by Ian Wright
Despite a low volume of sales in North America, Hyundai's luxury division is making serious ground with its cars. The management and design teams at Genesis Motors pack some seriously high-end punch with former operators from Lamborghini, Bentley, Audi, Mercedes, and Bugatti on the payroll, as well as the former head of BMW's M Division overseeing performance and tuning. These are not just expensive Hyundai's, despite the G90 being a direct descendent of the Hyundai Equus and Hyundai Genesis that the brand name stems from.
The G90 was the first model from Genesis and is still the brand's flagship luxury sedan. Now, just 4 years into Genesis becoming its own marque, there's a good reason for the stalwart brands in the full-sized luxury sedan market to be concerned. The G90 tops out at just $76,350 fully loaded and with the all-wheel-drive option ticked. That's still cheaper than an entry-spec Mercedes S-Class, but it isn't just the price the German brands should be concerned with. The G90 is more than just a value proposition, it's a complete package that doesn't cut corners.
With a newly unveiled, redesigned G90 set to debut later in 2019 as a 2020 model, Hyundai has carried over the 2018 MY G90 into 2019 completely unchanged.
Between trims, there isn't any variation from a design perspective, with all models boasting the same high-end styling and high levels of exterior equipment. This means any G90 you buy will feature the wide chrome grille with black inserts, flanked by full-LED automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, and full LED taillights at the rear. Both trims ride on 19-inch chrome-finish alloy wheels as standard, with matching chrome door handles and details. Dual exhaust tips also feature, as does a shark fin antenna and a power sunroof. Exterior options are left to color choices.
We've now seen the 2020 G90's massive facelift, and it's made us appreciate the understated and classic style of the current G90 model. While the exterior overhaul is embracing new design trends and looks more showy and statesmanlike, we completely understand why some Genesis customers will still be picking up the 2019 model knowing the 2020 is coming.
The Genesis G90 is a hefty sedan, with a curb weight ranging from 4,630 in rear-wheel-drive V6 guise to 4,905 lbs in all-wheel-drive V8 guise. But that's no surprise when it measures 204.9-inches in length and rides on a 124.4-inch wheelbase, 1.6- and 0.2-inches shorter than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class respectively. At 75.4-inches wide and 58.9-inches tall, the G90 has a squat stance, while 5.1-inches of ground clearance is standard for a sedan in this segment.
Simplicity is the name of the game, as the G90 boasts a color palette of just seven hues, as it did for the 2018 model year. All colors are available across both trims and none of them bears any extra cost. The palette is fairly demure with Victoria Black, Santiago Silver, Himalaya Gray, and Casablanca white all fairly plain, while our test vehicles Serengeti Brown accentuates the toned down elegance of the styling. The only vibrant hue is Adriatic Blue, itself rather demure.
The G90 is no performance sedan, and neither available engine really tries to rival the best of AMG or BMW M. But that doesn't mean they're slow either, and both plate up some decent performance figures. The 5.0-liter V8 may well be more powerful at 420 horsepower, but that by no means makes it quicker, as the 365 hp bi-turbo V6 matches it for a mid-five second 0-60 mph sprint. Both engines are paired to the same eight-speed auto with rear-wheel drive as the default drivetrain that our V8 test model arrived in. All-wheel drive is optionally available, matching the drivetrains of the established German competition.
Two trims are available with two engine derivatives and two drivetrains. On the base model G90, you'll find a 365 horsepower, 376 lb-ft of torque turbocharged V6 displacing 3.3-liters, while on the range-topping model you'll find a burly 5.0-liter V8 developing 420 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. Both find themselves mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with rear-wheel-drive the default and all-wheel drive an optional extra.
