of Audi’s last-generation MMI infotainment system.
Hit: It costs how much?
Karen was floored when I told her the 2021 GV80 AWD 3.5T Advanced+ we were sitting in cost $67,095, and that its base price was just under $50,000. She wouldn’t have blinked an eye if it cost more. With a leather-lined interior, a punchy twin-turbo V-6 engine, supportive heated and cooled 16-way power front seats, heated rear seats, and a 21-speaker Lexicon audio system, it seemed like this GV80 tester was missing only one thing anyone would want, or expect, from a luxury crossover SUV: a digital gauge cluster, which is part of the 3.5T model’s $11,800 Prestige Package.
Miss: Not as sporty as it looks
The Lincoln Aviator has shown that simply being luxurious can be enough. Not every luxury crossover has to be sporty, but Genesis’ mixed messages are confusing. The GV80’s exterior has a sporty look, it’s reasonably quick off the line thanks to the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6’s 375 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, but that’s where the sportiness ends. The steering feels disconnected, and there’s simply no shaking the weight as it leans into turns. The two-spoke, last-gen S-Class-like, steering wheel gives a clear indication of the GV80’s luxury mission. The steering wheel makes it hard to drive with your hands at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position, which is best for control during performance driving. This is a vehicle that’s meant for cruising to the lake house rather than tearing around clover leafs.
The 2021 Genesis GV80 is worthy of every award and all the praise it’s received. With plenty of power, a gorgeous design inside and out, and fit-and-finish that matches prestigious rivals, it’s a luxurious budget Mercedes that punches above its class.
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2021 Genesis GV80 AWD 3.5T Advanced+Base price: $49,945Price as tested: $67,095EPA fuel economy: 18/23/20 mpgThe hits: Gorgeous design, terrific fit and finish, almost seems underpriced, powerful twin-turbo V-6The misses: Merely tolerable infotainment system, not as sporty as it looks, tiny third row