Driving the 2021 GV80: As Smooth as a Master Baker Applying Buttercream

An Intriguing New Luxury SUV

  • Midsize SUV with seating for up to seven
  • Fresh styling look for the brand
  • Debuts new technology features
  • Launches the first GV80 generation for 2021

What is the GV80?

The 2021 Genesis GV80 is the first SUV from Hyundai's fledgling luxury spin-off. We've known this midsize SUV was coming for a while now. In fact, the only surprise is that it took this long. Seating for five is standard on most trim levels, with the top two trims adding a third row for a total of seven seats.

Up front, the GV80 has a big shield-shaped grille that's similar to the one that debuted on the updated 2020 G90 sedan. It's flanked by a new quad headlight design. Whether you like or hate the new look, it's fair to assume you'll be seeing a lot more of it on upcoming Genesis models.

The new GV80 goes toe to toe with some well-established competitors, including the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Lexus RX and Mercedes-Benz GLE.

2021 Genesis GV80 - Action Front 3/4

How does the GV80 drive?

The GV80 is smooth as elevator music but much less boring. Both the 300-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the optional 375-hp turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 are quiet and spread the power out with the unblemished ease of a master baker applying buttercream.

The four-cylinder has a little huffy grumble under heavy throttle, but nothing that's going to distract you from whatever you've got playing on the 21-speaker Lexicon stereo system. The rear-wheel-drive version feels lighter and more nimble, but the all-wheel-drive option offers that sense of stability that makes AWD so popular even in areas with mild weather.

Despite the GV80's large exterior presence and roomy interior, on the road it seems to shrink, never overflowing the lanes, even on narrow, twisty roads. Some of this is the good visibility and responsive steering, and some may be the seating position, lower and more car-like than you'd expect from a midsize SUV.

2021 Genesis GV80 - Action Front 3/4

How comfortable is the GV80?

If you've ever sat on a piece of midcentury furniture and thought, "I wish this was softer, wider and massaging," the GV80 is the SUV for you. The seats, available in both man-made and cow-sourced leather upholstery, are big and padded yet bolstered enough to keep you planted around corners. They're also highly adjustable, heated and ventilated, and if you opt up to the Advanced or Prestige packages, your second-row passengers can enjoy similar adjustability and warm rears. Back-row passengers in the optional Advanced+ third-row seating won't be stretching out, it's a tight fit back there, but they will have cupholders, vents and small-item storage.

2021 Genesis GV80 - Front Interior

How's the GV80's interior?

There's a heated battle right now in automotive design between the button brigade and the clean-space contingent. Too many buttons is cluttered and confusing; too few means complicated touchscreen menus. A side skirmish involves storage space: too many cubbies and crevices makes a car look pockmarked and messy; too few is inconvenient.

The GV80's designers addressed these concerns with covered storage spaces and a floating bridge console, a clean-looking dash with semi-hidden air vents, and a mix of touchscreen, control wheel and physical buttons for controls. The result is a sharp-looking interior that makes the control surfaces obvious without allowing them to dominate the console.

2021 Genesis GV80 - Front Interior

How's the GV80's tech?

There's a lot happening inside the electronic brains of the GV80. There's a horizontal 14.5-inch touchscreen along the top of the dash, plus an 8-inch digital gauge cluster display. One cool feature of this display is that it can show nearly three-dimensional navigation prompts. The same sensors that watch your eyes for fatigue and attentive driving can adjust the graphics to make the direction arrows or your adaptive cruise control graphics seem almost 3D. There's also an excellent head-up display that shows speed, navigation and alerts from driver safety aids.

Speaking of which, the GV80 comes with a large suite of standard driver aids, including expected tech such as blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control. Notably, the GV80's adaptive cruise control system can observe how you drive and then automatically adjust its own braking and acceleration behavior to make it more similar to yours.

Other neat tricks can take a little of the stress out of your commute, such as automatic defogging and even cross-traffic monitoring both front and rear. The rearview and surround-view parking cameras are excellent, and there's also a somewhat redundant sideview camera that comes on in the gauge cluster when you flip on the turn signal.

Phone connectivity, though, is a little underwhelming. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported, but only one of the two front USB ports supports a data connection, and it takes a few clicks to get things running. Rear passengers get charge ports.

