You may not be surprised to read that worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and pandemic lockdowns have only made this problem worse.

As the WHO delicately puts it, “The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.” How kind of you, WHO.

The design is a triumph.

In common language, we’re packing on the pounds because we’re eating too much and exercising too little. Moreover, with all these stay-at-home orders, many of us haven’t put on a real pair of pants – something without an elastic waistband — in a year.

Indeed, as The Globe and Mail notes, a recent survey commissioned by Boston-based biotechnology company Genesis found that more than 70 million Americans have gained weight during the pandemic. A Weight Watchers survey suggests the number is likely closer to 100 million – or a third of the entire American population. Things would, of course, be similar in Canada, if not worse. Investment tip: post-pandemic, a vast horde of bloated homebodies will need a new wardrobe for a return to the office and the social scene. So, buy shares in well-positioned clothing companies.

As for cars, well, I have long thought that one of several explanations for the exploding popularity of SUVs (sport-utility vehicles) is the global expansion of belly fat. We need more space and taller rides because we’re getting quite porky. I also think that SUVs are a favorite of Baby Boomers because they’re getting old and stiff and unless you’ve kept up the yoga and Pilates, climbing down into a traditional passenger car can have tragic consequences.

In any case, in my personal battle with the COVID bulge and the calendar, I have become a fan of a different kind of fast-food outlet. It’s called Freshii, founded in Toronto in 2005. I visit often for quick and affordable salads – the Metaboost and the Mediterranean are favorites.

User interface: at the bottom is the tempered glass shifter with a ribbed surround; at the top is the multimedia controller, a concave design ringed by a knurled metal finish.

And this brings me to the 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV. The other day, as I collected my lunch-time Mediterranean, the young Millennial handing me my order absolutely gushed about my GV80 tester.

“That’s beautiful. A Mercedes?”

“No, it’s a Hyundai,” I replied

“A Honda? Really?”

“No, it’s Korean – a new SUV from Hyundai’s luxury brand, Genesis,” I said.

Genesis has won over a a Millennial. She was gobsmacked. You might be, too, if you haven’t been closely following the Genesis story.

Genesis quietly launched in 2016/17 with a couple of so-so sedans, available in a handful of markets via a purely online sales process supported by a delivery service. Genesis stole a few ideas from Tesla on the sales front, though now there are actual Genesis dealers across Canada.

Headlamps and side markers.

By 2018/19, Genesis had three sedans, which was a bit silly given that 70 per cent of the Canadian market is now SUVs and pickups. The GV80 SUV finally arrived in 2020/21 and later this year for 2021/22, a smaller GV70 is due – to be soon followed by a bunch of other models to fill out the portfolio.

Some of my colleagues have suggested the GV80, the most expensive $85,000 Prestige model, is a Bentley Benteyga on a budget, but that’s wrong. The GV80 is much prettier and if I were a betting man, will prove to be more reliable and far less expensive to own and operate. The base GV80 goes for $64,500 and it’s a steal, to be frank.

I mention reliability, because Genesis has been winning all sorts of quality awards. Aside from all that, however, your new Genesis comes with five years/100,000 km of free maintenance, at-home pickup and a courtesy vehicle. Roadside assistance is free for five years, too, as are a suite of connected services.

There are actually four versions of the GV80, two powered by a four-cylinder turbo engine (300 hp/311 lb-ft torque/10.5 litres per 100 km combined). If you step up to the turbo V-6, you get 375 hp/391 lb-ft toque/11.8 litres per 100 km combined. I suspect that most Canadians will be very, very happy with the four-banger. It’s strong, responsive, smooth and economical.

What caught may eye, and the Freshii Millennial, however, was the look of the thing. The GV80 is gorgeous, at least for an SUV. It’s athletic and planted, with delicately carved body panels, a diamond-pattern grille, flush, rectangular quad headlamps, beautifully smooth side makers and a strong taillamp design.

The cabin is roomy and a pure delight. The materials are lovely and rich. The centerpiece is a 14.5-inch touchscreen through which all the systems and infotainment functions run. Tesla’s screen is bigger in the Model X, but the GV80’s is better integrated into the design and I would expect it to be less troublesome because it was created specifically for an automotive application. We all have heard about Tesla’s touchscreen woes.

In particular, the large touchscreen is outstanding.

The controls – what car companies now call the “user interface” – are spectacular. The tempered glass shifter with a ribbed surround is eye-grabbing. The multimedia controller, a concave design ringed by a knurled metal finish, is both handsome and functional. The HVAC system (heating ventilation and air conditioning) has its own controls and it’s touch sensitive with swipe controls.

I could go on and on about the cloud-connected multimedia, the 3D instrument cluster and 12-inch heads-up display, the various drive modes, the 21-speaker Lexicon audio (1,050 watts), and the under-seat subwoofers. But I was particularly taken by the so-called “Ergo Motion Seats” with their seven air cells. Supportive in the right places, and delightful for a long drive.

Speaking of which, this SUV is sublime for a road trip. The body structure has plenty of aluminum to save weight, but its solid and allowed the suspension tuners to dial in what was intended to feel like a rear-drive rig in its responses Yes, of course the all-wheel-drive system will send up to 50 per cent of torque to the fronts – and the electronic limited slip differential can send 100 per cent of rear power to the side where it’s needed. The electronically controlled suspension uses cameras to read the road ahead and make the proper comfort and dynamic adjustments.

There are all sorts of electronic safety nannies, a very smart cruise control system, and you can even park the GV80 with remote assist controlled by the key fob. The GV80 drives itself in and out of a parking space. It’s all quite something.

In short, the GV80 is such a fine place to spend oodles and oodles of seat time, alas, this new SUV will not help solve the world’s obesity problem.


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