It's happened again.
While testing an all-new easy-on-the eyes five-door crossover, a curious suburban Chicago resident, this time from Glen Ellyn, inquired as to "What exactly is Genesis?"
A meaningful query in an ever-evolving automotive landscape where the Covid 19 pandemic shut the doors during past year to informative, hands-on, consumer-oriented auto shows of all sizes, including the regional favorite Chicago Auto Show.
Information overload in general and an abundance of new automotive brands specifically (including a cadre of electric vehicle startups) creates an environment where standing out even after a half-dozen years in business remains problematic.
Genesis signifies a stand-alone luxury brand and a division of South Korea's Hyundai Motors. The brand officially launched in 2015, but beforehand the Genesis name graced a rear-wheel drive ultra-prime Hyundai product debuting in 2008.
The general population is just catching on.
The first vehicle launching under the new luxury flagship was the full-size 2017 model year G90 sedan. Two smaller four-door models followed shortly in the form of G80 and G70 respectively. Our test drive 2021 GV80 represents the company's first crossover foray. A second five-door crossover-bodied production model, the GV70, is projected to debut during the summer of 2021.
During the mid-teens, Genesis-branded models first sold through already established Hyundai dealers prior to independent Genesis showrooms opening. As of this writing, five stand-alone Genesis dealers intersperse throughout Chicagoland including Genesis of Elmhurst and Genesis of Downers Grove.
Ironically, time spent as the title sponsor of the Genesis Golf Invitational during the spring of 2021 spotlighted the brand generally and the all-new GV80 crossover specifically. Golf legend Tiger Woods was piloting an all-new GV80 through Southern California's twisting pavements ending up unintentionally off-road. Both vehicle and golfer got banged up but good, with a long recovery road ahead for the golfer and a less rosy picture for the surviving sheet metal.
Ten air bags come standard including a segment first third front air bag. In the event of a collision, a front center air bag deploys helping prevent the two front passengers from colliding with one another. This could have aided Mr. Woods during his misadventure. The bags join an expansive list of standard passive and active safety features utilizing electronic/radar sensing.
The G prefix of GV80 denotes the Genesis Brand while V suggests "versatile" (think crossover). The numerical deca-suffix signifies product size: the larger the number, the bigger the vehicle size.
As with parent company Hyundai, Genesis aims to undercut rivals utilizing value pricing and attention to detail. Beware BMW X5, Acura MDX (redesigned in 2022) and Cadillac XT5, there's a new luxury crossover in town.
Total U.S. Genesis sales during the pandemic-laden 2020 calendar year reached 16,384. The best year in Genesis' short lifespan was one year prior, where 21,237 models sold. With GV80 on board and all-new compact GV70 crossover arriving soon, 2021 should easily surpass those modest figures.
Another common thread Genesis shares with its parental brand Hyundai; a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, one of the industry's longest. This simple, easy-to-remember marketing mantra helped revive Hyundai's U.S. sales in the mid-1990s and can't hurt efforts at Genesis as the brand strives for name recognition.
In addition to the excellent powertrain warranty, a valet service picks up and returns GV80 during scheduled maintenance appointments (including oil changes) offering a complimentary courtesy vehicle if desired during the first three years/36,000 miles of ownership. Also included at no charge; five years of complimentary roadside assistance.
Two new-to-Genesis dual-fuel injected engines are available under hood of the GV80. Dual fuel injection combines advantages of both gasoline direct injection and multi-port injection. Benefits include performance and fuel economy boosts and reduced engine emissions. A 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder inline version generates 311 horses (21 mpg city, 25 mpg highway) while the larger twin turbo 3.5 liter variant ups the ante to 375 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway). Rear wheel drive comes standard in the four-cylinder engine with all-wheel drive optional. All-wheel drive exclusively powers the six banger.
Engines include start/stop technology. At prolonged stops, engines idle themselves to sleep conserving fuel. Once the right foot lifts off the brake pedal, the system springs awake again. A push button along the dashboard's far left deactivates the system, if desired. Other functions in this region include buttons powering the rear lift gate open and close along with the electronic parking brake. The power rear hatch also opens with a foot swipe beneath the bumper as long as the key fob remains on person.
