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First Drive: The 2021 Genesis GV80

Reviewer David Booth believes the GV80 is about to take the brand to heights unseen in its first five years in existence. Handout / Genesis
Reviewer David Booth believes the GV80 is about to take the brand to heights unseen in its first five years in existence. Handout / Genesis - Contributed

By David Booth      


If you’re still not sure of what niche Hyundai is hoping to carve out for its new-ish Genesis luxury brand, one quick ride in its new GV80 should dispel any confusion with the Korean take on luxury.

I think the GV80 is about to take the brand to heights unseen in its first five years in existence. But I think the reason the GV80 will prove popular has as much to do with Genesis’ execution of its first SUV, rather than just the fact that the GV80 has a hatch were Genesis’ sedans have but a trunk. And that reason is a quality that virtually all other mainstream luxury marques (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, et al) have seemingly abandoned: opulence. But the GV80 aims for just that.

Climb inside the top-of-the-line Prestige version ($85,000 in 3.5L trim) and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve mistakenly sat in a Bentley. The Nappa leather is soft and supple in a way the Germans have long forgotten, the Dune-Beige tester sporting quilting so ornate I thought I was lounging in a Roller. Every bit of wood is real, every single piece of brightened metal is aluminum polished to just the right satin hue. The main switchgear that controls the infotainment system and the gear selector all look they could have come out of a Pagani. Even the rotary gearshift selector looks particularly exquisite, as it’s crafted from tempered glass. Throw in a 14.5-inch touchscreen handsomely laid onto the centre dashboard and a completely digital instrument cluster, and you have an interior best described by a word seldom used anymore – grandeur.

It’s also chock-a-block with technology that ups the extravagance: seats that both massage and stretch, a Lexicon sound system that features no less than 21 speakers, and a more than impressive infotainment system.

The 2021 Genesis GV80 boasts a quality that virtually all other mainstream luxury marques have seemingly abandoned: opulence. Handout / Genesis - Contributed
The 2021 Genesis GV80 boasts a quality that virtually all other mainstream luxury marques have seemingly abandoned: opulence. Handout / Genesis - Contributed

 

There is a price to be paid, however and that is all that swish buttonry and high-tech gadgetry can get a little complicated. For instance, the infotainment controller is almost identical to an old iPod’s rotary dial, albeit with an admittedly beautiful knurled metal finish. It didn’t work that great then, and it doesn’t function much better now. Worse yet, Genesis also tries to make it the pad for writing recognition – which few will likely use since the GV80 also has voice recognition.

And the infotainment is simply too complicated. There are no less than 18 “tiles” controlling various aspects aspects of the GV80’s copious electronics and many are full of submenus.

Too many automakers – Genesis is but the latest – start with the most powerful computer system they can develop and then try to make it manageable when, in fact, what they should be doing is starting with a very simple system and then adding features until said simplicity is threatened. No doubt, familiarity would make some of this inconvenience palatable, but with an intended audience that I think will skew substantially older than Millennial, at least a few GV80 owners may find the complication burdensome.

However, that’s my only major complaint with Genesis’ new SUV. Indeed, some of the other technology – the world’s first AI-controlled adaptive cruise control system, a five-radar cross traffic alert system that “sees” a wider range of traffic, and more — is impressive. Ditto the powertrains on offer — for those looking to save on all this affordable affluence, this “lesser” turbocharged four-cylinder in the Select and Advance models might be the powertrain of choice. Despite a seemingly substantial horsepower deficit to the 3.5-litre V6, it’s anything but anemic and off the line its punch seems all but comparable with the V6.

With 2.5 litres of displacement — rather than the typical turbo-four’s 2.0 litres — there’s a bunch of horsepower and torque: 300 ponies and 311 pound-feet in fact, which, married to the slick eight-speed automatic, makes the four-cylinder feel surprisingly sprightly. And, thanks to the fact that it weighs some 158 kilograms (348 pounds) less than the V6 — much of that over the front wheels — the base GV80 feels lighter on its feet than its more powerful sibling.

And the 3.5-litre is definitely more powerful, its 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft more than plenty for a luxury ute. Once you get past 4,500 rpm or so, it’s also smoother than the four-banger. That said, I never needed the power and seldom got the smaller 2.5T to such a speed that it was raucous. Besides, there’s a very effective noise cancellation system that uses both accelerometers and microphones to quell both engine and road noise. Buy the bigger engine if you must, but don’t bother trying to convince yourself you need it. Indeed, the main reason for opting for the V6 is that it comes with a booming 21-speaker Lexicon audio system as standard equipment.

You will appreciate that all GV80s, regardless of the engine you choose, come with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system with an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. Rear-wheel drive based, it can vary the torque spilt from 50/50 front/rear to sending fully 100 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels. And once there, said limited-slip differential can send 100 per cent of that torque to either wheel. Yes, that does mean that in extreme conditions, all of the engine’s torque can be sent to one single solitary wheel if it is the only one that has traction. I can’t imagine a GV80 getting stuck deep enough in any woods to warrant such exacting torque distribution.

The GV80 absolutely nails the semi-wealthy’s need for interior indulgence and that may be just as important for Genesis as the fact that it’s an SUV.

The first batch of pre-ordered GV80s will be distributed to customers by the end of November. All four trim levels will be available, including the 2.5T Select — which for $64,500, includes a full suite of advanced driver assistance aids, wireless charging and a panoramic roof — and the $70,000 2.5T Advance, which ups the ante with a blind-spot monitor, ventilated front seats, and 20-inch wheels. V6 versions come in Advanced trim as well ($80,000) which adds the 21-speaker Lexicon audio system, electronically-controlled suspension and even bigger 22-inch wheels, while the top-of-the-line V6 Prestige adds a 3D digital display, Nappa leather, and active noise cancellation for 85-large.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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