Driven: 2023 Genesis G90 Has Mercedes S-Class In Its Sights

Test Drive / 8 Comments

Even better than before, the 2023 G90 proves why it fits into the luxury sedan segment.

One of the best things money can buy you in 2023 is isolation. A break from the incessant pressure to spend, consume, and buy messages we're constantly assailed with. Well, money can buy you that and a really comfy place to enjoy all that isolation. That's what a good luxury car is supposed to do, and that's the goal of the Genesis G90. But does it pull that off while being cheaper than the competition and just as plush?

Undercutting the competition when you build a flagship luxury car is a dangerous thing, but Genesis is not scared of taking risks. The creators of the Genesis G90 had to know that the odds would be stacked against it; the modern luxury car has a lot of boxes it needs to check for it to be successful. Mercedes knows this because it has been building the S-Class for ages, and it remains a benchmark in the segment.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

So, let's get the money out of the way since the target buyer of this car is far less concerned with that than just the badge on the hood. Our G90 test car came to $101,325. This is the maximum you can spend on the 2023 G90, including its $1,500 Makalu Grey matte paint and freight charges.

That's almost $15k cheaper than a base Mercedes S-Class, which arguably still sets the bar in this segment. It's important to remember there are no trims for the G90. Instead, the driveline indicates the 'trim level', with the 3.3-liter e-supercharged V6 sitting at the top of the range.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

Exterior: A Subversion Of Badge Bias

As much as we'd like to tell you looks don't matter, they do, especially in this segment. So does the badge. Silly as that may be to the enthusiasts among us who tend to evaluate cars as standalone items rather for what their brand represents, it seems some do care about that sort of thing.

Still, no one seems to know this is a Genesis (unless they've bothered to read the large badge plastered across the rear). We lost track of the "Hey, what is that?" questions and conversations we had at gas stations. People don't know what it is at first glance, but they do know it is expensive. So, as much as badge recognition matters, there is another way forward.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

That way forward is to buck the trend among your inner circle if you've got six figures to spend on a car like this. A much younger brand name making inroads into the luxury sedan segment doesn't have the clout of the Mercedes-Benz moniker, sure, but that doesn't detract from the Genesis sedan's ability to contend. And we think its distinctive aesthetic actually works in its favor, especially with the latest design. It is, in a word, stunning. Whether it is on par with the S-Class' looks or better is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes, but we say the G90 has a little sauce the S-Class lacks, perhaps just because it is new and fresh. One thing is for sure: the G90 looks far more handsome than the BMW 7 Series, another luxury flagship icon, and we love the elegance-meets-futuristic vibe it presents.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

Performance: Effortless Speed

Luxury flagships don't technically need to be fast, but they certainly are in 2023, and it does add to that sense of exclusivity and excellence. The G90 is no exception. For the top trim, power comes from a 3.5-liter supercharged V6 with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. That mill pushes out 409 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque, up from the 375 hp/391 lb-ft on the base model. While the G90 is undoubtedly heavy, it is also unreasonably fast. It shocked us the first time we hit the gas. 0-60 mph is dispatched in just a bit over five seconds. The combination of the instant e-supercharged torque and all-wheel drive means the almost 4,900-pound sedan rockets away from the lights.

Still, the competition does this too - and slightly better. The V8-powered 7 Series gets the sprint to 60 mph done a full second quicker, but it does make 536 hp and 553 lb-ft. The inline-six version makes 375 and is slower to 60 mph than the G90. Then there's the S-Class: The 'base' version, with 429 hp, does the benchmark sprint in under five seconds, and the top-end trim nears 500 hp and has a 4.4-second sprint time. While not leading the class, the G90 isn't far off.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

Driving Impressions: Chauffeur Wanted

The G90's rear seat configuration lends itself to a car to be driven in. Thankfully, the G90 is still lovely to drive, even if you are seated in front, wishing you were paid enough to be in the back. Both the ride comfort and the seat comfort make this a wonderful place to spend some time.