2021 Genesis GV80 - Center Console

How's the GV80's storage?

Let's talk about the joy of automatic seat lowering and raising. A push of a button and the second — or optional third row — folds flat. And with another push, they rise back up and click back in place. It's a real back-saver for shorter drivers who dread the deep lean and shove of getting a heavy seat back in position while also holding groceries, a stroller and a baby.

2021 Genesis GV80 - Rear Interior

How economical is the GV80?

With the four-cylinder engine, the GV80 makes an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined in the RWD model and 22 mpg with AWD. The V6, which has AWD as standard, drops to 20 mpg. These figures are about average for a midsize luxury SUV.

The real value in Genesis' new flagship is in luxury per dollar. The most fully loaded 3.5-liter Prestige trim tops out at around $70,000, which is the starting point for most luxury competitors. This is a lot of loveliness for the money.

Based on the interior, the GV80 seems like it should cost more. Every surface is covered in a pleasant material, from diamond-pleated leather to wood grain to glass and knurled, brushed metal. The use of texture makes the interior interesting and attractive. Even the throttle and brake pedals have a distinct faceted pattern. It's a real crowd-pleaser when you open the door.

2021 Genesis GV80 - Action Front 3/4

What are the GV80's trim levels?

The 2021 Genesis GV80 takes an all-inclusive spa-day approach to its luxury SUV. There are three main trim levels: Standard, Advanced and Prestige. All are available with either a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (300 hp, 311 lb-ft of torque) or a turbocharged 3.5-liter six-cylinder (375 hp, 391 lb-ft). They are connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5-liter is available in both RWD and AWD, and the 3.5-liter is AWD-only.

2.5T Standard RWD
Feature highlights include:

  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • Five-passenger seating
  • Faux leather seating surfaces with heated front seats
  • Navigation system
  • 14.5-inch touchscreen
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration
  • Forward collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios)
  • Lane keeping assist (steers the GV80 back into its lane if it begins to drift over the lane marker)
  • Blind-spot monitor with assist (warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot during a lane change and can assist in avoiding a collision)

2.5T Standard AWD
Has the same features as above but with:

  • Panoramic roof
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Manual rear side shades
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Second-row 110-volt AC power outlet
  • Wireless device charger
  • Digital key (allows you to use your phone as the vehicle's key)

2.5T Advanced RWD
Comes with the Standard AWD's features plus:

  • Lexicon premium audio

2.5T Advanced AWD
Adds on a few more features, including:

  • 20-inch wheels
  • Leather seating surfaces
  • Surround-view camera system (gives you a top-down view of the GV80 and its surroundings for tight parking situations)
  • Automated parking system (steers into a parking spot with little or no driver intervention)

2.5T Prestige RWD
Going with the Prestige gets you:

  • 20-inch wheels
  • Tri-zone climate
  • Upgraded 16-way front seats
  • Heated second-row seats

2.5T Prestige AWD
Tops the 2.5T lineup with:

  • 22-inch wheels
  • Adaptive suspension (can improve the GV80's ride quality and handling capability)
  • Head-up display
  • Road active noise cancellation
  • Power driver's seat bolster and cushion extension

3.5T Standard
Has the same features as the 2.5T Standard AWD but with:

  • 20-inch wheels
  • Adaptive suspension

3.5T Advanced
Gets you the features of the 3.5T Advanced AWD but with:

  • Upgraded 16-way front seats
  • Heated second-row seats

3.5T Advanced+
It's the same as the 3.5T Advanced but comes with the power-folding third-row seat.

3.5T Prestige
Has the same features as the 2.5T Prestige AWD but with:

  • 22-inch wheels
  • Upgraded leather seating surfaces
  • Microfiber suede headliner and pillars
  • Power-adjustable second-row seats with ventilation
  • 12.3-inch 3D digital cluster
  • Forward attention warning
  • Power rear side-window shades
  • Power door closure
  • Second-row vanity mirrors

2021 Genesis GV80 - Rear 3/4

Edmunds says

The Genesis GV80 isn't a perfect midsize luxury SUV, but it's closer than anything in its price range has a right to be. It's distinctive, pretty, comfortable and refined. You can quibble with the limited backseat space and the slow phone connectivity, but you'd be hard-pressed to impress for less.

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