(Bloomberg) -- Genesis, the South Korean luxury sister brand to Hyundai, wants to be mentioned in the same breath as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. That’s why it’s putting so much pressure on the folks at the factory in Montgomery, Alabama, to get its newest offering, the Genesis Electrified GV70, exactly right.
The $65,850 SUV is the third electric vehicle from Genesis, and its first manufactured outside Korea. An advantage to making the new EV in America is that it eliminates the long boat ride—and therefore slashes customer wait times—that would otherwise be required for cars to reach Genesis’s most wanted market, the US.
Hyundai Motor Co. is the largest factory employer in Alabama. Unfortunately, I should note, the automaker has been investigating recent allegations of underage workers at two of its suppliers in the state after minors were found to be working for the companies. “Hyundai does not condone or tolerate violations of labor law,” the company said in a statement. Its severed ties with the suppliers.
I visited the plant, and drove the SUV, during a trip in February. One’s first impressions of the vehicle are hampered by that awkward name, but with a thoughtful design and competitive creature comforts and options, the Electrified GV70 nudges Genesis one step closer to earning a place in the public consciousness alongside its German rivals.
Feels Like Home
Founded in 2015, Genesis has clout in its home country. It’s popular with executives and corporate bigwigs who love its luxurious, large sedans so much that the Genesis G90 outsells the Mercedes S-Class there. By contrast, of the 200,000 units it sold globally last year, just 50,000 went to the US. In America it’s never been quite clear what Genesis wants to tell consumers about itself. For a while it was best known for being the brand Tiger Woods was driving when he rolled his GV80 in Los Angeles in 2021.
Well-established automakers’ values are supposed to be easily identifiable. BMW makes the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” Ford’s vehicles are “Built Ford Tough.” But when I’ve asked them, Genesis sales reps are often unable to articulate anything past opaque, generalized gobbledygook about what the winged logo represents. Unscientific surveys asking friends if they recognize the brand in an automotive identity parade return blank stares more often than not.
I did, however, come away from my time in Alabama with a clearer understanding of what consumers should expect from the Electrified GV70. It comes down to a word: “hospitality.” Everything in the conservatively styled SUV is oriented toward making the occupant feel comfortable and supported. The exterior is nearly identical to that of the gas-powered GV70, offering a clamshell hood and jelly-bean-shaped rear end, while the interior is all soft edges and calming displays, with special controls that reduce road noise and even improve posture in the seats.
This electric version distinguishes itself with different front and rear bumpers, a skid plate and a pleasant-enough lattice grille. It’s not daring; it’s not especially cool. Standard 20-inch alloy wheels that cut like blades in front of its white brake calipers are by far the best-looking part of the whole thing (they’re also exclusive to the EV GV70). But the overall effect is one of serenity: It will make you feel like a pearl gently nestled in an oyster.
The dash contains just the right amount of screens and buttons. A 14.5-inch-wide LCD central screen proved reliable and intuitive as I crawled my way around the rural back roads outside Montgomery. There’s plenty of tech to play with: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, as does the wireless smartphone-charging pad and biometric encryption that allows you to start the vehicle and load personal settings with a single touch of your finger. A digital key on a smartphone app also remotely locks, unlocks and starts the vehicle; it will even preheat or cool the car, making it feel more welcoming when you arrive. A conveniently placed exterior power outlet hidden behind a small door in the grille allows you to plug in and charge small electronics that use a 110-volt plug. Ah, yes, all the conveniences of home!
In Alabama, I personally gave healthy use to the surround-view cameras as I parked and reparked the vehicle to get some good angles for shooting video along the deep-green bogs I passed on my two-hour drive. Leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof and soothing ambient lighting are baseline items in any luxury vehicle, but they’re well-done here—the optional noise canceling, which reduces road noise from the tires and pavement, also helps it seem more intimate inside.
I can’t say that driving the Electrified GV70 got my heart racing. Not for a second, even when I floored it from a standstill multiple times on a long stretch of lone highway near the Hyundai factory. Nope, nothing. It just lacks a sharp driving personality—a signature engine note, a strong acceleration, memorable brakes—from behind the wheel. It wobbles a smidge at high speeds. Which is not to say it’s horrible; this behavior is almost de rigueur for all but the best premium electric SUVs.
The Electrified GV70 (I hate the name, I really do) comes with all-wheel drive and five drive modes that alter the weighted feel of the steering, throttle response and firmness of the suspension. Adjusting them over different road conditions did jolt some faint signs of life from underneath the hood. But even the so-called Boost Mode, which adds 54 horsepower to push the rig to 483 hp max, lasts for just 10 seconds. It’s all over way too fast.
Genesis says its new EV will get 236 miles on a full battery charge, which puts it on the low end of the middle of the pack in terms of range capacity. But take that with a grain of salt—as we know, for any EV, there’s a gap between range estimates and real-world results. My time driving past black cows saw me dip an inconsequential amount of range.
A fast-charging system will juice the SUV’s battery from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes; Electrified GV70 owners will get complimentary charging for three years from Electrify America stations nationwide.
My verdict? If you’re in the market for an electric SUV, don’t make any decisions until you’ve at least driven the one from Genesis. It’s more beautifully designed and executed than the Cadillac Lyriq. It’s cheaper than the $71,300 Jaguar I Pace and $80,000 (estimated) Volvo EX90. And it’s better appointed than the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Hyundai’s luxury brand still has plenty of ground to gain if it wants to compete with the well-established Europeans—a deficit exacerbated by the fact that the Electrified GV70 is available only at retailers in 15 states not even including Alabama where it’s made (the states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin). But the Electrified GV70 gets Genesis one step closer to the leaders. Even with that cumbersome name.
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