It’s rare to stand out in the automotive world. Feverish competitive benchmarking and then careful feature-by-feature matching leads to increasing sameness. That’s why the most striking thing about the Genesis GV80 is that it feels fresh.
The brand’s first SUV shows off plenty of new thinking in a segment where homogeneity is the unfortunate rule. For instance, the infotainment’s dual-purpose flat central control wheel—you twirl its outer ring or navigate the center touchpad with your finger—might initially seem like a bad idea, but it works. Another bold choice is reaching back to the 1970s to find inspiration for the two-spoke steering wheel. There are gutsy interior color combinations, too, like blue over tan, although this particular car was in a more traditional black with dark-brown wood trim. Plenty of familiar modern luxury tropes are also present, albeit executed to an extremely high standard. There are gorgeous, quilted-leather seats, for example, and open-pore wood. Those seats cleverly make small automatic adjustments to fend off fatigue.
The exterior shape, too, is very elegant, swoopy, and swept back rather than following the lead of the blockier BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE. And the rakish shape doesn’t cost cargo space; the GV80 has one of the largest cargo holds in the segment.
The 2.5T is the lesser-engined version of the 10Best-winning GV80, powered by a four-cylinder rather than a V-6. But it’s a powerful four: turbocharged, 2.5 liters, and 300 horsepower with 311 pound-feet of twist. Even though turbo fours are increasingly common in the new-vehicle fleet, there still aren’t many in this premium end of the luxury SUV spectrum. But the GV80 outruns the Mercedes GLE350 and matches the Volvo XC90 T6, sprinting to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds.
Even better is that this large, heavily boosted four-cylinder is responsive. Its 5-to-60-mph time, which starts from idle, making no boost, is only 0.9 second slower than the brake-torqued, straining-at-the-leash zero-to-60-mph launch. The gap between those two times is smaller than any of the usual six- or eight-cylinder competitors, with the exception of the Mercedes GLE450 and the GV80’s own more powerful 3.5T sibling.
While the potent four can do a reasonable impression of V-6 performance, refinement is a different story. The 2.5T makes gravelly, grainy noises and occasionally buzzes the steering wheel when the transmission decides to strive for fuel economy and lug it down to 1500 rpm. The four-cylinder’s auto-shutdown routine at stops is rougher than the norm, too. We matched the GV80’s 25-mpg EPA highway figure in our real-world 75-mph test, but there are quicker competitors that are also more efficient, such as the six-cylinder BMW X5 40i.
Despite the GV80’s junior-Bentley interior and strong performance, Genesis hasn’t abandoned a bargain price as part of its brand identity. It keeps the lineup simple, with entry-level 2.5T models starting at $49,925. All-wheel drive adds a hefty $5750 because it’s bundled with a number of additional features. Then there are two large option packages, the $4350 Advanced package (20-inch wheels, 21-speaker Lexicon audio, leather seats, a couple additional active-safety features) and the $8750 Prestige package (22-inch wheels, adaptive damping, remote-controlled parking, heated second-row seats, and much more). Even with the top-spec package, our car stickered at $64,825. That’s thousands less than the price of a no-option Porsche Cayenne and $7550 cheaper than a similarly loaded GV80 3.5T.
It’s a bummer that the third row is only available with the twin-turbo V-6, and even then only on one particular trim level. Here, instead, you get a segment-average second row with above-average reclining ability and a not-terribly-useful underfloor bin. (You know, the place where spare tires used to go?) Top-spec GV80s like ours wearing 22-inch wheels and tires—arguably the variant that needs it the most—go without backup rubber.
The GV80 is balanced and athletic—shockingly, this luxury SUV is way closer to 50/50 weight distribution than today’s BMW 4-series coupe—although not overtly sporty. You’ll feel the ride penalty of the 22-inch wheels, too, but we don’t think the ride deteriorates enough to make you regret the decision. And the skidpad and braking performance improve with the larger all-seasons, although there’s no summer-tire option to really maximize the GV80’s handling potential. The big tires do contribute to a louder 70-mph cruise—68 dBA versus 66 dBA—than we recorded in the GV80 3.5T, which wore 20-inch rubber. The four-cylinder also measured two decibels louder than the V-6 model (74 dBA versus 72 dBA) at wide-open throttle. That puts the GV80 at the loud end of the competitive set.
Is there anything missing? Well, heated armrests are one of our latest favorite indulgences, and those are notably absent in the GV80. Knowing Genesis and its habit of offering all the features and then some, they’ll probably be an option by next year.
With the six-cylinder GV80, Genesis created an SUV that’s plenty compelling even before you consider its outstanding value proposition. The GV80 2.5T makes some tradeoffs in refinement and performance but remains a highly desirable machine in its own right. And it’s one that comes at an even better price.
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