Our test vehicle came packed with the larger V8 making the power for the rear wheels. The power difference of the twin-turbo V6 isn't as noticeable as you may expect, but the exhaust delivers a more satisfying burble at idle and a satisfying roar under acceleration that's unsullied by forced induction. It's also super-smooth and, matched with the equally smooth 8-speed transmission, it's a chauffeur's dream. For those not paid to ferry people around, it's not a ferocious engine but certainly packs a cultured punch to get up to highway cruising and overtaking speeds.
While the Genesis G90 isn't looking to take on BMW's 7-Series on the backroads or at the track, that doesn't mean it doesn't have suitable manners for someone that enjoys driving. The steering is tuned beautifully with the right amount of weight and feel to be to inspire confidence through turns up to a point. The suspension is supple for cruising and comfort, and only letting the small imperfections on the road through at freeway speeds. The brakes are as strong as you would want for a large car like the G90, but the control available to keep things smooth and comfortable is to be applauded.
It would be easy to criticize the G90 for not having the sportier attributes of the cars it's punching up to compete with, but we've also been watching the BMW 7-Series trying to be all things to all people and the problems and extra cost to the customer that can generate. The G90 simply doesn't want or aim to get the adrenaline truly pumping. The focus for the G90 is squarely upon being a cultured, plush, and refined car for getting where it's going with the least amount of fuss possible.
While the powertrains of the G90 may not be performance-orientated, they both offer hefty outputs required to shuffle along the hefty full-size luxury sedan. As such, both suffer from rather poor fuel economy estimates. The base 3.3T V6 achieves EPA-rated estimates of 17/24/20 mpg in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive guises on the city/highway/combined driving cycles, while the 5.0 V8 suffers from dismal 16/24/19 and 15/23/18 mpg estimates in RWD and AWD formats respectively. With a 21.9-gallon gas tank, estimated maximum range is to be found on the V6, with an expected 438-mile range possible in mixed driving conditions.
After a week of driving the V8 rear-wheel-drive tester more on roads around and between cities rather than freeway cruising, we averaged a forgivable 22.7 mpg.
When competing against S-Classes and A8s, or even the Audi A7, a well-designed interior is key. Fortunately for Genesis, they got the fundamentals of the G90 right, giving occupants a well-executed cabin with simple controls, exemplary ergonomics, easy ingress and egress, and an abundance of room for passengers and driver alike. A 22-way power adjustable driver's seat ensures a great driving position, with thigh support for taller drivers, while there's room to stretch up front. In the rear, three can sit abreast in relative comfort, too, and with an array of heating and ventilation functions, comfort is almost guaranteed. However, the G90 lacks the overall design flair of German rivals, and some of the materials - particularly the plastics - feel a little cheap compared to European counterparts. Fortunately, the price difference is vast enough to justify any short-comings of what is still, by all means, a luxurious cabin.
In Korea, the G90 is a popular car for chauffeuring people around in business class, and that's very much apparent when you climb inside. Looking at the numbers to compare with cars in the same class, the G90 appears to fell a little short though. However, differences are negligible and the back of the G90 is a roomy place to be, along with some of the most comfortable seats available at any price. That's not hyperbole, both the front and rear seats are up there with the best and make the difference between arriving at your destination between being relaxed and refreshed. On paper, that extra legroom does come at a cost to trunk space, but again it is negligible and will happily fit everything you would expect in the back of a luxury sedan.
This is where corners could be cut to get the price of the G90 down. That is not the case though barring a few of the plastics and switches if you look closely. However, the leather-wrapped dash and wood trim is top notch as is the Nappa leather used on the seats and the microfiber suede headliner. Our tester featured light beige seats and trim that worked beautifully with the dark leather and wood trim to create a relaxing and fresh feeling atmosphere. The black interior with white stitching and darker wood brings a weightier and more sophisticated feel and is also an excellent choice. And, while the interior doesn't have the flair of its European counterparts, the interior of the G90 does carry off a classic elegance, particularly when the ergonomics of the controls come into play.
