by Jared Rosenholtz
Creating a new luxury brand from scratch isn't easy. It took Lexus many years to shed its "fancy Toyota" stigma and some other Japanese luxury brands are still dealing with this sort of criticism. Enter Genesis, a Korean luxury automaker spun off from what used to be a model within the Hyundai lineup. The move was anything but smooth, but Genesis now builds a lineup of impressive luxury sedans headed by the flagship G90, which was just given a refresh for the 2020 model year.
Full-size luxury sedans with powerful gas-fed engines are slowly disappearing off the automotive map but there will always be a soft spot in our hearts for these aging behemoths, and some manufacturers are actually joining the fray instead of shying away. The Genesis G90 is one such competitor that has entered the race close to the probable end. Although it doesn't have the history and brand status of better-established rivals such as the indomitable Mercedes-Bens S-Class, it offers luxury at an affordable price and now has a unique look that's bound to draw attention. 2020 cars get an extensive redesign from the inside out, which should add to its appeal, and the 3.3-liter twin-turbo engine, which produces 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, is an absolute pleasure. Starting at $72,200, the 2020 G90 undercuts the S-Class, Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Lexus LS by tens of thousands of dollars, but is that a true reflection of its quality? We tested a 2020 G90 with the smaller V6 motor to find out.
With the new decade comes a major overhaul of Genesis' most luxurious sedan, the G90. The exterior of the G90 reflects the brand's new design language, and with the exception of the roof and doors, every other body panel has been redesigned. The dominant crest grille in the front is flanked by new quad headlights, and the license plate holder is now located lower down in the front. The side profile has been elongated for added visual impact. 19-inch wheels feature an all-new G-Matrix design, and also make use of sound absorption technology to drastically reduce tire noise. Inside, the G90 now includes standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Mirror Link. An Intelligent Car Management Service is fitted, as well as a Genesis first: an over-the-air wireless update system for navigation maps and other software systems. Active driver assistance features such as lane following assist and safe exit assist are now standard.
The 2020 Genesis G90 receives a major update to its exterior styling, which includes the redesign or replacement of all body panels bar its roof and doors. The new 19-inch alloys also offer road noise reduction technology, and the attention-grabbing front grille and headlight design are a welcomed feature. Besides the difference in powertrain, all G90 trims come with a fully loaded exterior. Standard features for 2020 include electrically folding and heated side mirrors, soft-close doors, a puddle lamp with the Genesis logo, auto LED headlamps, and high-beam assist. All models also include a windshield wiper de-icer, rain-sensing wipers, and an auto window defogger. The top of the line 5.0-liter model also gets a black and chrome grille.
To say that the 2020 Genesis is a big car would be an understatement: measuring 204.9 inches in length, the G90 is over three inches longer than the Kia K900, but the lengthy Mercedes-Benz S-Class takes the cake with a total length of 206.9 inches. This luxurious land boat is 75.4 inches wide when you exclude the side mirrors, and is 58.9 inches tall, making it taller than the K900. The G90 rolls on a lengthy 124.4-inch wheelbase. The base curb weight comes in at 4,960 lbs.
Spending lots of money on a large luxury sedan usually means that the person doing the buying wants to be noticed on the street and recognized as a success or whatever, but you won't exactly get that with the G90, which could either be a negative or a positive, depending on your priorities. The exterior paint palette has a big part to play in the way owners express their personalities and, judging by the seven colors on offer for 2020, Genesis doesn't want the G90 to be noticed at all. Basics such as Uyuni White, Vik Black, and Saville Silver all look good, but there are some slightly more exciting colors on offer. Himalayan Gray looks mighty fine, and we were pleasantly surprised at just how good the Gold Coast Silver looked, especially in the daylight. Adriatic Blue and Porto Red are pensioner specials. If we were doing the buying, we'd get one in Porto Red, the color of our test car. It looks purple in certain lighting and adds a touch of vibrance to the G90.
