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Genesis GV80 review: Premium SUV goes big on luxury

Korean firm’s seven-seat rival to the Q7, X5 and GLE brings plenty of tech and a sky-high specification for a competitive price but its on-road performance lets it down

Since arriving in Europe last year, Genesis’s leadership have insisted they are taking a softy-softly approach to the brand’s launch.

There are no big sales claims and no specific mentions of rivals to be targeted but it’s clear that the Korean brand wants to be considered in the same breath as BMW, Audi and Mercedes, along with the smaller firms that make up our premium car sector.

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To compete with the major players, the marque has quickly introduced a comprehensive line-up of models in key segments, including the important “large SUV” sector, where the GV80 is trying to take on big models like the Audi Q7, BMW X5 (and X7), Mercedes GLE, Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery.

To do so, Genesis needs to make a statement, which is why the GV80 is a big - really big - bold piece of engineering, rolling on blingy 22-inch wheels and with a huge gaping grille that screams “look at me”.

It won’t be to everyone’s tastes but in this segment, road presence is a big attraction, and the GV80 has that in spades. It also has shovelfuls of the high-end touches expected by buyers spending anywhere from £55,000 to £75,000.

The whole Genesis range has a high-quality feel to it but the GV80 moves that on a step with proper luxury touches and attention to detail. Things like the indirect air blowers that don’t just blast air directly at you, soft-close doors a la Rolls-Royce Cullinan, or the Ergo Motion function which automatically adjusts the seats on long journeys to stop you slouching.

That’s on top of the kind of spec you’d expect from a flagship SUV, including sumptuous Nappa leather upholstery, beautiful open-grain ash wood trim and all the latest technology, ranging from advanced driver assistance to a high-spec Lexicon audio system.

In fact, the GV80 is a high-tech haven for gadget lovers. All three rows of seats are power operated and can be controlled via the 14.5-inch touchscreen, and naturally they all feature their own air con zones. The front two rows are also heated and ventilated and there is a wealth of USB points and even a 220V plug socket. The Innovation pack (a £3,900 option) adds a head-up display, 3D-effect 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and driver assistance including adaptive cruise control, remote parking assist and variable dipping headlights.

The GV80 is available in five-seat or seven-seat configurations, with the extra seats a £500 option. As with any SUV, the seats aren’t as easy to access as in a true MPV but offer impressive quality and comfort and a surprising amount of legroom once you’re seated. Large adults still won’t want to venture back there but there’s reasonable space for kids, compromised as always by the awkward process of squeezing past the second row of seats.

Elsewhere, there’s more than enough space for passengers to get comfortable and the materials, fit and finish are all easily good enough to stand comparison with the GV80’s German and Swedish rivals.

What isn’t quite up to scratch is the driving experience. It’s not just that something like an X5 is more engaging to drive - frankly, how many owners of giant SUVs care how adroitly their 2.3-tonne beast corners? - it’s that the chassis and drivetrain lack the refinement and polish of rivals.

The biggest offender is the ride. One of the expectations of a “luxury” SUV is a comfortable ride but too often the GV80’s suspension gets caught out by the lumps and bumps that typify UK roads. That’s despite a camera-assisted system that’s supposed to prime the adaptive suspension for upcoming impacts. I imagine rolling on 22-inch wheels doesn’t help matters.

The engine also isn’t on a par with units from the big three Germans. Our test car’s 3.0-litre diesel sounds well suited to the car’s size and purpose but lacks the punch, refinement or efficiency of the best from rivals. With 274bhp and 434lb ft it’s just not quite as effortless as the car’s image would lead you to expect.

Neither of these issues are a huge problem if you’re cruising easily on the motorway, and the overall comfort and refinement mean you’ll finish most long journeys feeling as fresh and relaxed as when you started, but rivals have these details handled better.

The GV80 also offers the same compelling argument as other models in the Genesis line-up, offering better value than its traditional rivals. Prices start from £56,000 and rise to around £75k for a fully-specced and optioned-up Luxury Line like our test car - substantially less than an equivalent Q7 or X5. And, if convenience is key, the no-haggle, we-come-to-you approach, complete with five-year support package could be enough to swing the deal.

Overall, the GV80 is an impressive piece of machinery that in most facets can stand toe-to-toe with the biggest players in the segment. Only that slightly gruff diesel drivetrain and an occasionally iffy ride let down its air of luxury motoring.

Genesis GV80 Luxury Line

Price: £62,915 (£74,615 as tested); Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, diesel; Power: 274bhp; Torque: 434lb ft; Transmission: Eighth-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 143mph; 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds; Economy: 31.5-33.1mpg; CO2 emissions: 220-231g/km