Genesis GV80 review
Genesis has arrived in the UK with a bang, or at least a behemoth of an SUV that’s bold and dramatic. It’s intended to take on the might of the German giants from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but is this US-friendly, globally-designed and Korean-built beast up to the task?
Select's rating score* - 3.4 / 5
At a glance
The GV80 gets noticed. This flagship luxury SUV is no shrinking violet, with a dramatic front end that will have the attention of any driver when it appears in their rearview mirror.
Unlike many of its competitors, the GV80 lineup is simple, with just three specifications - Premium, Luxury and Luxury Plus - and just two engines to pick from; a 3.0-litre diesel and a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol.
Four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox are standard across the range. With a choice of either five or seven seats, it’s a versatile beast too, ideal for the well-to-do family.
What lets the Genesis down right now is brand recognition. People tend to be creatures of habit, sticking to what they know, so are drivers ready to embrace this fledgling brand when there are established options from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes? We think they should be.
With the GV80 Genesis is going head to head with some big named rivals in the premium SUV market, but it is well-positioned to make an impact. The quality is every bit as good, and it stacks up size-wise with the likes of Audi’s Q7 and BMW’s X5.
There are plenty of things to like about the GV80, with quality materials throughout the cabin, and an uncluttered feel which plays to the premium aesthetic. Safety equipment and technology are added in large handfuls which only adds to the appeal.
But it’s the tech, some of which is invisible, that lifts the GV80 from some of its more traditional rivals. Augmented reality navigation, while flawed, is helpful, while electronically controlled suspension ‘reads’ the road ahead and adjusts the dampers in advance to provide a smooth ride. Active noise cancellation also creates a more luxurious cabin by digitally eliminating much of the road noise and engine drone you find in every car.
Performance & Drive
While there’s a smooth 3.0-litre diesel engine available in the GV80, most will likely opt for the 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol unit as fitted to our test car.
With 304hp available, and 422Nm of torque on tap, it’s no slouch; the official 0-62mph time is just 6.9 seconds. Given the 2.1 tonne mass of the beast, and the fact that it is built for comfort over speed, that should be more than enough for anyone.
Once you’re in motion, the steering is light and without drama, but it does lack a bit of soul.
The steering wheel seems entirely disconnected with little feel, but it is an SUV, not a sports car, so feedback from the road is ultimately less important. The light steering pays dividends when manoeuvring around urban areas, though.
The suspension is electronically controlled, using the front camera to foresee road faults such as potholes and automatically adjust to maintain a smooth ride.
It’s difficult to tell just how effective this system is though as, while the front of the GV80 feels smooth and refined as it rolls over the terrain, the rear feels less stable, preferring to shimmy over the bumps. Our model had 22-inch wheels, which probably didn’t help the situation - Premium models come fitted with more compliant 20-inch models.
Change the driving mode to Sport and the suspension stiffens slightly, but the back end is still a bit twitchy. The GV80 isn’t a car you’re likely to throw around a track, but just in case, the bolsters on the driver’s seat tighten a little in Sport mode.
We opted to leave it in Comfort mode which is where the GV80 excels. Over the miles we covered, it proved to be perfectly able and comfortable wafting along a motorway, and handled the curves, if not all the bumps, on country roads with aplomb.
An SUV with the aerodynamic profile of a cruise ship (and weighing not much less) and being driven by a powerful petrol engine is never going to be cheap to run, and the Genesis GV80 proves that.
That said, it could be a lot worse. Officially, it’ll return 27.4mpg and, by a quirk of coincidence, that’s exactly what the onboard computer told us we’d managed over 500 miles or so of driving. Don’t think opting for the diesel will save you much, as that promises only a smooch as 32.0mpg.
CO2 emissions run as high as 248g/km, so the GV80 will be in the highest BIK band for company car drivers, producing a monthly tax bill of around £850 for a 40% taxpayer. Private buyers will escape that, of course.
You’ll also escape many of the other running costs as every Genesis includes five years of servicing, roadside assistance, warranty and navigation and software updates.
The GV80 has lots to offer both driver and passengers. Finding a comfortable driving position is made simple by the fully automatic front seats which come as standard. Couple this with the fully adjustable steering wheel and generous headroom, and even the tallest driver will find the right setup.
Given the size of the GV80 - almost five metres in length, nose to tail - it would be surprising not to have a decent amount of head and legroom in the cabin. The second row has a good amount of room, but in the seven-seat configuration, as you would expect, the third row does have more limited legroom, although headroom is still pretty decent.
There is a mix of digital and physical in the cabin, with a 14.5-inch touchscreen taking centre stage. Unlike some brands, you don’t have to swipe through multiple screens to adjust the most basic of elements, like the cabin temperature, as those controls are kept as physical dials on the centre stack.
Our test car was the top of the range Luxury Plus spec, with Vanilla Beige interior trim contrasting with real Black Ash wood trim. The seat comfort pack was thrown in too, giving the driver the option of a massage function and extra lumbar support for those long journeys.
