2021 Genesis GV80 Review

The Genesis GV80 does not have a V8, as its name seems to suggest it might. But it does have something else that’s getting hard to find in a crossover SUV–especially in something that costs less than $50,000 to start.


None of the other models in its class—the Lexus RX, the Acura MDX, and the Audi Q5 —are built on front-wheel-drive layouts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your priorities. FWD is without a doubt grippier than rear-wheel-drive, making it less necessary to spend extra to get all-wheel-drive (or four-wheel drive) if you have to deal with slippery conditions.

But rear-wheel-drive is a good thing, too, if you prefer the better handling feel that usually comes with having the front wheels steer while the rear-wheels-power. The rear-wheel-drive layout is generally more rugged because the steering and powering are not handled by the same wheels or a single transaxle.

You can also usually pull a heavier load for that reason, too—almost 8,000 lbs. in this case. This is several thousand pounds more than FWD-based rivals in the segment like the Lexus RX350 and Acura MDX and the more expensive rear-drive-based rivals like the BMW X5 and Lincoln Aviator.

What It Is

The GV80 is the first crossover to be sold by Hyundai’s Genesis luxury division. It is built on a modified version of the Genesis G80 sedan’s underlying chassis but seats up to seven rather than just five.

It is also one of just a few of its kind that isn’t built on a light-duty FWD chassis, like most cars. Instead, it’s built on a rear-drive chassis, like the G80 sport sedan, which makes it sportier than FWD-based crossovers and more capable of pulling a heavy load.

While also being just as capable in the snow or mud if ordered with its available AWD system.

It comes with either of two turbocharged engines—neither of them a V8, but both making what was not too long ago considered V8 power. And in some cases, more power than some current V8s make.

Even the four can pull 6,000 pounds.

Prices start at $48,900 for the base 2.5T trim, which comes with a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that makes 300 horsepower, an eight-speed automatic, and rear-wheel-drive.

AWD is available as an option bundled with a key card ignition/entry system, a panorama sunroof, and a heated steering wheel.

It lists for $54,650.

A top-of-the-line 3.5T Advanced+ comes with a 375 horsepower turbocharged V6, the eight-speed automatic, a power-folding third-row, heated second-row, and standard AWD.

It lists for $65,550.

What’s New

The GV80 is a new model for Genesis and the first crossover SUV offered by Hyundai’s flagship division.

What’s Good

  • It tows like a truck, even with the standard four-cylinder engine, but it doesn’t handle like a truck.
  • Standard four is stronger than some rivals’ sixes; optional V6 out powers some V8s.
  • AWD is available with the four; some rivals upsell you to the optional six to get the optional AWD.

What’s Not So Good

  • AWD is “bundled” as part of an expensive package that boosts the GV80’s price by nearly $6k.
  • No Low range gearing.
  • The third row is only available with the top-of-the-line Advanced+ trim.

Under The Hood

Here’s a funny thing about the GV80’s standard and available engines. Both make about as much power as V8 engines used to make, and both deliver about the same gas mileage that V8s used to, too.

The chief difference is how they make power. Instead of displacement, it’s by physical size via pressure, as by turbocharging, which uses the force of exhaust gasses to spin a wheel (two, if there are twin turbos) that compresses (pressurizes) the air entering the cylinders to make the resultant explosion more powerful.

This is how you get a four-cylinder engine that’s only 2.5-liters in size to make 300 horsepower and 311 ft.-lbs. of torque at just 1,650 RPM and a V6 that’s only 3.5-liters large to make 375 horsepower and 391 ft.-lbs. of torque at 1,300 RPM.

These numbers would have been thought good numbers for a V8 around 4.6-liters in size about a decade or so ago. Or a 5.3 V8 today (hang on a minute).

Well, why not just provide a V8 around 4.6 liters in size or so?

Two reasons: one political—the other practical.

A V8 is physically larger than a V6 and much larger than a four. It’s harder to fit a V8 in a mid-sized vehicle’s engine compartment where there’s plenty of space for a four and just barely enough space for a V6, as is the case with vehicles the size of the GV80.

The engine compartment would need to be reconfigured, and then the passenger cabin would have to be reconfigured to make up for the room taken up by the larger engine and everything bolted to it.

But the real reason is political.

V8s use “too much” gas for the government’s liking. They also emit more carbon dioxide, according to the feds. In theory, you can reduce gas consumption and gas emissions by using a smaller engine, which will generally burn less fuel (and emit less gas) than a larger one.

The turbo(s) make up for the power lost when the driver wants power.

This is essentially a dog-and-pony show because most drivers will need the turbo-boosted power to make up for the engine’s smallness in proportion to the vehicle’s size and weight. So the engine will be turbocharging on boost often enough to end up delivering not much better-than-V8 mileage, in this case, 21 city, 25 highway for the four and 18 city, 23 highway for the V6.

This is about what V8s in the 4.6 liters range were delivering about ten years ago.

Maybe a little better on paper, but not much. And not if you keep your foot in it.

But at least the power and torque are still there.

And the GV80 has more of it (standard) than several rivals, such as the Lexus RX350 (3.5-liter V6, 290 hp) and Acura MDX (3.5-liter V6, 295 hp) that don’t offer more power.

One that does offer more power as standard is the Lincoln Aviator, which comes equipped with a 400 horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, but despite its muscle, it can only tow a maximum of 6,700 lbs.

The base four-cylinder GV80 can pull almost as much — 6,000 lbs. — and if you go with the optional V6, the maximum tow rating climbs to 7,700 lbs. This is more than twice as much as the Lexus RX350 can pull (3,500 lbs.) and substantially more than the Audi Q5 (4,400 lbs.) and the Acura MDX (5,000 lbs.) can safely handle.

