It's rare when an existing, successful carmaker creates a new car brand.
And it's even rarer when those new brands are successful.
Remember Scion? Toyota eventually figured out that it could just sell young people Toyotas instead of creating an entire "hip" brand to cater to them.
And then there's Saturn, which many former owners still miss more than a decade later. GM tried to recreate the entire car-buying experience, and it worked for a while. But then GM realized it was setting money on fire for no good reason and killed it off during its financial crisis bankruptcy.
And Hummer! GM tried to sell us the H2 (which was a fancy Chevy Suburban) and the H3 (which was less fancy) for a while, but that didn't work, so it got killed off in bankruptcy, too.
Now Hummer is being resurrected as an electric truck label for GMC. That'll probably work, though, because the new EV trucks look fantastic, which is something the H2 didn't have going for it.
But some brands do well. Where Toyota failed with Scion, it succeeded beyond imagination with Lexus, created back in the ‘90s to compete with expensive German luxury cars but made reliable and more affordable. Then Japanese car brands like Honda and Nissan followed with Acura and Infiniti.
With that history lesson over, we return to the 2020s, and Hyundai is wading into the luxury car world some 30 years after Toyota. Hyundai isn't some upstart carmaker, however. It's making some wickedly good automobiles these days, so one would think it could make some wickedly good luxury automobiles, too. And one would be correct.
The new brand is Genesis, and it's been around for a few years now. I've driven most of the company's luxury sedans (which I found to be excellent). But we live in an SUV world, much to the consternation of many an auto journalist, and while I'm a little surprised that Genesis started with sedans rather than an SUV, the Genesis GV80 is here.
It's a midsize luxury SUV competing with stalwart competitors like the BMW X5, Audi Q7, and the Mercedes GLE. And Genesis is cribbing from the Lexus playbook: The GV80 is just as comfortable, luxurious, and feature-packed as its German rivals — for less money.
My very well-equipped GV80 priced out to a very reasonable $58,475, a price point lower than some of the competition's most barebones models. The BMW X5 starts at $59,400, and then you have to load it up with optional extras.
As is typical with Hyundai, it's easy to buy a Genesis. Pick your engine, then add a couple of options packages, and you're off. Mine featured the definitely-add-this $3,900 Advanced Package, which adds a massive panoramic roof, ventilated front seats, and a 21-speaker audio system, among other things.
The luxury-focused Prestige Package is less necessary for $4,250 but includes leather seats, a 360-degree camera that's excellent, more comfy seats, and some other beneficial features.
There's a ton of standard safety tech, including adaptive cruise control, Hyundai's most advanced lane-centering tech, and a slew more. The headlights are great; there's a self-leveling rear suspension and a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that feels much more substantial than it is and makes 300 horsepower and 311 torque. You should have no worries about being short on oomph with this thing.
But what's really wild is the after-sales support. Genesis includes a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus a 10-year/100,0000-mile powertrain warranty, just like its Hyundai brethren. BMW includes a 4-year/50K bumper-to-bumper warranty... and that's it.
Now that doesn't matter for many new BMW buyers who are just going to lease the thing and then get rid of it after 39 months for another one. But if you're a thrifty luxury SUV buyer who is planning for the long haul, the Genesis is awfully tempting on warranty alone — even before you consider the price.
And I haven't even gotten into the car itself: It's remarkably laid out inside, with a large center touchscreen and marvelous touchpoints all around the vehicle. It feels far more costly than it is and looks like it, too. There’s quilted leather, ingenious storage choices, and a comprehensive sense of luxury.
The GV80 is perhaps best known as the car that Tiger Woods crashed a while back, and somehow this ended up as good PR for Genesis. If he'd been more seriously injured, it might have been a terrible day, but now it's "this is the SUV that saved Tiger Woods."
Tiger or not, the Genesis GV80 might be the most desirable luxury SUV on the market today, and the fact that it's more affordable is just frosting on the cupcake. If you’ve been in a new Hyundai in the past few years, none of these tidbits will shock. But if you're new to the Hyundai line, the Genesis GV80 might persuade you.
One Cool Detail: These daytime running lamps
I can’t get over how good the double-lined DRLs look on the GV80. They make a striking first impression that’s not quite like anything else on the highway. Overall, the façade definitely has what you might call Bentley feels, thanks to the side-marker lights and the large front grille. But, even in a congested division of autos, with only so many ways to draw a big SUV, the Genesis occupies its own space.