Pleasingly, this pack also meant both driver and passenger seats were equipped with both heating and ventilation, so a road trip in any season can be made much more comfortable.
There’s a good amount of storage available, with a reasonably sized glovebox and covered storage in the centre console. Door pockets are large enough to hold a water bottle, and there are cup holders in both the front and rear.
Genesis seems to be going for a fairly uncluttered, modern look, but has surprisingly chosen a more retro-styled, two-spoke steering wheel - it’s a little quirky compared to the rest of the vehicle, but somehow it works. The only real criticism is that the centre of the wheel has a rather cheap plastic feel, which is in contrast to the quality feel of the rest of the interior.
There is plenty of tech onboard the GV80, controlled through a huge 14.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The far side of the screen is a stretch away, but voice-activated controls are also available, as is a touch controller that’s similar to BMW's iDrive rotary controller.
The controller has a concave finish, allowing your fingers to naturally fall into the centre, where you’ll be able to swipe and even write to your heart's content.
The built-in navigation system is conventional enough until you reach the augmented reality option. This adds an in-screen real-time image of the road, taken by a camera mounted at the front of the car, and overlays arrows, lane markers and street names to make navigation easier.
It’s not perfect, often disappearing at inopportune moments, but it’s a marker of what the tech could do in the future. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available too if you want to make use of your own systems.
Pick the top of the range model, as we did, and you’ll also get an impressive Lexicon audio system with an external amplifier, surround sound, subwoofer, and active noise cancellation.
You’ll also get the pub-bragging remote parking assist package. While cars that effectively park themselves are common, few allow you to get out of the car and stand back and watch as a giant SUV parks itself.
You can also move it back and forth using the keyring, which is more than a gimmick - as it’s so wide, it’s often easier to remotely move the car forward from a parking space before opening the door and getting in.
Question marks over safety would make establishing a new brand tricky, so Genesis has pulled out all the stops and fitted a host of safety equipment included as standard, including 10 airbags - one which inflates between the driver and passenger to prevent injuries from each other during a collision.
Adaptive cruise control, lane follow assist and drive attention warning will make those long motorway slogs easier and safer, but if you should find yourself in a more challenging situation, then systems such as evasive steering assist will come into play.
The strength of the vehicle and the electronic safety aids are enough for Euro NCAP to have awarded the GV80 a full complement of five stars after its thorough testing.
While it might not be an incident that Genesis is keen to have continually attached to its brand, the fact that Tiger Woods survived a high-speed interaction between his GV80 and a tree or two is a testament to the safety features fitted to the vehicle - if nothing else, we can say that they have been tested in the field and performed well.
There are a few options available on the GV80 that are well worth considering. The Innovation Pack (standard on the Luxury Plus model) includes extra safety kit such as both parking collision avoidance assist and forward collision avoidance assist, as well as the remote smart parking assist. It also adds Highway Driving Assist which is an advanced adaptive cruise control system that can even help with situations such as changing lanes.
While there are several USB ports in the cabin, the Innovation Pack includes a wireless charging pad in the centre console and a few other handy extras. It’s good value for £3,900, but you may not need or want all that’s included.
An electronic panoramic sunroof is an option too, although the high roofline does already mean that the cabin feels quite spacious and airy.
The Lexicon audio system, with its 18 speakers positioned throughout the cabin and £1,080 price tag, not only gives enhanced sound quality but also incorporates active road noise cancellation, designed to further cushion you from the outside world and promote the sensation of luxury. For the most part, this does a good job, keeping that motorway drone to a minimum.
The Audi is big, spacious and built exceptionally well, but prices are high. The options list is long too, potentially adding another five figures to the price tag.
Opting for the BMW X5 will get you the finest driving large SUV, but that comes at the expense of outright comfort. It’s still practical though, and the plug-in hybrid option means it’s (almost) a sensible option. The rear space is tight, though.
A dramatic digital interior is the defining mark of the Mercedes-Benz GLE, which will attract and repel drivers in equal quantity. A plug-in hybrid diesel means there’s a model with relatively low running costs, but beware that much of the safety equipment is relegated to the options list.
Closely related to the Genesis is the Kia Sorento. It may lack the badge kudos, but it’s loaded with kit, is big and spacious, and running costs are very competitive. It’s also tens of thousands of pounds cheaper, and that’s reflected in monthly leasing rates.
A week with the Genesis GV80 threw up some foibles; the suspension isn’t where it should be, it’s a thirsty vehicle, and there’s no sign of any electric model or even a hybrid. It’s big, bold and feels a little like it’s a car released at a time when the world is moving onto something more sustainable.
Despite that, we fell in love with the Genesis. The cabin is glorious, looking and feeling as good as anything this side of a Bentley, while the ride and drive are refined and comfortable. Street presence is there too, with the GV80 attracting more glances and curious drivers from other vehicles than anything we've had on test for a long time.
The number of Audi and BMW drivers (and even a Range Rover driver) who accosted me in various car parks to find out more about the flash SUV I was in suggests that Genesis might just have got the mix right. Look out, Germany.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Genesis GV80
**Correct as of 23/05/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £7,712.64 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.