The G90 falls short on trunk volume compared to counterparts, dedicating the bulk of the available space along the 204.9-inch long body to space for the interior occupants. As a result, there are just 15.7 cubic feet available in the trunk, three less than the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The space is still practical, however, and two large suitcases plus smaller duffels can easily be accommodated. The load sill is low, so lift-over is easy for heavier items, and the trunk maintains a wide aperture throughout. There are no split-folding rear seats - no luxury sedan of this size boasts that feature - but a small ski pass-through enables loading of longer items.
Small item storage throughout the cabin is surprisingly limited given the generous volumes of the cabin itself. Up front, you'll find a single flip-lid bin with a wireless charger, but it can't close with a large smartphone inside it. The armrest boasts a small storage cubby, and the door pockets are slim. They are, however, felt-lined to reduce noise when smaller items roll-around, and in a pinch the door handle holes can accommodate small items.
Jam-packed and ready to rival the best Germany has to offer, the G90's standard features list is truly extensive. You'll find a standard sunroof, automatic LED headlights with high-beam assist, a power trunk lid, 22-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a 16-way power adjustable front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats equipped to the G90. Keyless entry and push-button start also feature, as does seven-color ambient lighting, three-zone climate control, and a power-adjustable heated steering wheel. The driver gets a full-color heads-up display, and there's a surround-view monitor, smart cruise control, and power rear sunshades. The 5.0 V8 gets extra features too, with rear passengers benefitting from rear seat memory function, 14-way power adjustment for the right rear seat, and rear seat ventilation. Naturally, a full suite of driver assistance features is standard, including blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, front and rear park sensors, and automatic emergency braking.
The standard feature list is both extensive and useful. Genesis hasn't packed in anything customers will think is cool until they it once and then forget about them. The ambient lighting is slick, and the Genesis emblem being beamed into the ground from the wing mirrors as you approach is another detail that could have come off as cheesy but doesn't. The full-color heads-up display is quick and easy to follow, although in bright sunlight the reflection on the windscreen of the unit in the dash can be distracting. The little things like powered rear passenger and back window sunshades as standard help hammer home the value for money packed into the G90. The driver assistance features are not invasive and going with V8 option and gaining the extra rear-seat adjustment and ventilation means there's a benefit there for the driver and passengers.
If Apple Carplay and Android Auto are a must-have, or Wi-Fi connectivity, then buyers will be waiting for the 2020 G90 model to land. The infotainment software is older but is still fluid and easy to use, particularly on the large landscape orientated screen. The touchscreen is also crisp and navigation is clear and simple, in both terms of using GPS and getting through the menus. The central control knob mixed with hard buttons and knobs across the dashboard makes life easy and, in the back, the center console is huge and gives passengers control over the entertainment just as easily.
The G90 is a limited volume seller, with only 2,240 units sold in 2018. But the complaints are minimal from current owners which bodes well for reliability as the current generation is nearing a substantial revision at the end of 2019. To date, there has been just one recall affecting the G90 - one in which the primer on the rear windscreen may be incorrect. Like its parent company, Hyundai, Genesis offers the G90 with an extensive set of warranties, including a ten-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, and a seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation warranty.
The NHTSA is yet to crash test the G90, however, the IIHS scored the G90 best available scores of Good in almost every test, bestowing upon it the top honor of 2019 Top Safety Pick +, even in its base trim.
Key to the IIHS's TSP+ award is the G90's extensive list of standard safety and driver assistance features. No fewer than nine airbags are present, including a driver knee airbag, while other advanced safety features include adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver attention alert, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The G90 also plays host to park sensors front and rear, lane keeping assist, high beam assist, and a 360-degree camera.
What Genesis has pulled off here is offering an understated luxury sedan that comes together harmoniously inside and out. The restrained elegance on the outside, the understated elegance on the inside, and the smooth and hefty power available under the hood work together to make something special. Overall, the G90 will appeal to those that want to travel in style and luxury, but not be too flashy about it. After spending a week enjoying and exploring the G90, we came away pleasantly surprised at not just the value for money proposition, but the execution of the car as a package.
