FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE
KOREANS OUT TO MUSCLE IN ON LUXE SUVS
IT TAKES serious bravado to launch a challenger brand into Australia’s tribal vehicle market. The ghostly stillness in Infiniti showrooms is a timely reminder that it takes more than just confidence to prevail.
With just a pair of luxury sedans to represent Genesis in Australia, for a while it looked like Hyundai’s premium outpost was facing a similar fate to Nissan’s equivalent. However, the South Korean hopeful finally has this, the GV80, that competes with the heavy hitters in a far more lucrative segment.
Rather than chasing meagre pickings in the contracting sedan market, the GV80 slots into the relatively rich seam that is large luxury SUVs, and it promises an impressive armoury. Pricing and exact specs are to be confirmed, but when it arrives halfway through 2020, three engines will be on offer, including a pair of turbo petrols in V6 and four-cylinder configuration, but the diesel we sampled during a first encounter in Genesis’ native South Korea was outstanding.
While most other brands opt for a vee layout for their six-pot diesels, Genesis joins BMW and Mercedes in offering an in-line six, and its superior silkiness and refinement is immediately obvious. Although a debut effort for the Koreans, it brings almost as much sophistication as the engines in its German rivals.
At idle the 3.0-litre is eerily silent and smooth, but it awakens with impressive muscle as soon as it’s asked. Torque is near-instant, and the eager acceleration from a standstill is accompanied by a sweet note. There’s negligible in-gear turbo lag, and the engine pulls strongly all the way to its redline. It can’t quite match the highrevving and power-happy nature of BMW’s same-size diesel, but 588Nm of torque leaves the driver wanting for little by way of performance.
The standard eight-speed automatic transmission (also an exclusive in-house development by Genesis), is beautifully refined, delivering shifts as slick as the engine to which it’s bolted.
An all-new, predominantly reardrive platform makes its debut with the GV80, and will be finding its way under more Genesis models (but not Hyundais). In the case of the GV80, it can accommodate an extra diff for allwheel drive, and features an electronic LSD at the back.
Our mostly freeway drive allowed very limited enthusiastic pedalling, though a rare blast of cornering fun revealed pleasingly chatty, light steering and surprisingly little bodyroll. Otherwise, our first steer was all about establishing the GV80’s luxury and comfort credentials.
In Korea, three wheel sizes will be offered: a standard 19-inch rim, 20-inch, and the flagship 22-inch wheel. The GV80’s chassis is well-tuned to suit the 22s fitted to our car. While the ride was predominantly on the soft side, body control was excellent and settled fast after large road imperfections. This is a machine that would devour many miles of road tripping with total ease. Due to the nature of the drive, the jury’s out on off-road ability and the mud, snow and sand driving modes.
A new noise-cancellation system also makes its debut in the GV80, and the six-microphone set-up is highly effective in masking unwanted noise while allowing you to hear the things you want to. That includes a choice of ambient background sounds, including lapping waves, footsteps though snow, or rain dripping from a roof, to keep your ears caressed with unique, if a little weird, noise.
A brilliant 3D digital dashboard creates an almost unsettling sense of depth for the instrument panel, and we liked a blindspot-eliminating camera that flashes up in place of the tacho when the left indicator is used, and the speedo for the right indicator.
A 14.5-inch touchscreen is well proportioned, with a low profile, and displays fantastically sharp graphics and themes. The large screen also displays a clever new augmented navigation option that overlays information such as street names and house numbers over an image relayed from a forward-facing camera. It’s probably only a few years before you see this tech creeping into head-up displays for the ultimate application, but for now, this is class-leading.
The GV80 complements its premium technology with an opulent cabin.
Real leather, sophisticated synthetic equivalent or a combination of both?
The fact that we couldn’t tell exactly what was upholstering a majority of the interior is testament to the quality. There are also lovely choices of openpore wood, and lots of flexibility in cabin colour and trim options.
The GV80 comes with five or seven seats, but unlike some rivals with similar exterior dimensions, the Genesis is not roomy when optioned with a third row. Adults in the rearmost two seats must lean forward to clear the diving roofline, while second-row occupants also lose some room. In a seven-seat configuration, the GV80 cannot match the day-to-day useability of, say, a Santa Fe. If you’re keen to experience the most luxurious GV80 available, stick with the five-seater.
Genesis claims the unorthodox twospoke steering wheel is ergonomically superior to other designs, though we’d prefer the more pleasing aesthetics of something a little more traditional.
The most commendable characteristic of the GV80 interior is how virtually nothing appears to be shared with a Hyundai. Can even a Lexus claim the same distance from its parent, Toyota?
Genesis’ SUV foray is a wellthought-out and executed package of performance, design and substance, with the potential to capture a decent portion of Australia’s large-SUV audience. Ultimately, though, it’s the price that will dictate whether the GV80 is a disappointment, or a Genesis in the most literal sense of the word.
Slick drivetrain; advanced technology; uniquely Genesis inside and out
Price will make or break; gesture of a third row; brand recognition
Model Genesis GV80
Engine 2996cc 6cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power 205kW @ 3800rpm
Max torque 588Nm @ 3000rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 6.8sec (claimed)
Price $89,000 (estimated)
On sale July (estimated)
LEXUS RX 350L SPORTS LUXURY $101,600
Genesis will hope for the success this once challenger brand now established purveyor of vehicles, Lexus. Decades of Aussie customers has the Lexus SUV line-up grow to of but luxury convincing seen four, including this RX mid-to-large contender, and a hybrid that will smash the GV80’s fuel consumption if not its performance with 230kW/335Nm. Petrol-only versions compete with 221kW/370Nm.