Automobiles

2023 Genesis GV60 First Drive Review: Open Your Eyes and Unlock the Electric Future

Rocking cutting-edge tech like facial recognition and a fingerprint sensor, this luxury crossover is a funky little rulebreaker.

The 2023 Genesis GV60 carves its own aesthetic path. It looks nothing like its Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 relatives.
Genesis

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The face of automotive luxury is rapidly changing. With the advent of pure-electric powertrains, absurd acceleration is a given and big, burly engine soundtracks are no longer the unassailable signifiers of power and affluence they once were. Every new model has a big screen and loads of active safety features. There's a lot less separation than there used to be between mainstream and premium. So what does the future of electric luxury look like? I suspect it looks a lot like this 2023 Genesis GV60.

For all of their high technology and boundless optimism, most of today's luxury automakers fail to bake any sort of wonder or whimsy into their EVs' visuals or cabin hardware. Most Teslas leave fun or frivolity up to their code programmers -- to come up with things like infotainment games and fart noises. Aside from the Model X's falcon doors, Tesla's current production vehicles are remarkably sterile as pieces of design to prioritize aerodynamics and control costs. And with the exception of the new GT, Audi's E-Trons are all but visually indistinguishable from their gas-powered models. Ditto Volvo's Recharge models. But not this Genesis. It looks utterly unique, and it's chock full of upscale surprise-and-delight features.

To be clear, the first dedicated-platform EV from Hyundai's premium brand still has slippery aerodynamics very much at the core of its design. In fact, while the automaker considers the GV60 to be an SUV, everything about it screams five-door hatchback to me, from its 6.2 inches of ground clearance (less than a Toyota Sienna minivan) to its raked rear window and pavement-only tires. That's no surprise considering the same is true of the Genesis' E-GMP platform-mates, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. The GV60's exterior has loads of distinctive jewelry and visual interest, from its unusual Spiderman-logo grille and twin-slash headlamps to its heartbeat-like Volt C-pillar design and split rear window. Even the wheels are aggressively funky. Personally, I find the design to be more interesting than attractive, but there's little doubt this compact crossover stands out.

OMG, 2FA

That sense of occasion extends to this EV's cabin. In fact, the GV60 doesn't even let you open the door without a bit of added theater. This is the first production car to incorporate door locks that rely on facial recognition. Dubbed Face Connect, the system incorporates a small Near-Infrared camera in the B-pillar that works in all light conditions to recognize your mug, adjust the cabin to your saved presets and grant entry by popping the flush door handles. Combined with a fingerprint sensor on the center console that's required to start the vehicle (2FA), that means you don't even need to bother having a physical key to enter or drive off in your new EV. This tech should also enable painless vehicle sharing via digital keys that can be temporarily granted among friends, family or car-sharing-service clients like Turo. Importantly, Genesis claims all biometric data is stored locally in the vehicle, it isn't uploaded to the cloud to avoid additional security concerns.

The GV60 also leverages phone-as-key technology, only unlike other automakers' purely NFC-based systems, you don't have to tap your phone on a sensor. Through the use of seven ultrawideband sensors sprinkled around the GV60, the EV automatically knows what direction you're approaching from, so it can unlock the relevant door (or trunk) while the phone is still in your pocket or purse. Your vehicle doesn't need to be connected to the cloud for this to work, either, and if your phone or Apple Watch battery runs dry, there's still a backup NFC sensor to tap and gain access. Finally, if all else fails -- or if you're just a traditionalist -- the GV60 also comes with a pair of handsome conventional key fobs (you can even lock them inside the vehicle with your face if you want).

I've spent an inordinate amount of time simply talking about how to get in and out of this car. But Genesis' innovative approach to this mundane task is emblematic of the way the automaker has approached designing this entire vehicle. The GV60 feels like an impressive, clean-sheet piece of design and technology, one that isn't an iterative product, but rather a leap forward for a brand already on an impressive tear. As with most bold new pieces of tech, this approach is not without a few flies in the ointment, however.