To us, when other reviewers complain the ride is a little sloppy when you drop the hammer on a back road, we believe they are asking a question of the G90 that is completely irrelevant. It's akin to faulting a Porsche 911 for failing to be a decent family car. Unlike BMW's 7-Series or an AMG S-Class, the G90 isn't suffering from an identity crisis. The G90's purity of concept and excellence in execution along with a pleasing price-tag doesn't just make it a good car, it makes it an excellent car.
The Genesis G90 may seem expensive with a base MSRP for the cheapest RWD 3.3T Premium carrying a base MSRP of $69,350 before tax, registration, licensing, and a $995 destination charge, but that's still more than $20,000 cheaper than an entry-spec S-Class and with better standard specification. Upgrading to the 5.0 Ultimate in RWD will set you back $73,850 while adding all-wheel-drive to either model will incur an additional fee of $2,500.
Genesis offers the G90 sedan in two trims: 3.3T Premium and the 5.0 Ultimate we test drove.
The 3.3T Premium is powered by a 365 horsepower 3.3-liter turbocharged V6 engine. Standard specification is generous, with the 3.3T Premium boasting adaptive suspension, full LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, and a hands-free power trunk lid. Inside there's full leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, 22-way driver's seat power adjustment, tri-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, a full-color heads-up display, wireless device charging, adaptive cruise control, and a 12.3-inch navigation equipped infotainment system with 17 speakers.
Upgrading to the 5.0 Ultimate adds a more powerful 5.0-liter V8 with 420 hp but also outfits the rear of the cabin with more features including memory function for the outboard rear seats, 12 and 14-way power adjustment left and right respectively, rear seat ventilation, and rear seat entertainment with two 10.3-inch HD screens.
Both trims are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and both can be equipped with all-wheel-drive instead of the standard rear-wheel drivetrain.
Value for money means giving you everything at no additional cost. That's the way Genesis handles the G90, and as such, the only option is to equip all-wheel-drive for $2,500 to either trim.
By stocking the G90 with standard features that will quickly drive up the price on its European counterparts, Genesis has made the choice easy. The option of the V8 brings an old-school charm and distinctive engine sound as well as ventilated rear seats and 14-point adjustment for rear passengers. For people shopping in this category and avoiding spending those extra tens of thousands on comparable models, then springing for the V8 is a no-brainer. The only other option from there is the all-wheel-drive system, and as rear-wheel-drive adds to the charm of the G90, we would only tick that option if snow covered roads will be regularly in its future.
The Genesis G80 is the G90's smaller brother, rivaling the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class while the larger G90 rivals the S-Class and 7 Series. The two have several similarities, however, both making use of the same 3.3T V6 and 5.0 V8 engines, although the G80 gets a base 3.8 V6 that should best be avoided. Both are incredibly well equipped and jam-packed with tech and safety features, too. However, the G90 is more luxurious, catering to the comfort of the rear occupants more than the G80 does, with extra room to stretch and a smoother ride, as well as more convenience features in the rear. Conversely, because the G80 is smaller and is less comfort-biased, it's sportier to drive. That's where personal preference comes into play - if you're going to drive your Genesis, get the G80, but if you're going to be chauffeured, get the G90.
If Genesis is going to succeed in the luxury sedan segment, it's going to have to be as good as the best - the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Genesis, however, doesn't have the same brand cachet as Mercedes, but then again, the G90 is more than $20,000 cheaper than an S-Class and it boasts more standard equipment. However, the S-Class can be equipped better through options, even if that does drive the price up exponentially. The S-Class is ultimately more comfortable, though, and it has better powertrains that deliver power smoother and consume less gas in the process. The quality of materials is also slightly higher in the S-Class. However, at $20,000 less - before options - the G90 feels like a whole lot of value, and while the S-Class might be the better sedan, the budget conscious buyer won't be wrong in buying the G90.