As an automobile manufacturer (they also make everything from deepsea freighters to power tools), Hyundai has had its share of ups and downs.
The car that launched the company in North America – the Pony – was popular but deeply flawed. Subsequent offerings – Excel, first-generation Sonata, etc. – sold well enough but often developed plenty of problems.
Through it all, one thing has remained constant with this Korean manufacturer: decent styling. Hyundai products have usually presented themselves well, which is how they became popular. Never groundbreaking or envelope-pushing, Hyundai cars have always been styled strictly mainstream – inoffensive and easy to look at.
The same is true of their upscale division, Genesis. These cars are maybe a little on the derivative side, but they look nice and don’t offend.
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Take the GV80, for example. This upscale SUV could pass for a Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, Audi or any other upmarket rival. It looks good, feels right and provides everything you could ask for in this hard-to-please market.
This is how the company describes it: “the GV80’s exterior design highlights the beauty of openness, while delivering a punctuating presence.”
With two engine choices, and a myriad of options and extras, the GV80 is a mid-size SUV that feels full size. My tester, the top-end Prestige, features a 3.5-litre V6 engine that delivers 375 horsepower, with an eight-speed automatic transmission with full-time all-wheel-drive. Your other choice is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with essentially the same powertrain. Both engines require premium gas.
Both drivetrains have an off-road setting if you decide to go boulder hopping. Not many folks will with this vehicle, I expect, but it’s there if you need it. I have absolutely no complaints about the drivetrain, other than a rather silly rotary dial gear selector that doesn’t seem to want to behave.
The interior is spectacular. Beautifully-trimmed panels, tasteful pleated upholstery, common-sense switchgear (for the most part) and driver-friendly ergonomics. It’s just a nice place to spend time and the only other manufacturer that comes to mind with the same standard of accoutrements and visual appeal is Infiniti.
The usual roster of modern conveniences are here in abundance: heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated seats (work fantastic!), power rear window sun shades, heads-up display, rear passenger climate control, etc., etc.
There’s also the usual safety goodies, like lane departure warning, parking assist warning, rear traffic warning and peripheral cameras. It’s all the babysitting stuff you’d expect to find on a vehicle in this price range.
That said, the rotary dial shifter is just stupid. If you must install one of these things in your vehicle, at least make it readily functional and easy to get along with. This one takes it own sweet time going from reverse to drive, and vice versa, and makes parking and low-speed manoeuvering much more complicated than they should be.
I also want to beef about the nanny features. I know I tend to go on about this but this thing is absolutely loaded with electronic scolders. For example, if you’re drinking a cup of coffee while driving, it will remind you to pay attention to the road – always a good idea. But I don’t need the car to tell me that. And if you’re going to fit cup-holders in your vehicle, people will use them.
Also, the GV80 has an electronic warning that tells you when traffic is starting to move forward if you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That’s not a bad thing, I suppose. But I don’t need a car to get on my case about things like this.
You could also argue this stuff makes people lazier behind the wheel because they come to expect it and grow less attentive.
All that aside, the Genesis GV80 demonstrates pretty convincingly that Hyundai has arrived in the upscale market. It has all the necessary ingredients: comfort, luxury, presence and roadworthiness.
Pity they don’t offer a no-nanny-features model.
2021 Genesis GV80
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 or turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Drive: rear-wheel or all-wheel
Horsepower: 375 at 5,800 rpm
Torque: 391 foot pounds at 1,300 to 4,500 rpm
Base price: $64,500
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.9 city and 10.4 highway, with premium gas
Some alternatives: Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX80, Mercedes GLE, Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus GX, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Atlas, Hyundai Palisade, Lincoln Aviator
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.
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