The Genesis G80 was one of our favorite cars to drive in all of 2020. That sedan is a masterful blend of luxury and style, with impressive technology and some of the best active safety equipment available today. So how does all of that translate to a high-riding crossover? Spoiler alert: exceptionally well.
The 2021 Genesis GV80 takes all the best elements of the G80 – well, nearly all the best pieces – and applies them to a more mainstream mid-size luxury crossover. The end result is a vehicle that's very clearly one of the front runners of the class, offering eye-popping style, swathes of luxury, and again, loads of advanced technology and safety.
Though if we have to nitpick, there is a bit that seemingly got lost in the translation from sedan to SUV – at least in this particular spec. The ride on the GV80 is harsher than we'd like, although that's possibly a result of the 22-inch wheels tested here. And the latest Genesis infotainment system does take some time to get used to, but that's not exclusive to the GV80. Still, the Genesis GV80 is easy to love.
Without hesitation, we can say that Genesis builds some of the prettiest cars on the planet. The brand's signature “Athletic Elegance” design language looks stunning on its first SUV. The shield-shaped grille and split headlight treatment on the front end afford the GV80 a bold look, while the aggressive body siding and tapered rear – with the same split light fixtures as the front – give the GV80 a truly athletic look.
On this Prestige model, 22-inch wheels come standard versus the base 20-inchers – and the bigger wheels complement the already-bold styling. The $500 Adriatic Blue paint optioned here is a nice touch as well, available alongside equally good alternatives like Cardiff Green and Lima Red. All in all, this is one of the best-looking luxury SUVs out there.
The GV80 will instantly wow you with its opulent, well-appointed interior. Designers took a minimalist approach in sculpting the dash, which accentuates the sleek 14.5-inch touchscreen display and the abundance of high-quality materials. The knurled gear selector and matching infotainment controller feel like pieces ripped from something far more expensive, joined by hefty aluminum fixtures for otherwise basic functions like the drive mode selector.
Our tester wears a gorgeous Ultramarine Blue and Dune Beige interior color scheme, with quilted leather on the seats and high-quality leatherette on the dash and door panels. The steering wheel adorns a thoughtful two-spoke design that allows you to cruise comfortably with both hands resting on the bottom of the wheel. Even the back seat gets the same quilted leather as the front buckets, offering heating functionality and power-adjustable reclining in this Prestige model. Frankly, anywhere inside the GV80 is a fantastic place to be.
Great To Drive
Borrowing some characteristics from the athletic G70 and the posh G80, the Genesis GV80 has solid on-road manners. This crossover isn't the sportiest of the bunch, emphasizing luxury over performance, but it's still very good from the driver's seat. Power delivery is smooth, even with the smaller turbocharged 2.5-liter engine (good for 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet) versus the optional 3.5-liter V6 we drove recently, while the eight-speed automatic transmission is seamless and the steering is well-weighted and responsive.
This car is mostly great on the highway, minus some harsh ride qualities – which we'll get to in the next section. Otherwise, with some of the best active safety equipment in the business and available Road Active Noise Cancellation, the GV80 makes a solid companion for long-distance hauls.
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Harsh Ride (With 22-Inch Wheels)
On the flip-side to that prior point – while the GV80 does feel smooth and refined on a flawlessly paved piece of highway, anything outside of totally flat asphalt and this crossover exhibits some harsh manners. We mostly blame the 22-inch wheels, which cause the vehicle to bump and shake noticeably over imperfect pavement.
And the suspension is maybe a touch too rigid. The GV80 simply doesn't feel anywhere near as refined as its sedan counterpart, the G80. That said, Managing Editor Brandon Turkus drove the GV80 on its base 20-inch wheels and gave the crossover high marks for its cushy suspension – so the massive wheels are likely the main offender.
Complex Infotainment System
We mentioned this in our first drive of the G80 but, the new Genesis infotainment system is complex. That’s not to say the system is bad – in fact, once you get the hang of things, it has one of the nicer user interfaces. But understanding the Genesis infotainment system requires a steep learning curve.
The layout consists of boxes arranged in a linear fashion, displaying basic functions like navigation, radio, phone connectivity, etc. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, with split-screen functionality allowing you to use either Android or Apple alongside those baked-in Genesis features. Functionally, the rotary dial is pretty seamless – but knowing where everything is and how to access basic features takes time. Also, while the 14.5-inch display does offer touch functionality, it sits so deep within that dash that it’s impossible to use while driving.
Four-Cylinder Can Be Loud
When you really hammer the throttle in the GV80, the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine can come on a bit strong. For as good as this vehicle is at keeping wind, tire, and exterior noise out, the sound from the four-cylinder is noticeable at higher engine speeds. That's not an uncommon characteristic for this class, though; plenty of other competitors have a four-banger that's a bit loud when you gun it.
2021 Genesis GV80 2.5T Prestige