Part of the reason for this pulling-power advantage is probably the GV80’s rear-drive-based layout, which usually means a stronger underlying frame/chassis that can handle the stress of pulling a heavier load without bending. Also, there’s the transmission and separate axle in the rear vs. the usual transaxle (a combination of the transmission and axle into a single unit) upfront, as in FWD-based vehicles.

Regardless, the GV80 tows a lot—almost as much as several truck-based (and much larger) SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe, which can pull a comparatively unimpressive 8,400 lbs. Given the 5.3-liter V8 under the Tahoe’s hood, it only makes 355 horsepower less than the GV80’s 3.5-liter V6.

The Tahoe’s larger/less powerful V8 also uses more gas though not much more. It rates 16 city, 20 highway—a difference of about 5 MPG vs. the GV80’s V6.

Assuming you keep your foot out of it.

On The Road

There isn’t much difference between the four and the six regarding how quickly the GV80 gets to 60. With the base 2.5-liter engine/RWD combo, it takes about 6.5 seconds; if you go with the V6, which is heavier because it comes standard with AWD. You’ll get there about half a second sooner.

It’s not a very noticeable difference, and it’s not as quick, with either engine, as some of the others in the class. This includes, interestingly enough, models like the Lexus RX350 that aren’t as mighty on paper but are a little bit quicker out in the world.

Both engines have one thing in common: Diesel-like low-end power. Even the four has 300-plus ft.-lbs. of torque on tap, and the six has 391 ft.-lbs., which is more torque than the much larger 5.3 liter V8 in the Chevy Tahoe produces (383 ft.-lbs.) and much lower down on the tachometer — just 1,650 RPM vs. 4,100 RPM for the Tahoe’s V8.

What this means in practical terms is that the GV80’s not-V8s feel less hard-working than V8s like the 5.3 in the Tahoe, which needs to rev to summon their gumption. The GV80, even with the four under its hood, moves authoritatively with minimal throttle pressure; in traffic, it is an extremely easygoing engine.

On the highway, with the revs up, it starts to sweat a little, but once settled into the eight-speed automatic’s very deep overdrive, it doesn’t struggle to maintain a cruise-controlled 75-80 MPH, which is pretty impressive given it’s just 2.5-liters hauling 4,700 pounds of GV80.

Plus you.

The V6 has even more down-low gumption with the additional perk of more authoritative thrust on the highway plus the ability to tow a heavier load. These are the main reasons to opt for the larger engine, and the choice to upgrade is made easier given the mileage difference between the four, and the six is only about 3 MPG either way.

The biggest difference is, of course, the price, which rises dramatically to get the six. Part of the reason for that probably is due to the fact that it comes only with the AWD system. On the other hand, you can get the four with or without the AWD system. In other words, Genesis doesn’t force-upsell you to the six to get the AWD.

This also means you can stick with rear-drive if you prefer. Some in the class, like the Audi Q5, come only with AWD, which also means they cost more than the rear-drive version of the GV80.

AWD does provide additional traction, but rear-drive can be more fun because it’s easier to break traction. Not that many prospective buyers of a first-class mobile lounge such as the GV80 are prone to such reversions to the high school parking lot burnout, but it can be nice to know you could.

Either way, the GV80 comes standard with 8.1 inches of clearance, which is just as critical and can be even more so than traction in the weather. You can’t get through what you can’t ride over.

At The Curb

It’s said that crossovers have become far more popular than sedans because they are so much more practical than sedans, including sedans that are roughly the same overall size.

This is no less true of the GV80, based on the Genesis G80 sedan, and it looks like it, too. Notice the commonality of the grille and detail items such as the twin-slat LED running lights, the amber-illuminated gill slats in the front quarter panels, the nearly identical layout of the gauges and dashboard on the inside, and the identical drivetrains under the hood. Even the front and second-row legroom specifications are almost identical—41.6 inches upfront in the GV80 and 38.7 inches in back vs. 41.1 inches upfront in the G80 sans the V and 38.7 inches in the rear.

But there’s nothing behind the rear in the G80 except for a small-for-its-size (13.1 cubic foot) trunk vs. the 34.9 cubic feet of space behind the GV80’s second-row, which can be expanded to 84 cubic feet with the second row folded.

And there’s that third-row, opening up space for seven people to ride in the GV80 vs. the maximum of five that can fit inside the G80, which is slightly longer overall (196.7 inches) than the GV80 (194.7 inches).

You can fit more in the GV80, and it takes up less space in the garage.

This isn’t to say the GV80 isn’t a nice car. It is saying the GV80 is the more practical car.

The Rest

All trims come standard with a completely digital main and 14.5 inch (length) secondary touchscreen, the largest (widest) available in the class. All trims also come with at least a 12-speaker stereo with a truly epic 21 speaker Lexicon rig available optionally.

Both offer the very latest in tech, too, including an available 12.3-inch main gauge cluster and Hyundai’s keyless and fobless entry/ignition system. Instead, there’s a card you keep in your wallet or an app you download to your phone. You can use both to get in and start your GV80 without having to fumble for a fob or carry the thing around in your pocket.

On the downside, if you want a heated steering wheel or the panorama sunroof, you’ve got to buy either the Prestige package or AWD, which ups the MSRP by about $3,900-$5,750, respectively.

And if you want a third-row, you’ll have to buy the Advanced+ trim, which ups the MSRP by almost $15k. They are the most expensive seats in the house.

The Bottom Line

You could have had a V8, as the old commercial used to say. But it’s not something you’ll miss much in this case.

Eric Peters lives in Virginia and enjoys driving cars and motorcycles. In the past, Eric worked as a car journalist for many prominent mainstream media outlets. Currently, he focuses his time writing auto history books, reviewing cars, and blogging about cars+ for his website EricPetersAutos.com.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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