Many consumers still don’t know the Genesis brand. Even for people intrigued by Hyundai’s high-value luxury offshoot, Genesis’ initial models—a trio of sedans—left SUV fans on the sidelines.

The GV80 changes everything. It’s almost impossible to imagine consumers in the market for a midsize luxury SUV being unimpressed by the GV80’s eye-popping luxury, ultra-modern tech and German-baiting performance. All for $49,925 to start.

The Genesis GV80 looks at home in lower Manhattan parked in front of a fancy hotel thanks to styling by Genesis designer SangYup Lee, who created the Bentley Bentayga SUV. Genesis

That’s more money than a base model of the top-selling Lexus RX or Acura MDX but the GV80 clearly has bigger game in mind. In design, luxury and performance it gives up nothing to the BMW X5, Mercedes GLE-Class or Audi Q7, models that start above $55,000.

On our test drive in lower Manhattan, the loaded, 2.5T AWD Prestige model, starting from $64,425, looked at home parked curbside at the posh Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District. The GV80 looked the boutique part, with its bold “crest” grille, tailored shoulders and slim lights. Genesis designer SangYup Lee, who previously created Bentley’s Bentayga SUV, is rightly fond of the GV80’s crisply drawn rear end, with its handsome concave tailgate. While similarities are obvious, it’s no stretch to say the GV80 is altogether better looking than the vastly pricier Bentley, which is based on the Audi Q7.

Genesis GV80’s alluring design benefits from classic, long-hood proportions of a rear-drive-based platform. Genesis

One key to the GV80’s elegant looks and sophisticated road manners is its stand-alone, rear-drive platform, not shared with any Hyundai or Kia model. That mimics the German approach versus Japanese luxury SUVs that are built on mass-market, front-drive sedan platforms. Lexus’ RX, for example, is based on Toyota’s Camry. Advantages include the GV80’s imposingly long hood and cab-rearward design. Those classic proportions are something that front-drive, car-based SUVs simply can’t fake. The overachieving continues inside and on the road.

Four-cylinder GV80’s are available in rear- or AWD form, in Standard, Advanced and Prestige trim levels. Genesis’ new four-cylinder engine, also seen in the G80 sedan, was a pleasant surprise. With 300 horsepower, 311 pound-feet of torque, and a trusty eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters the four-cylinder had ample force to hustle this nearly 5,100-pound SUV though both Manhattan traffic and two-lanes in the Shawangunk Mountains north of the city.

Credit former Bentley designer SangYup Lee for the GV80’s elegant bodywork, including a crisp, concave-shaped tailgate. Genesis

For those who want even more, there’s an available twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 with a thumping 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. We sampled that engine in the $66,075 GV80 3.5T AWD Advanced +. All four V6 trim levels (Standard, Advanced, Advanced + and Prestige), have standard AWD. The Advanced + model is the only G80 with an optional, power-folding third-row seat, though it’s sized more for children than adults.

The V6 should deliver zero-to-60 mph sprints in the mid-5-second range. That lines up nicely against the BMW X5 xDrive 40i or Mercedes-Benz GLE450. Both have fewer horsepower and, comparably equipped, cost about $7,000 to $9,000 more.

The GV80 interior is hushed, but there’s also an available active road noise cancellation system.
Ride and handling are also first rate. The sophisticated chassis bears the hallmarks of Albert Biermann, the former chief engineer of BMW’s M Division, one of many top talents being lured to Genesis. On winding roads, the GV80 felt more like a luxury sedan than an SUV, carving through turns with pleasing confidence and pace.

Stunning cabin blends minimalist design with sumptuous materials and evident craftsmanship. Genesis

But it’s the Genesis’ tech-laden interior that puts this SUV over-the-top. The layout is clean and minimalist, yet sumptuous enough to pass muster in a far-pricier SUV. There’s brushed metal, rich wood, diamond-patterned leather upholstery and an optional suede headliner.

Where many models that ditch traditional analog buttons and switches end up an ergonomic mess, the Genesis keeps the important ones, including volume and tuning knobs for audio. There’s a mild learning curve for controls but nothing requiring a trip to the owner’s manual. Everything just works.

Genesis’ 14.5-inch, high-mounted HD touchscreen is an object lesson in logical menus and appealing graphics. An oversized console knob, ringed in knurled metal and topped with tempered glass—another Bentley-esque flourish—offers finely weighted haptic feedback as it dials through screen menus.

In one of several slick touches, the excellent navigation system overlays street camera views with directional graphics. An optional head-up display adds Tesla-like animations of surrounding cars. An available 21-speaker Lexicon audio system is symphonic in scope and clarity.

Available interior in “Adriatic Blue and Dune” recalls Bentley’s lush two-tone treatments. Genesis

Every current safety technology is standard. Multiple collision-avoidance features include preventing dangerous left turns into approaching traffic. Semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control smoothly paces traffic and steers the GV80 down the lane’s center, requiring only a light touch on the steering wheel. Owners can park or un-park the GV80 remotely using a key fob or digital key, in both parallel and perpendicular slots.

As one might suspect, the endless features list on Prestige-trim levels matches anything in this class: Beautifully pleated Nappa leather seats and door trim, 22-inch alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, heated second-row seats, a driver’s seat with powered bolsters and cushion extenders, surround-view monitor, 110-volt power outlet, a panoramic sunroof and more.

Even that 3.5T AWD Prestige model checks out at $71,975, thousands of dollars less than loaded, European competitors. Bargain hunters can spec a four-cylinder model for far less, including a lavishly equipped 2.5T AWD Advanced for $60,025.

Genesis may be late to the SUV game. But with a superior entry like the GV80, it’s definitely been worth the wait.