Performance from the 2020 G90 ranges from stately to surprising, depending on what engine option you go for, but overall, there's more than enough power to get this big beast moving at a convincing pace. Around town, the 3.3-liter turbocharged engine option which produces 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque is a standout, thanks to its punchy low down torque, but out on the open road, both engine options prove to be lovely cruising companions. Its competitors will out-accelerate it - but that shouldn't really be something to consider when looking for large luxurious sedans that border on being limousines. For those that really have to know, the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 model will get to sixty in 5.3 seconds according to independent testers, which is surprisingly quick for such a sizable car. The V8 model, which churns out 420 hp, isn't any quicker to 60, only beginning to leave its less powerful sibling behind from around 70 mph. Both trims send power to the rear wheels as standard, but all-wheel-drive is an option on either engine.
The engine options for the 2020 G90 range from mild to not so mild; at the back of the pack sits the twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 turbo. This underestimated engine produces 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque but feels faster than the larger V8 thanks to its strong low to mid-range torque band, and it is widely known that these engines produce more power than what is printed on the label. Around town and on the highway, this engine rules with its flexible powerband. The old-school 5.0-liter V8 engine produces a healthy 420 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. It sounds great and has a creamy power delivery, but doesn't feel as responsive as the 3.3T down low. Both models get an eight-speed transmission that is smooth around town and responsive enough when driving with enthusiasm.
Opting for the V8 is less of a decision of performance, but more of opulence. The V8 will earn you more bragging rights with a minimal penalty in cost or fuel economy. Genesis has also made several rear seat features only available on the V8 trim, which may incentivize buyers to pick the big motor. This 5.0-liter V8 is on its way out as Genesis moves to turbocharging and electrification, so the 2020 G90 will be one of your last opportunities to own it. In our opinion, the V8 is worth the minimal price increase.
The first thing you notice as soon as you get behind the wheel of the 2020 Genesis G90 is how quiet it is; there's a sense of serene tranquility that you only get in large luxury barges such as the G90, and this is the overriding theme when it comes to the handling and driving dynamics of this cruise boat. Firstly, the electronically assisted steering is light as we'd expect it to be, but for such a big car, the G90 can be placed with surprising accuracy. Take the G90 through your favorite set of twisty corners, and you'll be met with the handling equivalent of a land yacht; there's a lot of body roll, and though it sports a set of adaptive dampers, it's clear from the outset that the G90 has been set up to deliver a comfortable rather than capable handling and driving experience.
Some of this can be mitigated by placing the car in Sport Mode, which tightens up the steering, firms up the dampers, and even squeezes the side bolsters to hold the driver in place. Paddle shifters are mounted on the wheel but we never felt the need to play with them. The G90's lack of sportiness isn't a weakness but actually a strength. This car reminds us so much of what the Lexus LS used to be, a floaty palace to relax and chew up the miles.
The technological marvel that is modern-day turbocharging means that the massive G90 with all its heavy interior appointments will still return a decent level of fuel consumption when fitted with the wonderfully flexible 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine. In this configuration, the EPA estimates that the G90 will get 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined in both RWD and AWD guise. Going for the traditional 5.0-liter V8 engine with AWD will see that number dip into the teens, 16/24/19 mpg, to be exact in RWD guise with AWD dropping a point of each metric. Genesis has afforded the G90 a generous 21.9 gallons of fuel capacity, which means you'll be able to get between 394 and 438 miles per tank.
The point of this car is to wrap those inside in the utmost luxury, and in that sense, the G90 delivers exceptionally well. The interior design of the 2020 car might be understated, but it has been crafted with the utmost care and attention to detail and will put many more expensive and more established cars to shame. The 3.3T Premium gets a ton of standard interior features, including an advanced surround-view monitoring system, Nappa leather seating surfaces along with a microfiber suede headliner, a 22-way power driver seat with power lumbar, shoulder, and bolster adjustment as well as front-seat heating and ventilation. The 5.0 Ultimate is the range-topper here and adds luxury features such as a 14-way power-adjustable right rear seat and a 12-way power left rear seat with ventilation, as well as rear-seat illuminated vanity mirrors.
