Giant Korean Genesis a match for Euros

Peter AtkinsonAAP
The Genesis GV80 SUV boasts classy, restrained lines more familiar with European marques.
Camera IconThe Genesis GV80 SUV boasts classy, restrained lines more familiar with European marques. Credit: AAP

Recognise this car?

Golf fans might have an advantage.

Yes, it's the same Genesis SUV that a speeding Tiger Woods rather famously crashed in Los Angeles, putting himself in hospital and his handsome-looking ride in the repair shop after it plunged down a ravine.

But this new luxury SUV from Korea is much more than a punchline in a sportsman's driving history.

It's called the Genesis GV80 and it's the latest model from the design studios of Korea's most ambitious car maker. Genesis is the luxury range that sits atop the Hyundai family tree, much the same as Lexus does for Toyota.

Having already driven the first of these next-generation Genesis cars, the sleek luxury flagship G80, expectations were that its SUV equivalent would be good. But not this good.

With one lusty swing - one that might make even Tiger Woods jealous - Genesis has suddenly become a genuine contender in the luxury car category. The Europeans should be wary and Lexus should be downright nervous.

The speed of evolution has been remarkable. Genesis has pulled the covers off four all-new models in the past year alone, starting with the G80 and GV80, followed by the smaller, executive-style G70 and GV70 models.

On looks alone the GV80 could be from any of the premium European stables with its classy, restrained lines and posh-looking winged logo, which at a quick glance could be mistaken for an Aston Martin or a Bentley. Or so Genesis might hope.

This GV80 is not some fancy makeover of a budget vehicle. Yes, it shares some architecture with Hyundai's big Palisade, but the quality of its build, design and finish is that of a genuine luxury machine. And yes, worth every bit of the 100 grand it will cost to get behind the wheel.

To their credit, the designers have resisted the urge to over style the GV80. It's undoubtedly a big, substantial thing yet it also looks athletic and poised in its stance.

Rather than tizz it up they've taken an elegant, disciplined approach.

In particular, the line of symmetry that runs from the wrap-around front headlamps, through the side breather vents and lines up with the door handles has the visual effect of lifting the car's hip-line, leaving the massive 21-inch alloy wheels to define the lower half.

That, in turn, gives it lines not unlike Jaguar's sleek F-Pace - not a bad place to start when looking for design inspiration.

Inside, it's similarly restrained and equally impressive. There's a lot of technology but it's not confronting. Rather Genisis has chosen to minimise the amount of switchgear on the dash and centre console, which is dominated by a wide, handsome colour display screen.

Like the G80 sedan, the GV uses a rotary-style gear-change knob, borrowed from the likes of Jaguar and Range Rover, which is effective and helps de-clutter the centre console.

There's another rotary dial to control the infotainment system, which looks great but is not as functional as the dial and click format preferred by most of the big European makers.

The two-spoke steering wheel is another departure from convention - that's understandable as Genesis needs to establish a few points of difference.

Even though the test machine fell one rung below the GV80's Luxury Pack flagship, there was more than enough comfort items and tech trinkets to satisfy. That includes premium audio and electric adjustment of the front two rows of seats, and electrical folding third-row seats.

The cockpit feels airy and spacious, delivering a sense of calm quality.

Bravely, the Genesis is not as overtly plush as its Japanese rivals from Lexus - which deploys only the most supple of leather, the most glossy of timbers and widest range of electronic everything.

Despite this the Korean contender probably shades its Japanese counterpart for driving pleasure and reward, largely courtesy of its snappy-yet-smooth diesel power and the car's sturdy, reassuring ride.

On the road the car feels superbly grounded yet nimble in its responses. If they set out to build something that feels like a German SUV, they've succeeded.

In addition to the 3-litre V6 turbo diesel, there's a 3.5-litre, twin turbocharged V6, a la Kia Stinger. There's a crispness to this powerplant that mimics what might be found beneath a bonnet wearing a BMW propeller.

The eight-speed auto is generally also well resolved, although a surprising bit of driveline 'shunt' was noticeable when driving at modest speeds (about 50km/h) when the turbo phases in and out of boost.

That was a mild annoyance but didn't detract from the very positive road manners the big Korean wagon delivered.

So get ready to see a lot more of the Genesis brand. Who knows, maybe one day Aston Martin or Bentley might be using it for inspiration.

And Tiger Woods would look right at home.

GENESIS GV80

* HOW BIG? It's a full-sized SUV - think Benz GLS or LandCruiser, with seating for seven, although the third row isn't massive.

* HOW FAST? The diesel is surprisingly so, with 204kW and a thumping 588Nm beneath the bonnet. There's also a twin-turbo V6 which would be a firecracker.

* HOW THIRSTY? 8.8L/100km for the diesel is pretty decent for a big, luxurious machine.

* HOW MUCH? Genesis' no-haggle pricing starts from $90,600 before on-road costs for a GV80 with a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, jumping to $95,600 for buyers seeking all-wheel drive rather than rear drive. It's likely most buyers will gravitate towards the 3.0D all-wheel-drive, tested here from $103,600 or the twin-turbo flagship at $108,600.

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