2021 Genesis GV80 vs. 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE

2021 Genesis GV80 vs. 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE

Can the Korean Upstart Take Down Germany's Finest?

  • The Genesis GV80 aims to dethrone the Mercedes GLE for luxury SUV dominance.
  • The GV80's value statement squares off against the GLE's powertrain supremacy.

The 2021 Genesis GV80 is the new kid on the luxury SUV block, but it wasn't so long ago that another (sorta) new crossover captured our imagination. The Mercedes-Benz GLE has been on the scene for a while, but the fully redesigned version that debuted last year defined what a high-tech ute should be. So, how does the freshman from Korea compare against the GLE in its sophomore year?

We're not going to keep you waiting. Read just a little bit more. Really, it's right after this sentence.

Performance and Fuel Economy

The GV80 comes standard with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower on tap, and midlevel trims upgrade to a turbocharged V6 pumping out 375 hp. We haven't brought a GV80 to our test track yet, but our butt-dynos confirm that the big Genesis has no problem hoofing it with either engine underhood. The V6 has the oomph you'd expect of a luxury vehicle at this price point, but the inline-four is far from a consolation prize.

The GLE is in a similar boat: the GLE 350 and its turbocharged-four will be sufficiently powerful for most buyers, though shoppers looking for a little more razzmatazz have an array of impressive engines to accomplish just that. There's the GLE 450, which features a turbocharged inline-six and a mild hybrid system for extra electric power, while the AMG GLE 53 gets an uprated version of this powertrain. Then there's the GLE 580 — powered by a twin-turbo V8 — along with the all-powerful GLE 63 S.

In terms of fuel efficiency, the GV80 and GLE four-cylinders are roughly equal. The EPA rates the rear-drive GV80 2.5 at 23 mpg combined and the all-wheel-drive version at 22 mpg. Both RWD and AWD variants of the GLE 350 post a 22 mpg rating. The gap is more significant when you upgrade to a six-cylinder. The EPA estimates the V6-powered GV80 will consume fuel at a rate of 20 mpg, while the Mercedes' mild hybrid system helps the inline-six return an impressive 23 mpg.

If you're going to get the four-cylinder, the two vehicles essentially draw even. Upgrade to the six-cylinder, however, and the Mercedes is the clear winner.

Pricing and Availability

Spoiler alert: The GV80 is going to win this section. But this isn't a clear-cut decision based on the fact that the Genesis is less expensive than the Mercedes (although it is; the GV80 starts at $49,925, while the GLE 350 clocks in at $55,800). It also comes down to the ability to walk into a dealership and walk out with the car you want.

The GV80 adopts a trim structure similar to non-luxury vehicles, meaning there are clear steps with additional features at every step. First, you choose a powertrain and color, and then select from Standard, Preferred and Prestige trim levels. There are no stand-alone options or packages. Since there are a relatively small number of combinations, your local Genesis dealer will probably have the car you want in stock.

Mercedes takes a traditional luxury approach, which is to say that many of its options are à la carte. This allows buyers to spec their car exactly the way they want, giving it a customized feel, as opposed to the cookie-cutter approach taken by Genesis.

But here's the thing: With so many options, finding the exact GLE you want at your local dealership — without extraneous features that you don't — is virtually impossible. Although Mercedes' options list gives you the illusion of variety, dealers are going to order inventory in the most popular combinations. So expect to see a lot of GLE 350s in white, silver or gray, with imitation leather upholstery and maybe the Premium package. Or with an eye-catching premium paint and $20K in options. If there's an exact GLE specification you're eyeing, you'll have to custom order your SUV and wait a few months for it to arrive, or else settle on something you don't necessarily want.

The advantage here goes to Genesis for its lower price point and realistic options packaging.

Edmunds Says

The Genesis GV80 is going to have a tough time dethroning the Mercedes-Benz GLE from the top of our midsize luxury SUV rankings. But the scrappy newcomer is well equipped for the challenge. Keep it locked on our 2021 Genesis GV80 page and you'll notice an official Edmunds rating before too long. Once it's there, head over to our updated midsize luxury SUV rankings to see if the GV80 officially pulled off the upset. For now, we're saying there's a chance.