Besides offering massive amounts of comfort and luxury, the G90 also makes sure that its occupants get enough room to stretch out after a busy day at the polo fields. Once inside, the G90 offers more space than the official measurements might suggest, and you'll have no trouble fitting five average-sized adults within the confines of the G90. The headroom in the front measures a spacious 41.1 inches, while those in the rear get an equally spacious 38 inches. Legroom in the front is a humongous 46.3 inches, which even the tallest basketball player will find pleasantly accommodating. In the rear, the G90 offers its passengers 37.8 inches of legroom. Shoulder room is 59.1 inches in the front, and 57.9 inches in the front. Hip room is measured at 56.5 inches in the front and 55 inches in the back. Ingress and egress benefit from large doors, especially at the back, while the view out is generally unobstructed.
The interior of the 2020 Genesis G90 is a beautiful place to sit in, and it is clear from the outset that Genesis has gone out of their way to design and construct a cabin that not only competes, but surpasses, the competition in many aspects, one of them being Genesis' choice of premium quality materials. The first thing you'll notice is the exquisitely crafted Nappa leather seating surfaces, complemented by a microfiber suede headliner. These seats have a quality feel and should last for years if properly maintained. New owners can choose between Black and Walnut, Black and Beige, Brown and Havana, or our favorite, Brown and Indigo. We also appreciate the sleek-looking wood inserts completed in a matte finish and the subtle brushed metal accents. Our one gripe with the interior, the buttons and infotainment controls feel cheap compared to this car's European rivals.
There's no doubt that the full-sized G90 offers its occupants a boat-load of interior space, but does it offer enough room to fit all the crap that well-off people like to carry with them? The good news is that the trunk on the G90 isn't minuscule, not by a long shot. It's not quite as large as the BMW 7 Series' trunk, though, with the German's figure at 18.2 cubes. Unfortunately, the rear seats don't collapse, so those 15.7 cubic feet are all you're going to get. Thankfully Genesis has included a pass-through, so large items can be squeezed through the middle of the rear bench. Small items can be stored in the larger-than-average center console storage box, small door pockets, or in a nifty little storage console in front of the shifter.
The 2020 Genesis G90 offers great value for money, especially when you see what standard features are on offer in the base model. The 3.3T Premium kicks things off with exterior features such as the Genesis adaptive control suspension with electronic damping control, full LED headlights with LED accents, and surround-view camera system. On the inside, the 3.3T brings features such as a heated and ventilated 22-way power driver seat with power lumbar, shoulder and bolster adjustment and a wireless charging pad to the table. Standard driver assistance features include lane-keeping assist with lane following assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, blind-spot view monitor, as well as forward collision avoidance assist. 5.0 Ultimate cars add a 14-way power right rear seat and 12-way power left rear seat with ventilation and memory, as well as rear-seat illuminated vanity mirrors.
The large 12.3-inch infotainment display that comes standard in every G90 is neatly tucked away in the swooping dashboard and offers crisp and clear images and relatively fast response times. We appreciate the use of both a centrally-mounted control knob and dashboard-mounted buttons to help make navigating this system a breeze. The 2019 model lacked modern connectivity features, but thankfully Genesis received the message, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is now a standard feature. Also included in the standard package is an aux input, front and back USB ports, Bluetooth streaming, and a wireless charging pad. We were impressed with the standard Lexicon sound system, which produced clean tones from its 17 speakers, and believe that to truly appreciate this system, one has to play M.E by Gary Numan at full blast. 5.0 Ultimate models also offer entertainment for those in the back, thanks to a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 10.3-inch HD monitors.