There's an absurd amount of tech standard on GV60. Nearly all of it works exceptionally well.

Genesis

Beautiful cabin

Open the door, and the twin 12.3-inch screens swoosh to life with welcoming splash graphics and an accompanying sound signature. A large, colorfully backlit crystal orb on the center console spins to reveal a rotary-style shift knob with haptic feedback. This control only rolls into view after you verify your fingerprint on the adjacent scanner and hit the power button. Unfortunately, during my test drive, I found the sensor to be finicky, periodically failing to recognize my fingerprint the first time consistently -- or even the second time. Frustrating. Compounding this inconvenience is the realization that if you successfully log in to the vehicle, turn it on, and then turn it off again without leaving the car, it won't let you restart the vehicle without once again submitting to the cumbersome fingerprint scanner. Hopefully Genesis will fix this annoyance via an over-the-air update soon.

That gripe aside, the GV60's interior is thoughtfully and artfully rendered. It's also available in striking streetwear-inspired colors and finishes, with upholstery options including Nappa leather, like on my test car, or vegan-friendly fabrics. Genesis calls the cabin's design philosophy "warm digital," a marketing-speak word cluster that feels both contrived and oxymoronic until you stop and take stock of your surroundings. Thanks to the flat floor under the console and the panoramic fixed pane of glass overhead, the upper-spec Performance model I spend the day with feels open and airy. The cabin is loaded with unique touches that should appear to design freaks, including an unusual drawer-style glovebox and built-in scent diffuser. I even love the lattice-like look of the alloy pedals. It's a gorgeous, special-feeling environment, let down only by limited rear visibility and the odd steering wheel's too-thick spokes that can make it difficult to get comfortable if you're a hands-at-9-and-3 driver like me.

Power, charging speed and range to spare

At launch, the GV60 will be available in two powertrains strengths, both with standard all-wheel drive and both relying on the same 77.4-kW lithium-ion polymer battery. The entry-level Advanced model derives a respectable 314 horsepower and a generous 446 pound-feet of torque from its 74-kW front and 160-kW rear motors. Opt for the higher-end Performance model and Genesis turns up the wick to 429 hp and the same peak torque figure by swapping out the Advanced model's smaller front motor for the same 160-kW unit it uses in the rear. The Performance model also features a fun boost-mode button on the wheel that summons 516 lb.-ft. for up to 10 seconds at a time -- useful for merging or adolescently blowing people's doors off at stoplights.

And blow their doors off you can. With all that torque and reasonable grip from the Michelin Primacy Tour all-season tires, it's easy to rocket away from a standstill, hitting 60 mph in about 4 seconds flat. That's very quick, but not unprecedented performance for this class, dusting the Volvo XC40 Recharge (4.5 seconds) but splitting the difference between Tesla's Model Y Long Range (4.8 seconds) and Performance models (3.5 seconds). Like most powerful EVs, that easy surge of power is addictive. Unless you're worried about range, you'll probably find yourself doing more of the full-tilt acceleration boogie than you're used to in a gas car, if only because it's so exhilarating and so simple to do in a stealthy way.

The GV60 held up well on Malibu's challenging canyon roads. It's no sports car, but it corners adroitly and accelerates quickly.

Chris Paukert/CNET

You probably won't have to worry about range much, anyway. The base Advanced model is estimated to go 248 miles on a charge, while the heavier, more powerful Performance maxes out at 235 miles. The GV60 has one of the quickest, most powerful charging setups on the market, too. On an 800-volt DC charger, the pack can rapid-charge from 10% to 80% in a scant 18 minutes, or add around 64 miles of range in 5 minutes. More realistically, you'll have a better chance of finding something like a 400-volt charger in your area, which takes 73 minutes to go from 10% to 80%. Your charging success will depend on the state of your local network, which can be quite dicey even in major metropolitan areas, so it's nice to know that a Level 2 home setup can go from 10% to 100% in about 7 hours.

