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DRIVE

Hyundai GV80 Concept: Luxurious, forward-thinking and high-tech

The GV80’s long hood, short overhangs and relatively small, tapered greenhouse combine to make it resemble a tall sports coupe.

This SUV sports a more cohesive and, arguably, more production-ready exterior than earlier concepts

Hyundai's new luxury brand, Genesis, wowed the auto show circuit starting in 2015 with the space-age Vision G Coupe conceptual vehicle. Then the show-stopping New York Concept debuted in the Big Apple last year, and touched down in Toronto this past February. Both concepts were so striking, some observers were underwhelmed by the conservative approach taken as the first production cars for consumers, the G90 and G80, arrived last year.

Now, there's another Genesis design to consider, the GV80 Concept, unveiled at the 2017 New York International Auto Show this week. This concept is more than just a design exercise for a few reasons. First, it foreshadows the brand's move into SUV production and, second, there's a plug-in hydrogen fuel cell powertrain underneath those sleek lines.

"Its design is timeless, with an understated yet dynamic overall surface complexity," Luc Donckerwolke, head of design, said in a statement. "These are all characteristics that embody Genesis products and delicately reflect distinctive elements, which you'll continue to see in future models from our brand."

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The design of the GV80 follows the "athletic elegance" ethic put forth by earlier concepts. But this SUV sports a more cohesive and, arguably, more production-ready exterior.

The GV80's face features the Genesis crest set atop a diamond-mesh grille. The horizontal quad headlamps, set wide, create a planted, powerful look. From the side, the long hood, short overhangs and relatively small, tapered greenhouse combine to make this SUV resemble a tall sports coupe.

The squinty side mirrors, laser fibre-optic tail lamps, door handles recessed under the crease line and gargantuan 23-inch mesh alloy wheels create a futuristic vibe. As forward-thinking as the exterior may be, though, it may well take the proverbial back seat to the interior.

The cabin, taken as a whole, is equally luxurious as high-tech.

The passenger cabin is defined by what is referred to as a "bridge instrument panel," a suede-covered design element that surrounds the driver and co-driver. The steering wheel and lower centre console are similarly coloured, but clad in leather and ash wood, respectively. A 22-inch wide OLED display, set above the bridge and cresting the bottom of the windscreen, offers separate displays for the driver and front-seat passenger.

The lower centre console houses perhaps the most intriguing innovations found on the GV80. The top of the multifunction controller features a gorilla glass touchpad and metal wheel with handwriting recognition. And four polished metal inlays control the navigation, climate control, entertainment system and communications.

The console runs the entire length of the passenger cabin, creating separate zones for the driver and three passengers. The cabin, taken as a whole, is equally luxurious as high-tech. The trim pieces above and below the bridge are ensconced in rich leather. The bridge itself is festooned with polished aluminum trim pieces. And semi-aniline leather in a quilted pattern covers the seat inserts, interior door panels and sides of the centre console.

The Vision G Coupe and New York concepts demonstrated that the Genesis design team has the measure of anyone out there. But the GV80 Concept is where this new luxury brand really seems to be heading. Representatives for Genesis have called for SUVs to be added to the line-up as soon as possible, so something resembling the GV80 – as futuristic as it may seem – could be here sooner than later.

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