Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 15, 2019
Genesis, Hyundai’s upstart, upscale premium brand, is on a full product offensive but they currently only have three sedans on tap, and we have the full-size G90 to play with. Now one criticism I always had about Genesis is that they weren’t bold enough during their initial launch. Their cars lacked distinction, personality, and more importantly, did not progress the brand’s premium image forward. The G80 was a cozy and comfortable mid-size sedan that was sober and sterile compared to an E-Class, and the G70 was a frisky, athletic compact sports sedan that took the fight directly to the 3 Series, but it failed to make enough of an impact for us to recommend it over its German compatriots. But here comes the newly facelifted G90 and finally, Genesis has dared to step outside the box.
There are horizontal lines everywhere. The dish-like 19-inch wheels themselves have a bazillion spokes, which Genesis says was inspired by the reflection of a diamond. The quad LED headlights host a light strip that spills over into the sides. The five-sided front grill is an orgy of diamond black mesh. The hood is creased and the rear, though a little more generic, is soft spoken. Have they finally cracked the code? Almost. You see the full-size luxury sedan market is a peculiar segment, and is unlike other compact SUVs, pickup trucks, or even two-door sports cars. Value plays a role here, but almost insignificantly. If price was the prominent factor, then surely, these business executives would find themselves in the cozy back seat of a Toyota Avalon or Buick LaCrosse instead. The king of the hill, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, gains its sales not just by looking sleek, coddling occupants in top-shelf materials and massaging seats, or offering AMG levels of forward propulsion. It’s there due to its history, its brand prestige, and a sky high price tag that lets pedestrians know that the king has arrived.
The G90 is on that path. It successfully combines modern aesthetics with retro features, much like the Toyota Century and the new Bentley Flying Spur. Carrying an upright, sophisticated stature, the G90 aims to pull up as many similarities to the Bentley as it can, making the outgoing G90 just as forgettable as it already was. Here, there is finally some visual distinction. But how are you going to convince a potential S-Class, 7 Series, or A8 buyer to look at a G90 instead? Well Genesis has a plan. First off, convenience. Genesis owners don’t even have to step foot into a dealership to order a car. It can all be done online, then shipped right to your house. No awkward visits to the dealer, petty staredowns, and unnecessary haggling involved. That hassle-free process goes for scheduled maintenance trips as well. And while value might not play a role to the majority, it may still be a prominent factor for a select few. With a starting price of $89,750, the G90 5.0 significantly undercuts its German rivals as well.
The G90 now has the road presence, and though the interior hasn’t really changed from the outgoing model, there’s a lot to like. The cabin is wrapped head to toe with soft leather, and can be optioned with an exquisite caramel-coloured leather dubbed Havana Brown, that covers the majority of the cabin surfaces, including the thin-rimmed steering wheel that hosts convincingly premium feeling knobs and toggles. In fact, this spec reminds me a lot of the Lexus LC 500 cabin with the beautiful brown interior spec. The 12.3-inch infotainment screen is a dressed up version of Hyundai’s unit, but is nevertheless a breeze to use, and offers both touchscreen capabilities as well as the tried and true rotary dial. Flanked underneath that dial is an easy access panel for the heated steering wheel, and heated and ventilated seat functions - not having to navigate into the menu like in the S-Class saves us a solid few seconds on every vehicle start up.
As with all Genesis vehicles, every feature comes standard with the only exception being the choice of seven exterior paint colours and three interior tone schemes. That means every G90 will come with a panoramic sunroof (that only extends the length of the front seats), 14-way adjustable front seats, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and ventilated front seats, wireless phone charging, and a bevy of safety and driver assistance features like blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Like Honda’s LaneWatch, the G90 also utilizes a similar blind spot camera display that pops up when you signal, but this one works for both sides of the vehicle, not just the right side like the Honda. The display also shows up in the driver’s instrument screen, not the center display, reducing the need to turn your head. Our G90 did experience a bit of glitchy rear right sensor however, as it incessantly beeped and pinged at us even when there was no obstruction present.
The back seats are where you want to spend the majority of your time. While not common to get chauffeured around in North America, you do want to experience the rear accommodations, like the activated Rest Mode that fully reclines the seat back, and pushes the front seat all the way forward so you can stretch your legs forward. The center armrest is chock full of media controls and dials as well, and can be folded upwards to make room for a fifth passenger. You can tell that in an effort to keep the price from reaching stratospheric heights, Genesis skimped out on a few items. Like how the only wheel size available are 19-inches, and without optional 20s or 21s, the fat tire wall doesn’t look too appealing close up. The ride quality probably fairs better because of it, and while the lacy wheels look spectacular in photos, in person, the spokes and center cap lack the shine and polish to give off an upscale look. Other places missed out include the plasticky rear view mirror, the chunky door lock knobs, and the lack of a rear sunroof, rear entertainment screens, and massaging seats. The keyfob is low-rent plastic (even new Kias have nicer leather-wrapped ones), and only one USB port graces the front cabin, but a wireless charging pad and two 12V sockets do remedy connectivity concerns. The G90 does have some standout features though, including soft closing doors, and even electronically operated rear and side sunshades, all of which can be controlled from the driver’s seat.
And then there’s the way it drives. There are two engine choices carried over from the outgoing G90. The 3.3L twin-turbocharged V6 is available only via special order ($86,750), and produces 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. Genesis thinks that most customers will opt for eight-cylinder propulsion instead, which I beg to differ. Their twin-turbo V6 in the outgoing G90 was more than adept at thrusting this luxo-barge forward with athleticism and while it wasn’t the quickest, it should be more fuel efficient than the V8, something that seems like a common sense choice with this value-oriented brand. Nevertheless, the V8 is a naturally aspirated 5.0L unit ($89,750) that delivers a healthy 420 hp and 383 lb-ft. Yes, no turbos here, and the resulting power delivery is oh so smooth. While not nearly as powerful without being force fed compressed air, the G90 does not need it. There’s more than enough thrust to get this heavy sedan moving, even when travelling at triple digit speeds and that extra oomph is required. Both engines are mated to an all-wheel drive system via a smooth and undetectable 8-speed automatic transmission, though it can be a little hesitant to downshift when pushing it harder around corners in Comfort Mode. Switching over to Sport makes the gearbox perkier.
With an adaptive suspension on deck, the G90 is calm and collected on the road but you can tell by the level of impact harshness, body lean, and composure when carressing broken pavement, that there is still a considerable gap with the ride quality of a Mercedes S-Class. The ride is busier with more oscillations seeping into the cabin and disturbing occupants with unwanted motion. Again, the ride quality here is much more absorbent than any compact or midsize sedan we’ve driven, but compared to the kings of the segment, Genesis still has some work to do. And while many are quick to assume the G90’s primary competitor is the S-Class, I believe the true rivals to be the Cadillac CT6 and Lincoln Continental, and this G90 blows them out of the water with convincing luxury that pampers occupants with the best that Genesis has to offer, albeit with a slightly higher price tag than the American duo.
While we don’t expect G90s to suddenly appear on every street corner, it does deliver a flagship product with enough opulence and road manners for luxury minded buyers to think twice about buying an S-Class. Genesis is taking its next step forward and yes, luxury sedans only make up a small fraction of today’s automotive sales but with SUVs looming in their future product portfolio, there’s only one way to go, and that’s up.
Model: 2020 Genesis G90 5.0 Prestige AWD
Paint Type: Adriatic Blue
Base Price: $89,750
Price as Tested: $89,750
Curb weight (kg): 2,250
Engine: 5.0-litre V8
Horsepower: 420 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 383 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.9
Tires: P245/45R19 front; P275/40R19 rear