The S-Class has to fend off Korea's best sedan yet.
Genesis has fully revealed its flagship G90 sedan, and it looks like a promising step up from the model it will replace. While the G90 was always a comfortable chariot, the new one is a far more desirable car to look at. That's something that matters in this segment, and no other full-size sedan exemplifies sophistication and status better than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Decades later, the S-Class remains the comfort and technology benchmark. If Audi and BMW have never truly surpassed the S-Class with their own offerings, does Genesis stand any chance? Let's find out.
The S-Class is today what it always has been - an understated car that effortlessly announces you've made it. From any angle, it's a smoothly styled sedan that reeks of quality and class. The problem is, it is now harder to tell apart from the cheaper E-Class and C-Class than ever before, and that's a problem when you've spent six figures on a full-size sedan.
By comparison, the new Genesis G90 is simply more evocative and interesting to look at. The Two-Line headlamp design that stretches into the front fenders, along with the shiny Crest Grille, give it a unique identity. Yes, the badge means that it won't immediately command the respect that an S-Class does at the country club, but as things stand now, the G90 gets our vote as the more stylish sedan.
In both cases, expect expansive panoramic roofs, a choice of large wheel designs, LED headlights and daytime running lights, and easy entry into the back seats via long rear doors.
If you opine that more technology makes for a better luxury car, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class wins hands down. Whereas the G90 takes a more traditional approach to interior design, the S-Class has doubled down on screen real estate. It's headlined by the central 12.8-inch OLED touchscreen, which is admittedly beautifully clear. The G90 has a smaller central screen and a digital gauge cluster that is better-integrated into the overall design. Lower down in the Genesis, you'll find a physical knob to control most functions, something that's absent in the touchscreen-obsessed Mercedes.
The Merc's cabin is certainly more striking, but both cars are impeccably built and go to the ends of the earth to pamper their occupants. Shared features include a fragrance system, available sound systems with over 20 speakers, massaging seats, and a full suite of driver-assistance technologies like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and head-up displays.
At the back, the G90 gets a VIP seat with leg supports, a footrest, and access to a touchscreen control interface. In the S-Class, you can even specify rear-seat neck heating, and soft pillows are found on the headrests. Both cars have exemplary cabins and choosing between them will come down to personal preference.
In this category, the Mercedes is the easy winner. Even the base S500 comes with a powerful 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine with mild-hybrid assistance that produces 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. It's a buttery smooth engine that will whisk the sedan to 60 mph in under five seconds. In the S580, you get a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with a substantial 496 hp and 516 lb-ft. Standard all-wheel drive helps the Mercedes put down its power in a composed fashion. The nine-speed automatic is equally up to the task.
In the G90, powertrain specifications have not been confirmed for the US-spec model. However, we know that it will use a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6. In the G80, this engine makes 375 hp and 391 lb-ft. It's strong enough, but the S-Class offers more power, and that's before talking about upcoming AMG versions. The G90 will use an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and offer all-wheel drive.
We have driven the Mercedes already and know that its ride quality is simply sublime. It feels immovable on the highway, yet manages its considerable weight well through the corners. Genesis will have to have engineered a great sedan to match the Merc, but the G90 will come with available features like air suspension and rear-wheel steering that should help it be competitive.
Pricing for the new Genesis G90 has not yet been revealed, but the outgoing 2021 model did start at below $73,000. By comparison, the 2021 Mercedes S-Class begins at $109,800. If Genesis can maintain that price gap of close to $40,000 for the new G90, it will once again represent tremendous value, especially considering how well equipped the G90 will be straight out of the box.
While we don't expect the G90 to dethrone the S-Class on the sales charts, this is likely Korea's best sedan ever. It deserves to succeed, and it appears that nothing can stop it from doing so besides badge snobbery.