Updated: Jan 31
Two things to come to grips with before we get into the nitty gritty of the all-new Genesis GV80. Firstly, it’s design and looks come across heaps better in real life than in photos, that crest grille which looks weird at times in the pics really does work. Bentley was a name continuously thrown at me from causal observers, and that means the Korean beauty carries some sort of visual cache that relays exactly what it is.
Secondly, it is a bloody good car. No ifs, no buts, just good… and as good as anything with which it will compete for your cash. Perhaps aside from the stonking Ms and AMGs, the need to be European diminishes as you start contemplating what you can do with the 20, 30 or more thousands of dollars you save on the purchase by the time you load up with the same equipment.
The standard kit in the Genesis is something to behold and this is where the debate gets interesting. Heads-up display, heated and cooled seats front and rear, soft close doors, a stereo that truly kicks with subwoofers under the front seats, panoramic sunroof, electric rear window shades and road-noise active noise cancelling (which does much more than just make a quieter cabin it also reduces fatigue on long drives) heads the list. But it is also the way it is put together, and the design language that portrays luxury.
On the safety side of the ledger, there are 10 airbags and the Genesis Active Safety Control suite of technologies, including multi-function Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance-Assist, Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go and Machine Learning functions, and a Surround View Monitor with 3D function. Throw in automatic high beam that graduates from on to off rather than switching abruptly and also creates a ‘black spot’ for oncoming traffic that keeps the side of the road lit without blinding others, cross-traffic alerts and the seeming inability to reverse into anything, and you have a pretty impressive away of tech-inspired safety equipment.
And there are gadgets too. You can start the car from outside the car and use the remote sensing park assist to perform parking manoeuvres from outside the car. It sounds like a gimmick but imagine being able to squeeze a big car into a small spot and not have to bang doors getting in and out. But yeah, it is also a great party trick!
When parting with $100k or more for an SUV you know will be a getting a good and incredibly safe car. The difference between all the brands is what equipment you get, and how the car makes you feel. You should have the idea by now that everything you need and probably want in a car is covered by the standard pack along with the luxury option.
Externally the GV80 cuts quite a picture. Starting with the nose the grille makes quite a statement and people stop and look. It is elegant and strong at the same time. The grille is flanked by a unique headlight configuration. The slimline quad headlights have two lines of turning indicators in a design that flows down the side of the car with twin repeaters just in front of the doors, and the same design at the rear of the car.
There could be a little more drama with the LEDs, such as a flow down the side of the car, but regardless of the desire for a little extra excitement, they certainly stand out in a good way when being used.
The paintwork is unbelievably good. Our GV80 was finished in Cardiff Green and when you look at it closely it has a 3D effect to it, such is the layering of paint and protection. It was beautiful, but I wouldn't want to scratch it, which with all the safety assists should never happen anyway. The visual highlights and tuck lines down the side of the car give an athletic appearance to what is actually a large car. There are also matt paint options which would be interesting to explore
It looks good, and typically with what is actually a relatively new brand, most people who saw it loved trying to guess what it was, and as mentioned earlier Bentley was a name that was used a lot. Obviously, the guessers haven’t seen a Bentley Bentayga in real life, for at 1/3rd of the price the Genesis is much better looking.
Inside is where it really works though. The quilted leather seats up front are cosseted in a cockpit feel as the centre console wraps around each occupant and the dash swoops around to complete the feel with ambient lighting at night enhances the feel. The centre console ups the ante too, with dials and switchgear that grow the multi-dimensional nature of this vehicle, they feel good and look stunning.
The gear selector is a dial with metal bezzling deep inside a clear resin case, that matched some of the other switchgear too. Genesis says it is jewellery inspired, and you can see that. The volume control for the radio is a little barrel with etched grip lines.
There is a 14.5 inch (why do we still talk inches for things like this – it is 37cm) infotainment system that does the job up front of relaying information and allowing you to control the music selection. It sits above a set of slimline air outlets that may struggle a little in the hot Aussie sun, so use the remote start to cool it a little before you climb in.
But the dash is where the Genesis people have done their best work. It features two big dials to carry speed (although with a heads up display you rarely use it) and revs with customisable 3D effect, why you wouldn’t use this on ‘maximum’ I have no idea. The layers enhance not just to look, but the readability and the colours change depending on the drive mode chosen.
Then the real highlight is when you flick a turning indicator, and one of the dials turns into a camera display and shows you what is hidden in the mirror’s blindspot.
The drive mode has four settings – eco, standard, sport and custom – and they do exactly as described. When you select sport the surrounds of the dash go red and the side bolsters on the seat hug you a little more. In sport mode the GV80 is quite sharp, it smooths out some of the pitchiness you can get on our country roads and help it to point into corners.
For most of the time we had the car, it cruised in eco mode and we got a fuel consumption of 10.2L/100km which was pretty impressive. In the country, we were seeing numbers in the 7s and the city it was 12.
We had the smallest of the three engines available, a punchy 2.5L 4-cylinder engine putting out 225kW. There is also a 3.0L diesel at a $10k premium and then a 3.5L petrol engine with 279kW for a little more again. The two bigger engined models also have a third row of seats and because they are all-wheel-drive they have an electronic limited-slip differential. The smaller engine was quick enough if you want to save the cash, and it was rear-wheel-drive only hence the fuel economy – the optional all-wheel-drive would have drunk a little more. Overtaking on country roads was not a drama, and the critical 80-120 acceleration was impressive.
As a driver’s car, it is OK, which given it is an SUV is more than acceptable. It tracks cleanly on all surfaces and soaks up most bumps with ease, only feeling a little uneasy on a series of undulating bumps. It turns in well and shows nicely balanced understeer on the gentle corners. Some of the driver aids occasionally feel a bit intrusive, but they are also amazingly efficient. The lane tracking, for instance, can find the unpainted side of a road on some of our worst country strips.
OK, so what doesn’t this car do so well. Some of the ergonomics are a bit south of where they should be, but most of the problems spots will be fixed by familiarity. The navigation system is awkward at best and I never really mastered its nuances during my time with the car – although the speed warnings and the like will surely save you a heap over time. The gearbox is not as clever as the Germans, but that really only matters if you are pressing on since it does the day-to-day perfectly fine. The brakes are also good, wiping off speed with ease and control.
That’s it for the negatives!
Where Genesis really wins is in the warranty stakes. The Europeans have only 3-year warranties while all Genesis models come with a 5-year unlimited kilometres warranty. Servicing is also included for that period although the kilometres are limited there… For servicing, Genesis comes and collects the car and drops it off to you, or there is access to a complimentary vehicle if you can’t do without your car for the day.
On top of all this, Genesis is already one of the top-ranked brands in the prestigious JD Power ratings out of the States, which measures consumer sentiment and satisfaction.
Now, the catch. There are no dealerships in the traditional sense, you need to jump onto the Genesis website (https://www.genesis.com/au/en/genesis.html) and you can order a test driver and someone will come and see you with a car. Then you can price and order online too.
Without wanting to sound like a sales pitch, if you can get past the need for a German badge you will not be disappointed when looking at the Genesis GV80.