Genesis is well-known for building reliable cars that stand the test of time and looking at the recall history for the G90, we can confirm that statement. J.D. Power has given the G90 an average score of over 80 out of 100 over the last few years, and there has only been a handful of recalls issued in recent times. In 2018, certain G90 models were recalled due to the incorrect use of primer when the windshield and rear window were installed. In 2019, certain 3.3T cars were recalled due to a leaky oil supply line. Genesis will back the G90 with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a comprehensive ten-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, as well as a three-year/36,000-mile maintenance plan. An anti-perforation warranty runs for seven years regardless of mileage covered.
Not only is the G90 a supremely comfortable car to drive, but it will keep you safe in the case of a serious accident. The G90 has been praised internationally for its excellent safety levels; however, the 2020 model has not been put through its paces yet, well at least not by both main local authorities. The NHTSA is yet to smash up the G90, but the IIHS has set a 2020 model through its paces, and the results are impressive. The G90 did not manage to score a Top Safety Pick award, as it did with previous year models, but it still performed admirably, scoring a maximum Good rating in all major crashworthiness categories. Where the G90 failed to impress was with its LATCH system (rated only as Acceptable), and structure and safety cage (also Acceptable) for the small overlap front passenger-side test.
Impressing the IIHS takes much more than a set of airbags and ABS brakes, especially in these heady days of semi-autonomous cars that basically drive and park themselves. The good news is that both the 3.3T and 5.0 cars are packed with the latest in active driver assistance systems, as well as traditional safety equipment. Occupants can rest assured that their gray matter will be kept relatively intact thanks to a set of ten airbags, and traditional goodies such as traction and stability control also make an appearance. More advanced systems include driver attention warning, safe exit assist, lane-keeping assist with lane following assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, as well as a blind-spot view monitor, forward collision-avoidance assist, and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist. A standard heads-up display helps to keep the driver's eyes on the road ahead.
Genesis may have some work to do to reach the level of brand recognition of a Mercedes or a BMW, but with strong products like the 2020 G90, we have no doubt that the Korean automaker will get there. Execution at this high a level with a bargain-level price is exactly what helped rocket Lexus into the pantheon of established luxury automakers. The G90 was already a solid performer at its price but its nondescript looks made it an afterthought in the full-size luxury sedan segment. With this 2020 facelift, no one is going to mistake the G90 for a Mercedes or BMW, though we did have a few people come up to us to ask about "the Bentley."
We were impressed with the level of features Genesis was able to cram into one car without making it feel like we needed a degree in mechanical engineering to understand how to use it all correctly. Genesis has mastered the 'jump in and go' mentality of making its controls simple and intuitive. With products like the G90, we are happy to see where Genesis is headed in the coming years.
Possibly the G90's biggest drawcard is the simple fact that it offers a massive amount of value for money, especially in a class that's filled with six-figure cars that don't offer much more than what you get here. The 3.3T Premium, which includes most of the features found on the top of the line 5.0 Ultimate such as full LED headlights with LED accents, lane-keeping assist with lane following assist and adaptive control suspension with electronic damping control will cost you a trifling $72,200 which excludes tax, registration, and a destination fee of $995, while the AWD version goes for $74,700. The range-topping 5.0 Ultimate adds features such as a 14-way power right rear seat and 12-way power left rear seat, and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 10.3-inch HD monitors, and costs only $1,000 more than the AWD 3.3T for a total price of $75,700; now that's what we call good value. The priciest G90, the 5.0L Ultimate AWD, will cost you $78,200.
There are two Genesis G90 trims to choose from for 2020, and both offer a great deal of value: the 3.3T Premium and the 5.0 Ultimate. Both are RWD by default, but AWD is an option.
