It’s been a struggle for Genesis, since the luxury brand was spun off by Hyundai a few years back – but not due to problems with its products, the G70, in particular, landing the coveted trophy as North American Car of the Year in January 2018.
The problem is that Genesis has focused exclusively on sedans since it was split off from the more mainstream consumer parent in late 2016. That’s not a good thing in a market where sport and crossover-utility vehicles account for nearly two-thirds of U.S. sales, sedans sliding to barely a quarter of the market in recent months.
But that’s about to change. Not the market, of course, but the fact that Hyundai is finally getting ready to crash into the utility vehicle market, the latest luxury brand to get there, with the new GV80 model set to roll into U.S. showrooms in the coming months.
“As we launch GV80, our first luxury flagship SUV, we simultaneously open a new chapter for Genesis,” said William Lee, Executive Vice President and Global Head of the Genesis Brand, adding that the new model “represents the essence of the innovative spirit of Genesis.”
Innovative, perhaps, but Genesis clearly took its time getting the crossover-based model to market considering we got a first look at the concept version of the GV80 almost three years ago, at the 2017 New York International Auto Show.
Then again, perhaps the timing will work out for the better. The Korean luxury brand faced a series of legal and logistic challenges after splitting off from Hyundai, issues that slowed the roll-out of its new dealer network. Only in recent months has Genesis finally gotten things in place across all 50 states.
Now that showrooms are opening in places like Texas, one of the states where the retail network was delayed, Genesis officials are hoping they’ll win buyers looking for the same sort of formula first seen on the Genesis G90, G80 and G70 sedan models. In short, a mix of great design, solid powertrain technology and performance, good handling and a level of features and technology that one would pay substantially more for in products from better-established European, American and Japanese luxury brands.
At first glance, anyone recalling the original GV80 concept vehicle will get a sense of déjà vu. The result of a joint effort pairing Genesis designers in South Korea, the U.S. and Europe, the production model has a solid, though not necessarily brutish presence. It shares the latest version of the Genesis brand’s signature Crest grille first seen on the redesigned G90 model last year.
It’s surrounded by new, split Quad Lamps which Luc Donckerwolke, the brand’s design chief, said “will become the most recognizable, unique signature of Genesis design, as the simplest of lines communicate a distinct identity.”
The overall proportions of the GV80 emphasize power and provide a sense of luxury, with a long nose and subtle flairs to the wheel arches. If there’s anything generic to the design, it’s the subtly coupe-like curve to the roofline. Adding a bit more style is the character line that flows off the front bumper, wrapping all the way around to the rear.
Inside, the GV80 retains the high-line detailing seen on its premium sedans, such as the G90 andG80, including diamond-quilted leather seating. The SUV opts for a virtual gauge cluster and, picking up on the latest trend, it gets a laptop-sized 14.5-inch touchscreen atop the center stack. While German marques such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi are abandoning rotary controllers for touch pads, the Genesis uses both which, along with the touchscreen and voice controls gives motorists plenty of ways to operate functions and enter destinations.
The emphasis on technology extends to the GV80’s “active motion seat,” a system of seven air cells that respond to vehicle motions to reduce, driver fatigue on longer trips. It also claims to use an advanced active noise control technology to minimize road noise.
On the safety front, there are plenty of advanced driver assistance systems such as smart cruise control, highway driving assistance to keep you centered in your lane and even change lanes when you tap the turn signal, as well as blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts. On top of that, there are a total of 10 airbags.
From a more traditional, mechanical perspective, the GV80 will offer several different powertrain options, though it doesn’t appear the diesel shown this week will make it to the States. Genesis isn’t ready to say what’s coming to the U.S. beyond hinting there will be “two turbocharged gasoline engines.” A safe bet would include the twin-turbo 3.3-liter V-6 currently used by the brand on its three sedans, that package pumping out 365 horsepower. Since the Genesis V-8 seems unlikely to be a third option, the other powertrain may be a new 290-hp turbo-four.
The Genesis GV80 rides on an all-new chassis and, surprisingly for the Hyundai Motor Corp., opts for extensive use of lightweight aluminum to hold down mass. The platform is, fundamentally, rear-drive, though an all-wheel-drive version is likely to be the preferred option in the States, as is the case with most luxury SUVs.
The sedan uses a camera-based road preview system to program its electronic suspension, the system able to anticipate bumps and potholes to automatically adjust ride dynamics at each corner. Meanwhile, AWD models coming to the U.S. will get an electronic Limited Slip Differential.
The 2021 GV80 might be the first SUV from the Korean luxury brand, but it won’t be the last. Expect to see one, and possibly two, more to follow, a senior Genesis source recently told TheDetroitBureau.com. Meanwhile, the automaker is expected to bring its first all-electric model out around 2022, with still more products in the pipeline.
With more product and an expanding, nationwide distribution network, Genesis officials are hoping they can finally start their climb into the mainstream of the luxury market.