WORDS AND PHOTOS via Practical Motoring
First launched as the Hyundai Genesis sedan in 2015, it evolved into the Genesis G80 (a BMW 5-Series competitor) in 2018 before Hyundai Australia officially launched it as a standalone brand in 2019, with the arrival of the BMW 3-Series-rivalling G70. But given the downturn in popularity of luxury sedan (or just sedans in general) all of what has come before seems like a warm up for the arrival of the brand’s first SUV - the GV80.
Built on an all-new platform, powered by new engines and featuring new design language the arrival of the GV80 heralds the start of an era for Genesis. But that means the brand needs to be capable of competing with the best from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus if it wants to avoid the same fate as Infiniti.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Genesis has launched with a four-tier line-up which offers three engine choices and the option to choose between rear- or all-wheel drive.
The entry-level model is the 2.5T RWD, which starts at $90,600 (plus on-road costs) or you can opt for the 2.5T AWD for $95,600. Both are powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol.
Next up is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel GV80 3.0D AWD priced at $103,600. The range is topped by the GV80 3.5T AWD, powered by a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol from $108,600.
The only option is the $10,000 Luxury Package which adds a number of items including fine Nappa leather interior trim, massage front seats, power second and third row seats, remote smart parking assist and soft close doors.
Matte paint is also a $2000 extra and there are three colours to choose from, in addition to the eight metallic shades.
It’s important to note that these costs are fixed. Genesis Australia says its research indicates buyers dislike the process of haggling with a dealer for a discounted price, so it has instructed its sales staff to stick to these figures, even if it means missing a sale.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO OWN?
Not a lot. Genesis’ focus as a new brand trying to establish itself is to maximise the experience for the customers it does attract - which means a after sales experience that’s designed to make it feel a step above the rest.
The first five-years of servicing (50,000km for petrol and 75,000km for the diesel) is complimentary. What’s more, Genesis will arrange to have your car picked up, and a loan car dropped off, at either your home or business, to save you from ever having to set foot in a dealership or service centre.
WHAT’S THE EXTERIOR LIKE?
Genesis calls its styling “Athletic Elegance” and has centred the look around the large crest grille that dominates the front end. The other unique design element for the GV80 are its ‘quad lamps’ headlights, the work of former Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke that oversaw Genesis’ design studios during the creation of the GV80 and new G80. Donckerwolke is a fan of the thin headlights, relying on the powerful modern LEDs to provide more illumination in a small package than traditional headlights.
Down the side is what the brand calls its ‘parabolic lines’ which link the front to the rear and create a dynamic shape. There’s also a repeat of the quad lamp look for the side indicator repeaters.
While at the rear the quad light look is back again and the Genesis badge is removed in favour of a lettering; a move that the company believes creates a more premium look. The petrol engine models get crest-shaped tailpipe tips, while the diesel’s exhaust outlets are hidden for a cleaner look.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
The design theme for the interior is the “beauty of white space” but also Korean architecture. What does that actually mean?
Well there’s a horizontal layout, inspired by a suspension bridge, that sees the dashboard run the width of the cabin and meet up with the doors to create a feeling you’re swept up inside the car. There’s an air-conditioning vent that also runs most of the width of the dashboard that further accentuates that horizontal feeling.
There’s plenty of modern technology too, with a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and a 14.5-inch infotainment touchscreen. The infotainment system is also controlled via a combination dial/touchpad that also features handwriting recognition.
It sits next to the tempered glass rotary shifter that is meant to add a premium touch to the interior, but does take some adjustment to get comfortable with.
The seats are trimmed in leather as standard, with a ‘needle-punch’ pattern, or you can get optional Nappa leather with ‘G-Matrix pattern’ as part of the luxury package. There are four standard leather colours to choose from too (black, beige, brown and blue), with a fifth (green) exclusive to the Nappa.
Genesis is also offering genuine wood inlays on the centre console and doors, with the choice of light Eucalyptus or darker Olive Ash.
As for the space, there’s plenty in the first two rows (all except the entry-level 2.5T RWD come with seven-seats) but space in the third row is tight for adults and more suited to carrying kids for short trips. This is more a 5+2 than a genuine, everyday seven-seater, but if that’s all you need then it will serve the purpose well.
HOW SAFE IS THE GV80?
There’s loads of safety on offer in the GV80. All models come equipped with 10 airbags, including a centre passenger ‘bag to stop head clashes, which makes the company confident it will score a maximum five-star ANCAP crash rating.
There’s also the Genesis Active Safety Control suite of features that includes forward collision-avoidance assist, driver attention warning, blind spot collision avoidance-assist, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go and a surround view monitor for parking.
WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE?
The infotainment system is the latest and greatest the Hyundai Group has to offer. The 14.5-inch screen looks nice and wide and allows for multiple functions to be displayed at the same time.
Navigating the menus is done either by touch or the dial/button in the centre console that does take some mastering. There’s an outer ring that can both turn link a dial or be pressed like a button, but once you figure it out it’s fairly intuitive to navigate between everything.
One neat party trick that the ultra-wide screen allows is what Genesis calls ‘augmented reality navigation’ - which may or may not be a gimmick depending on how car sick you get. Basically what it does is use the forward parking camera to display a live image from the front of the car onto the screen in real-time and then projects the turn-by-turn navigation onto that.
It does make it particularly easy to understand each instruction but if you get motion sick it can trigger that; because you’re looking at the view in front of you in two places at the same time. But for those who don’t get queasy it might be a helpful addition.
WHAT IS THE STORAGE LIKE?
If you’re using the GV80 as a five-seater then there’s plenty of space for your luggage, with 727-litres of storage with the third row stowed. That expands to 2144-litres if you fold the middle row down to carry more stuff.
Unfortunately Genesis wasn’t able to provide a figure for how much luggage space is left when the third row seats are in use, but to the eye it obviously looks a lot smaller and wouldn’t take much more than a few soft bags.
WHAT ENGINES ARE AVAILABLE?
You have three of power for your GV80 - a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 3.0-litre inline-six turbo diesel and a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol.
The entry-level 2.5T produces 224kW of power and 422Nm, and like all models it’s paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. However, it’s unique in the range because it’s available with either rear- or all-wheel drive, depending on your needs and budget.
It’s not going to be your first choice because it lacks the effortless punch of six-cylinders, but it performs well around town when you don’t need to really stretch it. Given how much it costs and its adequate performance it makes a strong value argument.
For the best performance the choice is easy - the 3.5T. The twin-turbo V6 makes 279kW/530Nm which gives it meaningful punch out of corners and makes for a less-laboured, more easy-going experience.
The 3.0-litre turbo diesel is probably the best compromise between performance and economy; although diesel remains a dirty word to some buyers. It produces 204kW/588Nm which means it has little trouble motivating the big GV80 while still returning the best fuel economy number. Speaking off...
WHAT ABOUT FUEL ECONOMY?
The 3.0D makes the best return, with a claimed 8.8-litres per 100km compared to 11.7L/100km for the 3.5T and 10.4L/100km for the 2.5T; because the smaller engine is forced to work pretty hard to move such a sizeable vehicle.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The team from Hyundai and Genesis Australia spent six-months working with their Korean counterparts to fine-tune the chassis for Australia’s unique road conditions and driver tastes. And the results are positive.
Whereas some of the German SUVs are sprung quite stiffly and provide good handling at the expense of ride quality, Genesis has opted for a more compliant suspension tune to compensate for the large alloy wheels (20-inches for the 2.5T and 22-inches for the 3.0D and 3.5T).
The resulting ride is good, offering good bump absorption whilst still retaining body control. There’s obviously some body lean when cornering such a tall SUV, but it sits faithfully through high and low speed bends.
The majority of our test drive was in the 3.5T which not only has the sportiest engine but also comes equipped with an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential (eLSD) to further aid handling. It helps the GV80 corner well and punch out the other side with good traction.
While this isn’t a comparison test per say, by way of comparison it’s fair to say the GV80 is not quite as dynamically sharp as a BMW X5 but it’s more comfortable on a choppy back road. So depending on your preference you may lean one way or the other.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
There are no shortages of rivals for the GV80, because as mentioned at the start, the Large SUV market is a key battleground for premium car makers. The most obvious rivals are the popular Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5 as well as the Audi Q7 and Range Rover Sport.
That’s a tough market for any brand to crack but the good news for Genesis is that Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, is doing a good job of keeping up with the Germans with its RX range.
In reality though, Genesis should keep things in perspective and target the slower-selling but very good Volvo XC90 (which has 5.3 per cent market share) as its first hurdle to clear.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The good news for Hyundai is the Genesis GV80 is an impressive luxury large SUV. The company should be proud of the vehicle it has produced because it feels genuinely luxurious and drives like a premium SUV should.
But that’s not the real challenge. Instead the biggest hurdle for Genesis to clear will be convincing luxury car buyers to take a chance on a new brand that doesn’t have any of the prestige and heritage of the established German rivals.
The ownership benefits might be the best way for Genesis to lure new luxury customers and build a following, but only time will tell if the GV80 will have the brand follow in Lexus’ wheel tracks or crash and burn like Infiniti.