The 3.3T Premium is a feature-rich base model but is powered by our favorite engine in the G90 range. Its 3.3-liter twin-turbo engine produces 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque and is a true sleeper engine that offers masses of low to mid-range torque, and as a side bonus, uses less fuel than the more powerful 5.0-liter V8. 3.3T Premium cars get features such as adaptive control suspension with electronic damping control, full LED headlights with LED accents, a 22-way power driver seat with power lumbar, shoulder, and bolster adjustment and a 17-speaker sound system. Active driver assistance features included on the 3.3T include driver attention warning, safe exit assist, lane-keeping assist with lane following assist, blind-spot collision avoidance assist, and a blind spot monitor. The 5.0 Ultimate gets power from an old-school 5.0-liter V8 engine that produces 420 hp and provides a good soundtrack. The 5.0 Ultimate also adds a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 10.3-inch HD monitors, a 14-way power right rear seat and 12-way power left rear seat, both with ventilation and memory, as well as rear-seat illuminated vanity mirrors.
Genesis equips their cars with pre-specified packages from the get-go, so every new G90 is already fitted with either the Premium or Ultimate package. 3.3T cars are equipped with the Premium package, which includes exterior features such as adaptive control suspension with electronic damping control, and full led headlights with LED accents. The Premium package adds features such as Nappa leather seating surfaces and microfiber suede headliner, a 22-way power driver seat with power lumbar, shoulder, and bolster adjustment, and driver assistance features such as forward collision-avoidance assist rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist. All 5.0 cars come fitted with the Ultimate package, which adds luxury features such as a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 10.3-inch HD monitors and ventilated rear seats. In essence, these cars come fully loaded, and no other optional packages are available for either car.
It's hard to go wrong with any of the G90 trim levels, considering they all come pretty much fully-loaded. We found the 3.3-liter V6 to be plenty powerful out on the road and we'd only suggest the V8 model should you be putting passengers in the back seat regularly. The V8 adds a rear-seat entertainment a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 10.3-inch HD monitors and adjustable rear seats with ventilation, features that are not available on the V6. Since the V8 is only around $3,500 more than the V6 and offers a minimal loss in fuel economy, we'd probably throw caution to the wind and opt for the big motor. And while the V6 sounds pretty throaty, the V8 does produce a more satisfying engine note. We'd stick with rear-wheel-drive unless you live in a cold climate where all-wheel-drive might be required.
It might not look so, but the Genesis G90 and Kia K900 share the same underpinnings, meaning chassis and powertrain options are shared between these two large luxury sedans. The K900 has been the black sheep in this relationship, with journalists and consumers praising the G90 for its better handling and more luxurious interior. The K900 is only available with the much-loved 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, which produces the same 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. Performance is on par with the G90 3.3T, and on the road, both cars behave more or less the same; you won't be able to feel a major difference when driving at the speed limit, which is where these cars will spend the majority of their lifetimes. The EPA estimates that the K900 will get 18/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined, making it marginally more efficient than the G90. The K900 was redesigned in 2019, and 2020 cars add highway-assist, and the surround-view camera system has been improved. The interior is a comfortable and premium place to sit in, but the G90 feels more opulent. The most attractive aspect of the K900 is its price, which, starting at only $59,900, undercuts its rivals by a pretty penny.
When you think of large luxury sedans, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is at the top of the list and has been a trendsetter in terms of automotive technology for decades. The 2020 S-Class range sees the addition of a new plug-in hybrid model, and the rest of the range sees the addition of new standard features such as active parking assist. The S450's twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine is comparable to the 3.3T in the G90; it produces 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque and offers smooth yet strong acceleration. The S450 will return 19/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined. The S-Class is peerless when it comes to ride comfort, and offers impressive acceleration from standstill. We think that the S-Class's interior is unrivaled in this price range and category, and we're also big fans of the multiple configurations and customization choices on offer. With a much cheaper base price, the G90 might start looking more appealing. Get the S-Class if you're in it for the status, and don't mind paying a hefty premium.
Check out some informative Genesis G90 video reviews below.