2021 Genesis GV80 Review: Putting 'Em All on Notice

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 3.5L V6 Turbo
Output: 375 hp, 391 lb-ft
Transmission: 8AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 18/23/20
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 12.9/10.4/11.8
Starting Price (USD): $49,925 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $72,375 (est, inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $64,500 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $85,000 (inc. dest.)

If you’re the type of person who craves attention, then the 2021 Genesis GV80 is for you.

A four-wheeled wallflower this ain’t. During my week with the Korean luxury brand’s very first SUV, the GV80 drew admiring glances on the regular. You can at least partially chalk it up to the newness of the shape, but even still, the amount of neck-craning and thumbs up it receives is typically reserved for something lower, louder, and with an Italian badge.

It’s likely the wow factor of the Genesis GV80’s styling will eventually fade, at least somewhat. That’s just how time works. Thanks to those looks though, plus a swanky interior, calming driving dynamics, and a hugely appealing price tag, I predict another reason: you’re going to start seeing a lot of GV80s around.

A unique take on luxury

The Korean idea of luxury is subtly different from the German, or even Japanese, takes we’ve seen over the years. Genesis talks a lot about the “beauty of white space,” and that’s a pretty clear influence as soon as you crack open the door. The dash design is simple, emphasizing the width of the cabin. The main climate controls are all huddled in the center, easily within reach.

Sitting on top of the dash is a high-res 14.5-inch touch screen, running a new, Genesis-exclusive OS. It’s seriously slick, with snappy response times and eye-catching graphics. Like the better systems in the segment, it also offers different input methods. You can poke at the screen with your greasy digits, but I’d recommend using the wonderfully tactile rotary dial in the center console instead. You can read more about it in my GV80 First Drive. While the system mirrors Apple and Android devices without issue, it only does so with a wire. You won’t find a WiFi hotspot or rear-seat entertainment, either, though Genesis says the interest in the latter just isn’t there.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Genesis G80 Review: First Drive

Every surface inside the GV80 is pleasing to the touch, from the quilted leather knee padding on the center console to the microsuede headliner. The wheel is the odd exception: the leather wrapped around it is all good, but the seam facing the driver never ceases to feel awkward.

The driver’s seat is the best one in the house. While other share its quilted nature, and those riding shotgun get heating and cooling for their backsides, only the driver gets Genesis’ Ergo seat. It uses a system of seven air cells within the chair to adjust depending on the situation, like hugging the driver a little tighter in Sport mode. It offers up a revitalizing stretch mode, too. Other thoughtful touches, like a crisp head-up display (HUD) and instrument panel visuals when you use the seat-side controls, make it clear: the GV80 just wants to make your drive calming.

Second-row space is ample for adults, even three-wide. The fold-down armrest is a nice touch, but the cupholders are useless, since it folds right down onto the seat. The third row is… less good. The design team has included some knurled aluminum trim and other visual niceties, but it’s still best suited for youngins. Cargo space is just 11.6 cubic feet (328 liters) with all seats up. That grows to 35.0 cubes (991 liters) with the third row down, and 84.0 cubes (2,379 liters) with just the fronts up.

Driving experience matches the ambiance

This top-line tester is the 3.5T model, packing Genesis’ larger, 3.5-liter turbocharged V6. The added displacement over its German rivals translates to a thick slug of torque barely off-idle; 391 lb-ft, to be precise. Horsepower is a healthy 375 hp, more than either the Audi Q7, BMW X5 40i, or Mercedes GLE 450.

Step on the throttle and the GV80 surges forward, the eight-speed auto offering only brief pauses to the faint whoofling from somewhere under that long hood. It’s effortlessly quick, never strained. In that sense, the GV80’s drivetrain is well-matched to the graceful styling inside and out. If you crave a bit more of an edge, you can select Sport mode, but the trade-off is even more thirst. That’s the one area the GV80 lags behind the competition: its 20 mpg average (11.8 L/100 km) is worse than what the BMW and Merc manage in the city. Try as I might, I couldn’t match it either, but wasn’t far off at 18.8 mpg (12.5 L/100 km).

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Review: Mild-Mannered Mild-Hybrid

No, it’s better to leave the drive mode in Normal and let the GV80 waft along. The big 22-inch wheels might have you prematurely wincing, but the adaptive suspension takes the sting out. The system uses a combo of sensors and navigation data to adjust the dampers in anticipation of the road ahead. It works incredibly well, and the active noise cancellation, which plays alternating sound waves to minimize aural disruptions, complements nicely. There are few rides I’d rather attack a long winter road trip in.

The argument for value

Certain corners of the car community have suggested luxury buyers aren’t too concerned with deals and discounts. I say hogwash: you don’t amass a large sum of cash by needlessly spending the smaller stacks. The GV80 doesn’t feel any less premium than its competition, so it undercutting them makes it all the more appealing.

A rear-drive, 2.5T GV80 starts at just $49,925 in the US, including destination. The model walk is a little different in Canada, where all-wheel drive is the only way to put power to the pavement. AWD models start at $55,675 ($64,500 CAD), yet both sides of the border includes standard LED exterior lighting, a power liftgate, wireless charging, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and panoramic sunroof. Oh, and every GV80 features the same infotainment system; no need to option up for the good one.

SEE ALSO: 2020 BMW X3 PHEV Review: Plug-In the One to Have

Genesis also includes an ample suite of driver assists across the board. This includes the usual automated emergency braking, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, auto high beams, and Highway Driving Assist. The brand’s machine learning-powered smart cruise control is also standard. A week wasn’t quite enough for it to learn my driving habits—probably for the best—but the system is smooth on the highway, with natural-feeling acceleration, deceleration, and lane changes. Higher trims tack on Blind Spot View Monitor and a 360-degree camera.

This particular GV80 is the full-fat 3.5T Prestige, with a going rate of $72,375 ($85,000). Enough cheddar to start casting a Ratatouille sequel? Maybe, but it also piles on everything in the Genesis arsenal. We’re talking active noise cancellation, the Ergo motion seat, trick 3D instrument panel, and quilted Nappa leather seating. Power everything, too: folding third row, second-row sunshades, even soft-close doors.

The 2021 X5 40i starts $62,695 ($79,980 CAD); the GLE 450, $63,495 (circa $80,000 CAD). You’d need to spend a solid $10,000 above the GV80’s sticker on either side of the border to match its features list, however. You could save a chunk of cash and opt for the Lexus RX 350, but it’s old and no match dynamically.

Verdict: 2021 Genesis GV80 3.5T Review

The 2021 Genesis GV80 is a game-changer in the luxury segment. I’d even go so far as to call it the mid-size SUV equivalent of the original Lexus LS. It doesn’t do everything perfectly: it’s thirsty, the third row is tight, and it misses a few ultra-lux options found elsewhere in the segment. But what it does do well—stunning looks, that peerless cabin, an overwhelming sense of calm—it does very well indeed, blending all its strengths into one hard-to-resist package. This is every inch the competitor to the German establishment, and that’s before you factor in the dynamite savings it offers when specced like for like.

It turns out the GV80 isn’t just impossible for onlookers to ignore: if you’re shopping in this segment, it needs to be on your short list.

Discuss this story at our Genesis GV80 Forum.

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  • Serious presence
  • Outstanding value
  • Easy-going ride


  • Thirsty six-pot
  • Tight third row
  • Seriously, hybrid or EV version, please and thanks
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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