Both engines team with a very smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, controlled via the pilot via an electronically-controlled, bejeweled, tactile rotary dial located between front buckets. A diamond theme runs throughout the interior. The fuel tank holds 21.7 gallons of recommended premium unleaded fuel.
No fully electric vehicle (EV) currently resides in the Genesis lineup. That's about to change. In April of 2021, the company announced an EV variant of the mid-size G80 sedan arrives in the U.S. at a yet-to-be determined date.
Trim levels include Base, Advanced, Advanced Plus and Prestige. Prestige all-wheel drive trims (our tester) include an electronic limited slip differential allowing power distribution to vary between left and right rear wheels. Up to 100 percent of rear power can be sent to either wheel aiding trips encountering uneven terrain (perhaps benefitting Mr. Woods).
Five passenger seating comes standard with a 50/50 split power folding third row (available only in the all-wheel drive Advanced Plus trim) reaching a seven-person capacity. Heated front seats come standard while a cooling-type seat ventilation feature comes standard along with a heated steering wheel with a hard-to-miss oval shape.
This newest Genesis includes mid-size dimensions skewing towards the larger end of the mid-size spectrum, allowing three adults to fit comfortably in row two despite a smallish vertical floor hump.
Pricing starts a $48,900 for the rear-drive four cylinder Base edition. Our tester, a four-cylinder, all-wheel drive top-trim Prestige started at $54,650. Two option groups included an $4,350 Advanced Package (leather seating, 21-speaker system, blind-spot view monitor) and $4,400 Prestige Package (22-inch alloy wheels, electronically controlled suspension, upgrading self-leveling rear suspension, heads-up windshield display, driver seat bolster and cushion extension). Lima Red exterior paint added $500, bringing the bottom line to $64,945 after $1,045 destination charge.
A well-equipped Advanced Plus with third-row power folding 50/50 seat started at $65,550.
Up front boasts an extra-large, can't-miss bulbous mesh grille borrowed from Genesis' flagship G90 sedan. It's flanked by a horizontal-skewed quad headlights separated into two narrow horizontal slits.
The remaining silhouette follows a proven schematic featuring a roof apex above the B pillar then gently sloping towards the hatchback and meeting up with a stylish topside spoiler. Front fenders include chrome art work intertwined with low-tech but effective secondary amber blinkers. When exiting at night, the side-view mirrors project the Genesis logo to the pavement below (puddle lamps in auto speak).
Three types of seating surfaces are available with a posh Nappa leather variant sold exclusively in the six-cylinder top-trim Prestige. Leatherette covers seating surfaces of base trims with standard leather handling the remaining selections. Our Prestige trim combined both a supportive base and a contoured rump fit.
A matte finish wood trim is found between front buckets and doors, combining with soft-touch duo-colored materials. The dashboard's massive top side contrasts with the flat, horizontal multi-function screen. Narrow red pin lighting glows at night separating top and bottom hemispheres.
The highly recommend blind-spot monitor includes a full-color video feed from tiny cameras mounted on outside side-view mirrors. Crisp, real-time, in-motion projections appear in the instrument cluster's left side tachometer when activating the left or right side turn signals. Once completing the lane shift or turn, the screen shot fades and the tach gauge returns.
The sizeable, horizontal three-dimensional multi-function touch screen along the top dash comes standard, and converts to a two-dimensional format if desired. Up-level trims super-size to a 14.5-inch version. A multi-function push dial between front buckets and ahead of the transmission circle commands an in screen curser and necessitates a strong learning curve.
Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, allowing seamless interaction between downloaded Smartphone Apps and other stored information. The audio system, sans a traditional volume knob, relies heavily on secondary steering wheel buttons for assistance. A chrome scroll cylinder near the multi-function dial takes the place of a traditional volume on/off knob. Also standard: three months of complimentary satellite radio.
The all-new Genesis GV80 combines a comforting upscale interior and supportive seating with competitive pricing and the newest of technologies. The most impactful testimonial may come from out west and California. Experiencing a nasty high-speed spill and living to tell about it speaks volumes to the survival potential during unplanned frame-bending happenstances.
2021 Genesis GV80
Price as tested: $64,945
Engine: 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder
Wheelbase: 116.3 inches
Overall Length: 194.7 inches
Overall Width: 77.8 inches
Overall Height: 67.5 inches
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
Assembly: Ulsan, South Korea