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Why the Genesis GV80 is launching with a diesel engine

The luxury SUV is on sale in South Korea right now and features an oil-burning inline-six under its hood.

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Genesis GV80

The GV80 is the Genesis brand's first SUV.

Genesis

If you aren't aware of the headwinds facing diesel engines these days, you might consider extracting yourself from the slab of granite you've been residing under for the last few years. Following Volkswagen's self-inflicted emissions brouhaha, oil-burning engines are on the skids, which makes it all the more curious why Genesis is launching its first SUV with an engine of this type.

This move is particularly unusual since other automakers, both luxury and mainstream brands, are stepping away from diesel. Nearly in lockstep, the industry is pursuing a broad spectrum of electrification options, from pure EVs and hybrids, to plug-ins, 48-volt electrical systems and even hydrogen fuel cells, all in a bid to clean up its collective act. Introducing a brand-new diesel engine seems completely incongruous.

But there's a method to this apparent madness. The GV80 just launched and is currently on sale in South Korea, the Genesis brand's home market. The vehicle is not expected to reach dealership in the US until around the middle of the year.  

"Here in Korea, people go for the diesel," Albert Biermann, head of research and development at the Hyundai Motor Group, told Roadshow at a media roundtable shortly after the GV80's formal introduction in Seoul last week. "That's their favorite." 

Genesis GV80

This SUV's interior is sumptuous. 

Genesis

With six cylinders arranged in a neat little row and a displacement of 3.0-liters, this engine delivers around 274 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque, impressive figures to be certain. They compare very favorably to the inline-six GM recently introduced in its half-ton trucks, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. For reference, the General's 3.0-liter Duramax is rated at 277 hp and 460 lb-ft.

This powerplant may be launching in the GV80 SUV, but it will likely proliferate throughout the automotive conglomerate's diverse lineup. "This engine, we can have so many applications, as you know," Biermann said. "We make also commercial vehicles and so on, so this engine will be out there for quite some time." Unfortunately, it's unlikely to cross the Pacific Ocean and be sold in North America. According to Biermann, that's not part of the plan right now. When the GV80 reaches North America, it'll be offered with two gas-fed, turbocharged engines.

Proving its engineering chops, the Hyundai Group's new diesel is muscular, smooth and whisper quiet. Not only that, it will be squeaky clean, too. Biermann said it should meet the latest emissions standards, specifically Euro6 D step 2. "That is a very clean diesel," he noted.

Biermann said that several years ago, pundits were predicting the end of diesels, "But now … you have people saying, 'Hey, with this new diesel technology, the air that comes from the tailpipe is cleaner than the air it sucks in,' right?" And whichever way the market goes, the Hyundai Group will be ready. "We have the latest and greatest diesel technology," he explained, "And we have hybrids and plug-ins and 48-volts [electrical systems] and battery electric and fuel cell. We are ready for everything."

It seems for Genesis and the larger Hyundai Group, diesel is but a small part of a much larger propulsion strategy, one that's well diversified.