The Bentley Benntayga is easily considered by many to be one of the pinnacle entries in the luxury SUV segment. Besides its sky-high price tag, the Bentayga also brings world-class luxury and performance to buyers. But what if your someone that wants some of the good life, but you don’t have the checkbook to bring home a Bentley? Genesis thinks it might have just the thing for the budget-conscious luxury SUV buyer with the Genesis GV80 but is it really a good budget alternative for luxury buyers looking to get the best of the high life?
GV80 Shares Family Heritage But Goes In Its Own Direction
While the GV80 might not be directly related to the sporty Brit, the two share the same designer, with legendary designer Sangyup Lee (of Bentley fame) penning the lines here on the GV80. Some of the Bentayga’s core influences are noticeable, with the GV80 featuring a large front grille, a sporty lower front bumper, and elegant headlights. The side profile has an athletic edge to it, and the roofline leads out to the rear of the SUV, which has elegant taillights and a tidy set of chrome exhaust tips.
Prestige models like our test come equipped with large 22-inch wheels, which give the GV80 a bold yet stylish presence when going out for a night on the town. The result is a design that manages to hit all the right notes compared to some of its rivals from Lexus, Audi, and BMW. That’s impressive since the GV80 is a relatively new model, and it took a few of the fore-mentioned brands a long time to find their respective design directions. The vivid red hue on our tester meshed well with the chrome accents, and from some angles, the GV80 looked like a rolling luxury timepiece. While the sheer amount of chrome pieces here might steer away a few potential buyers, we recommend giving the GV80 a chance to make a good first impression. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover.
Impressive Interior Raises The Luxury SUV Measuring Stick
With the exterior mixing modern and retro elements, it should come as no surprise that the interior also excels in delivering a one-of-a-kind luxury experience that will undoubtedly give Mercedes-Benz and Lexus plenty of nightmares at night. The cabin is filled with a vast expanse of soft-touch plastics, and the level of detail here is very consistent with elegant details such as the knurling that’s seen in all the major pieces of switchgear right down to the quilted leather upholstery that’s on the Ergo Motion seats. The 14.5-inch infotainment screen has an elegant screen layout, and while it’s technically a touchscreen unit, it’s set so far back in the dashboard that it’s best to use the large control knob to make your way around all the menus.
The wood trim in our tester has an open pore effect, and you can actually feel the various grains in the wood as you run your hand across the surface. The two-spoke steering wheel might look a bit odd at first glance, but it actually does a good job fitting right into your hands, and the satellite controls are within easy reach. The GV80 also comes with fully digital instrumentation with a built-in “3D effect” and comes loaded with a very impressive suite of driver assistance tech. That includes the novel blind-spot camera system we have seen on other Genesis, Hyundai, and Kia models. This system uses camera feeds that turn on when the turn signals are activated to help provide extra vision to the blind spots when changing lanes.
The consistency of the interior made it very difficult for us to find any flaws during our time nestled inside it. However, if we had to name a couple, they would have to be cargo room with the rear seats up and some of the pricey option packages needed to bring typically standard luxury equipment to the GV80. A prominent example of the latter is the $5,200 Advanced Package required for buyers to get front and rear parking sensors.
Spirited V6 Delivers Strong Performance, But Is Thirstier Than Others
Performance for the 2021 Genesis GV80 comes from two engines. Base models use a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 300 hp and can be paired with either rear or all-wheel drive. Our tester came with the beefier 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6, which makes 375 hp but comes with all-wheel drive only. The V6 certainly delivered the goods when it came to low and mid-range power, but it comes at a price with V6 equipped models averaging a rather thirsty 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the freeway. Those figures are a noticeable move downward compared to the base engine and are worse than some of its rivals. In addition, the V6 might not be worth it for more budget-focused customers since it does add weight to the GV80 and delivers a worse payoff at the pump.
An eight-speed automatic is the sole GV80 transmission on hand here, and it does a good job delivering smooth and undetectable shifts. The smoothness here can be in stark contrast to the ride quality at times, with the larger 22-inch wheels causing excess vibrations when going over sharp bumps and ruts. The GV80 handles like others in its luxurious segment. It’s not the most dynamic of the bunch, but it still feels very secure, and that high level of confidence is a handy thing to have in rough weather driving, especially through the snow.
Braking here is confident, but with electrification rapidly becoming a key requirement in the luxury SUV wars, the lack of hybrid technology in the GV80 is a noticeable omission. Genesis claims that an electrified version will be coming, but it will be a few years before we see that particular model make its way into production.
The 2021 Genesis GV80 aims to be a value-focused entry in the luxury SUV wars, and when you look at some of its finer attributes, it certainly has the goods to live up to that claim. Pricing starts at $48,900 for the base model with all-wheel-drive pushing the price higher to $54,650. Like a few other luxury automakers, the GV80’s equipment roster is divided into separate packages, with each one gradually adding more equipment to the SUV. In the case of our V6 equipped tester, the Prestige package adds $11,800 to the final sticker, which ended up ringing in at just over $65,000
We’ll admit that for most folks, $65k is a lot of money to throw around, but as far as the segment is concerned, the GV80 is still an excellent bargain play. Comparably equipped rivals from BMW and Mercedes are roughly double the price, while the Cadillac XT6 can’t quite match some of the GV80’s poise and quality. On the other hand, the Acura MDX is an interesting candidate with that model benefitting from a massive redesign that includes a radically updated interior. It also doesn’t hurt either that an Acura MDX with the range-topping Advance package tops out at $61,450 before any accessories and other items are added in. We look forward to comparing the two in the future to see which one can deliver value better to consumers.
As for the 2021 Genesis GV80, it manages to hit many of the marks that luxury SUVs strive for with the elegant Korean entry featuring timeless exterior and interior styling, a value-focused pricing ladder, and even a potent base engine. The uplevel V6 is a welcome alternative, but we wish Genesis will address its thirsty ways and perhaps bump up horsepower a bit more to make it a more compelling upgrade for buyers looking for enhanced performance and status. While the Bentley is a high measuring stick, the 2021 Genesis GV80 has enough magic to perhaps make a believer out of big buck players.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.