2021 Genesis GV80 Prestige AWD: Waiting for a luxury SUV that dazzles?
Price: $72,375. Blue paint, $400.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “lovely interior ambience, standard high-tech features, agile handling,” but not the “cramped third-row passenger space, no diesel engine for the U.S., heavily weighted steering feel.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Boundless by design.”
Reality: The wait is not over.
What’s new: Here’s a brand-spanking-new SUV from the luxury division of Hyundai. I was eager to try out the new competition for some of the old standards.
Up to speed: There’s more to life than data.
Last week I reported the Toyota Venza felt like a peppy car but took more than 7.5 seconds to get to 60 mph. This week, it felt like the GV80 did anything but rocket to 60 while Motor Trend contends the 3.5-liter turbo V-6 offers 375 horsepower to get you there in six seconds flat.
Obviously the vehicle feel has a lot to do with that impression — those same dynamics that make for fun curves also translate the way forward momentum feels. (And it’s true; I’m driving a Tahoe Z71 right now that feels like a real dog, but numbers say it gets to 60 in 6.5 seconds.)
The GV80 engine sounds like it’s going to have a stroke getting there, though, while the Tahoe sounds like I’m driving a school bus.
Shifty: During acceleration tests, the shifts kicked in far later than I wanted; I actually hit the shift paddle myself a couple times.
Even without full throttle, late shifting occurred in Sport mode as a rule.
The dial shifter is not my favorite approach, but Genesis added some thoughtful touches. Twist counterclockwise for reverse, clockwise for drive, and access park using the button in the middle. It requires more concentration than a simple PRNDL twist, which is a good thing.
On the road: Always make sure the lane-keeping system is deactivated when you sit behind the wheel, otherwise the GV80 will have a mind of its own.
Of course, people looking for fun handling know to look elsewhere. The steering was fairly precise, but the GV80 feels really big and bulky. Rolling hills can upset tummies, and those yellow speed limit signs line curves expressly for SUVS like the GV80. Highway driving is nice, though.
Driver’s Seat: A smooth, floaty SUV seems like it would get a cushy seat, but the GV80′s firm Nappa leather seats up front felt stiff like a Mazda’s.
Although the lumbar area was not too intrusive, the seat bottom offered its own version of too much lumbar. (Buttbar? Cheekbar? Glutebar?) Remember riding the school bus, and one of your annoying friends would press his feet up under the bottom of the seat? Again and again? Yeah, it was like having little Mike or Sean (or, OK, I admit it, Scotty) do that.
The seat offers wide spaces and nice leg support, so potential buyers who are less snowflakey than Mr. Driver’s Seat might be just fine.
Friends and stuff: The second row is not as spacious as it would appear, with tight legs and feet. Plenty of headroom is available, though, so people with long torsos, short legs and small feet are served well. A third row is offered only on the Advanced+ trim level, so I trust C&D that it’s tight, too.
Still, the second row seat itself is comfortable, and middle-seat passengers don’t suffer all that much, either.
Play some tunes: Arrgh. Just arrgh. The GV80 stereo offers little that’s intuitive. Couple that with the wavy road handling and, first time ever in a test vehicle, I actually drifted out of my lane trying to adjust with a stereo. My bad, yes, but I’m someone who knows better. Consider this in the hands of drivers who don’t. (Driver’s Seat motto: I do stupid things so you don’t have to.)
The system features a plastic circle touch pad surrounded by a silver ring dial — a hard-to-dial dial, no less. Most moves took me somewhere I didn’t really want to go, and then it was hard to get back.
Sound from the Lexicon Premium Audio with 21 speakers is not the high-end playback I’d expected, even with fancy audience and stage settings. Call it a B+.
Keeping warm and cool: A spiffy display features dials for temperatures and an ebony set of buttons for a few settings, then it’s off to Touchscreen City, and more chances for swerving. The automatic mode works well, but I would pay money for a system where I can find the blower settings without spending five minutes doing it. Oh, wait, that comes standard on cheaper cars.
Fuel economy: I struggled to climb past 16 mpg in a not-very-highway-heavy mix of driving.
Where it’s built: Ulsan, South Korea
How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the GV80 reliability will be a 2 out of 5.
In the end: Lane-keeping is not a substitute for vehicles that have user-friendly controls and decent suspensions; what are you going to do when it snows (or rains or is foggy or something goes wrong) and the system fails you? The Highlander skimps on the gewgaws but does all the important stuff better for 20 grand less.