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The GV80 will offer a choice of turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder or 3.5-litre V6 engines.Courtesy of manufacturer

You won’t hear Genesis agreeing with this, but there’s a case to be made that Hyundai erred three years ago in launching its fledgling luxury brand with a pair of really good, high-end sedans. The point being, the G80 and G90 were sedans – not SUVs.

Ditto the next Genesis, the G70: good enough to be voted North American Car of the Year but still, well, a car.

The official Genesis response is that full-size sedans like the G90 (and Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series etc.) have traditionally defined the luxury segment, and that’s where Genesis needed to make its opening statement as a luxury brand. It didn’t hurt, either, that right out of the box, Genesis topped the JD Power Initial Quality Survey two years in a row.

Still, water under the bridge. These days SUVs dominate the luxury end of the auto market just as they do the plebeian end, and better late than never, the Canadian/U.S. versions of the first Genesis SUV has officially broken cover.

The 2021 GV80 (the V standing for versatility) is a mid-size SUV based on an all-new Genesis rear-wheel drive architecture (though AWD will be standard in Canada). So no, it’s not a gussied-up version of the excellent but front-drive-based Hyundai Palisade. Nor does it share any platform hardware with the existing RWD-based Genesis sedans (which, incidentally, were originally developed to be Hyundais, then repurposed when Genesis was created as a stand-alone luxury brand in late 2015).

The GV80 will offer a choice of turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder or 3.5-litre V6 engines. It’ll be available with a number of industry-first features, including active road noise cancellation, an active motion driver’s seat, a centre side airbag between the front seats, a largest-in-segment 14.5-inch infotainment touch-screen, and advanced Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with unprecedented levels of “situational awareness” and response capability.

Not much is available yet in technical specs, but at 4,935 mm the GV80 is almost identical in length to the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, and will be available with third-row seating. We expect horsepower ratings in the low 300s and high 300s respectively for the four-cylinder and V6 engines respectively. Electronically-controlled variable suspension will be available, and wheel sizes up to 22 inches.

Noteworthy elements include a rotary-knob gear selector, a separate touchpad controller for the main screen, notably slim air vents, and touch-screen climate controls.Courtesy of manufacturer

Genesis people use the term “white space” to describe the interior’s emphasis on elegant yet functional simplicity. Noteworthy elements include a rotary-knob gear selector (made of glass), a separate touch-pad controller for the main screen, notably slim air vents, and touch-screen climate controls. For better or worse, hard buttons and knobs were kept to a minimum.

The interior design team also made a point of providing the same levels of comfort, and fit-and-finish, for passengers in the second and third rows. Designers, we’re told, nicknamed the middle row the “Star Lounge” because the generous range of recline adjustment lets occupants stargaze through the panoramic glass roof.

Our own bums-in-seats testing revealed a more adult-friendly third row space than in rival three-row midsizers, and up front I was quickly able to tailor a spot-on driving position.

The exterior presents the stance and proportions of a premium rear-wheel drive vehicle, with short overhangs and a coupe-like falling roofline. In addition to the latest “G-Matrix” evolution of the Genesis grille, the GV80 also introduces a four-headlamp treatment that is destined to be a signature Genesis styling element. The “two lines” look of the shallow, slot-like horizontal light clusters carries through in the turn-signal repeaters in the fenders and the wrap-around rear lighting. As well, the cross-hatch motif of the grille is a refrain that appears in many other parts of the vehicle.

Why was Miami chosen for the reveal of the North American GV80? In no small part because, for the first time, Genesis ran a TV commercial during the Super Bowl. And unlike most Super Bowl ads, the Genesis spot – featuring celebrity couple Chrissy Teigen and John Legend – was shown in Canada.

There’s no pricing yet, but Genesis is already taking on-line pre-orders for the GV80, for delivery starting in the second half of this year. Beyond that, look for a next-generation G80 sedan soon, a smaller compact SUV in a year, and an electric car (possibly based on the gorgeous Essentia concept car) by the end of 2021.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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