When Hyundai made Genesis its standalone luxury brand, it had only sedans to offer consumers, a brave strategy in the U.S. considering how SUV-hungry American shoppers are. An SUV has long been a goal for Genesis, but it always wanted the SUV to be a Genesis, not just a rebadged Hyundai. Building a new car takes a while, unfortunately, so while the GV80 concept first appeared in 2017, it took until now to make the GV80, appearing at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, a reality.
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And it was worth it. So worth it. I called the 2021 GV80 a “Five Below Bentley Bentayga” in our preview, but, again, that wasn’t to be mean. It’s made my point (plus, it was alliterative). The GV80 looks great, with a luxurious appearance that says it’s worth far more than what its price is likely to be (we still don’t know that, unfortunately). The model on the show floor had a commanding presence thanks to its optional 22-inch wheels and a beautiful shade of green paint.
Inside, matching green leather covered the seating surfaces, which are as well designed and as cushioned as anything a German manufacturer might offer. Soft-touch surfaces abound and materials quality is top-notch. Our concerns about Genesis’ efforts to reduce the number of buttons and switches and go the misguided way of touchscreens and haptic feedback were allayed — physical controls still exist for the important stuff like climate and audio controls. While there is a controller for the 14.5-inch multimedia display on the center console, it’s also a touchscreen. It’s possibly a little too far away for drivers to reach the far-right side of the screen — I had to stretch a bit from my natural seating position, and I’m 6-foot-1 with a wingspan NBA analysts might awkwardly describe as “tremendous length.”
The model on the floor lacked a functional way to access the optional third row of seats without climbing over the folded second-row bench — but that’s fine because there’s really not room for adults back there. The GV80 isn’t really meant to be a family hauler, either, so a third row for children or adults you don’t like (or children you don’t like) isn’t a significant negative.
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The GV80 is full of innovations we can’t test without driving it, such as the active road noise cancellation that analyzes the sound frequency of road noise and within two thousandths of a second generates an opposing sound that reduces road noise in the cabin. It’s an impressive technology on paper, but we’ll have to experience it in person to know how well it works.
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