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Hyundai’s luxury offshoot wades in with a traditional large SUV. Should rivals worry?

Lexus, Infiniti, DS, Jaguar, Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Cadillac – all have tried over the past couple of decades to steal a slice of the lucrative ‘premium’ new car market from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Some have failed, others have failed miserably and some are clinging on. Volvo might be the only one to offer a true alternative, thanks to a generous helping of design appeal and an early start on electrification.

So what hope does Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury offshoot, have? First of all, it has the force of Hyundai and Kia behind it, whose models have evolved rapidly from bargain-basement offerings to cars that are genuine contenders to win group tests. Genesis therefore benefits from a depth of engineering might, and from strong in-house EV and hybrid powertrain technology.

Side trim echoes the twin-slit lighting style but looks suspiciously like a flying B. The rest of the design has echoes of Bentley Bentayga, too.

The new wave of Genesis models arriving in Europe now is not Hyundai’s first stab at making standout luxury cars, of course. Roughly 5 Series-sized saloons badged ‘Hyundai Genesis’ have been sold since 2008 in the US and South Korea, where buyers tend to be more accepting of new luxury brands. The second generation gradually lost the Hyundai branding before becoming the Genesis G80; and the G80 saloon we’re now getting in Europe is actually the third-generation version of the brand’s saloon. Although it launched the smaller G70 and larger G90 saloons – and even a Genesis Coupé – along the way, the brand has so far struggled to gain traction in the US because it had no SUVs.

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And so to the GV80. Becoming the Genesis brand’s de-facto flagship model, this is a large SUV meant to take on the BMW X5, Mercedes GLE, Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport and others. With so much competition from other, better-known brands, though, Genesis needs to offer something compelling with its full-sized luxury 4x4. Let’s find out what that may be.

The Genesis GV80 line-up at a glance

Unlike some of its European rivals, the GV80’s range is very simple, with just one four-cylinder petrol and one six-cylinder diesel available. Both come with the same in-house eight-speed torque-converter automatic.

It’s a similar story with the trim levels, where there is a choice between Premium and Luxury. Premium is generally well equipped but misses out on leather seats, wood trim and digital gauges.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace: Genesis GV80

Genesis GV80 First drives