One other nice battery-related feature is the Integrated Charging Control Unit that allows for Vehicle To Load (V2L) capability. V2L is unsexy shorthand for a very appealing new technology that allows for the exporting of energy from the vehicle's battery to power your tailgate party, your home's refrigerator in a blackout or maybe even rescue another EV. (Be sure to check out our deep dive on this feature.)

City and canyon approved

The GV60 Performance handles the mountain roads outside of Malibu adroitly, with its electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip rear differential slinging power to the wheel with traction near instantaneously. Helpfully, there are four different regenerative braking levels cycled through by paddle-shifter-like tabs on the wheel, including Smart Regen, a novel mode that uses the forward-facing camera and radar sensors to automatically adjust braking based on traffic conditions. My favorite is i-Pedal, the one-pedal drive mode which is useful in dense city traffic and even fun in the canyons.

On such twisty tarmac, it helps that the hulking low-slung battery pack aids in level cornering and the uplevel Performance model's adaptive dampers work with a road-scanning forward camera to avoid lead-footed moments, minimizing potholes that might otherwise frag one of those ornate 21-inch wheels. The GV60's front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension is quite firm by default, but not objectionably so, and you can fine-tune the damping along with other aspects of performance using four drive-mode settings: Eco, Sport, Custom and user-customized My Drive. No surprise, the electric power steering is light on feel, but at least it's accurate and the weighting is adjustable.

GV60's styling won't be for everyone, but it's modern and distinctive, not unlike this airplane-wing house.

Chris Paukert/CNET

Super hushed, yet annoyingly loud

Genesis engineers did an excellent job managing road and wind noise. In addition to acoustic glass, the tires feature noise-absorbing foam cores and a sophisticated active noise-canceling system that includes accelerometers in the wheel wells to measure and counteract vibrations in the tires before they even reach the cabin's eight headliner microphones.

Pity, then, that Genesis programmers have deliberately chosen to make the vehicle so loud inside. There are a range of user-selectable drivetrain sounds played in the cabin to convey a sense of speed and they're all too loud by default. They're also unpleasant sounding. On the freeway, they tend to drone gratingly -- an observation echoed by several other reviewers at my event. Curiously, I have never had this problem with the Genesis' Ioniq 5 or EV6 cousins. Fortunately, you can drown the GV60's din out with the available 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, but the smarter move is to fish through the excellent infotainment system's menus to rectify the problem. Fortunately, this, too, should be easily remedied by an over-the-air update.

No surprise, there are plenty of advanced safety features standard, including everything from automatic emergency braking to lane-keep and lane-follow assist features, along with a driver attention monitor, 360-degree camera suite, rear-occupant alert and head-up display. Highway Driving Assist, Genesis' Level 2 hands-on, eyes-on adaptive cruise-control system with lane-centering and GPS integration, is also standard.

This helpful chart compares this compact SUV's interior measurements against key rivals.

Genesis

Pricey and limited availability

All-in, the Genesis GV60 is a pretty tremendous EV. Its squat and practical hatchback form may not immediately convey that it's a luxury SUV, but a look inside or a quick drive will quickly reveal this is a very premium offering indeed. Good thing, too, as it's priced like it. The Advanced model starts at $59,980, and the Performance model detailed here rings up at an eye-watering $68,980. (Those prices include $1,090 for freight, but they don't include any options or factor in any applicable government incentives like the $7,500 federal tax credit.)

As a still-new challenger brand, that's an ambitious price considering the 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge ranges from $52,795 to $59,245 and the big-dog Tesla Model Y runs from $64,440 to $69,440 (all prices including freight). On the plus side, GV60 models come with an unmatched suite of concierge services including at-home test drives as well as complimentary valet pickup and delivery for service appointments for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

The good news is, in the end, the 2023 Genesis GV60 feels worth the money. The bad news is, supplies will be very limited for the foreseeable future. The model will initially only be sold in four states when it launches in late spring or early summer -- California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Other states are expected to come online later this year.