Seemingly infinitely adjustable, we found these seats to be more comfortable than those in the Mercedes EQS we drove 600 miles across Colorado in. On top of that, their massage function worked far, far better and with more intensity than Mercedes'. Their heating and cooling functions did the same. Genesis' seats also pump up or deflate the bolsters depending on the circumstance. Over 81 mph, they inflate to hug you tighter. When you exit, the bolster closest to the door deflates. Still, the G90's ride is the star of the driving experience.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

Genesis uses some trick air suspension for the G90; the suspension is predictive, which is becoming increasingly common in cars of this type. It'll read the road 300 feet or more ahead, adjusting the ride all the while. You don't feel it work, and that's the point.

The drivetrain is almost the same, it's pretty refined for what it is. Little noise can be heard from the V6, and even less vibration can be felt. We feel the eight-speed transmission is more than slick enough, and it did its best not to bother us while delivering 21 mpg combined during our time with the car - this is impressive considering the EPA rates the G90 at 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined.

The whole point of the G90 is that you're not supposed to realize all the things it does for you, from steering, braking, and accelerating in traffic to scenting and cleaning the air you breathe. Add that to the massaging seats, and you almost don't miss being cocooned in the back.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

Interior: Party In The Front, Party In The Back

The G90's centerpiece is its back seat. The arrangement is as follows: two large, reclining, obscenely cushy seats with what looks like a center stack between them. However, this can also fold away to make space for a a very skinny adult in a pinch. For all intents and purposes, this car seats four 99% of the time. But it seats them in incredible comfort.

The G90 does not have the tech you'll find in the 7 Series, with its equally wild and expensive optional theater screen, but the G90 does remind us of luxury cars from 20 years ago in all the right ways. You can play with the center screen, adjusting various window shades, lights, and music settings, but ultimately the best thing to do is to sit back, recline the seats, and get a massage. Bentleys have this vibe in spades - you don't need too many gimmicks if the car is as comfortable and luxurious as this.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

That's not to say the G90 is gimmick-free. The climate control system comes with a perfume to enhance the cabin - although someone had already used it up in our tester. The doors close themselves, but you have to push strangely hard to get them to open despite them being assisted. The ambient lighting is gorgeous, but not quite on the same level as that in the S-Class. These items are there, and they work, but they are not the point of the G90.

Genesis got the fundamentals right with the interior, from the materials selection to the UI to the sound system. Speaking of, the Bang and Olufsen unit is one of the best we've heard this year. Bentley's Naim system has it beat, but the levels of clarity and range this system has is still top notch. That's also thanks to how quiet it is inside the cabin. Pindrop quiet is a cliche, yes, but it is one that applies here.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

Verdict: Finding A Gap

We could spend all day waxing lyrical about the ins and outs of the G90's interior, but we'd all be better served by simply answering the question posed at the start: Does the Genesis G90 manage to be a good luxury car at this price point?

It has managed to achieve the oh-so-difficult task of undercutting the majority of the competition while providing similar features in a package people love to look at. And yes, it buys you isolation, and comfort. This is, without a doubt, a "Lexus LS 400" moment for Genesis. The German competition has a lot going for it, from excellent tech in the BMW 7 Series to the established presence, poise, and downright over-the-top luxury and solidity offered in the S-Class. But the G90 is nothing to sniff at, and it's almost created its own little niche in the segment.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

That niche is akin to that of the Tesla Model S circa 2012. Tesla hit a stride, found a market no one had capitalized on yet, and sold people an idea. As such, it has found some level of success. While the G90 doesn't do all this to such an extent as the Model S did, the G90 is as good as it is because it found a hole in the segment and filled it.

It's always easier to start at the top in the auto industry. You can always lead with a flagship, like a McLaren F1 or similar, and work down, scale up, and become more widespread and profitable. Genesis has managed to do the opposite, going from a volume automaker for mainstream cars to something much more desirable and, soon, recognizable. The G90 feels like just the start of the brand's sucess, and it is one heck of a start - more importantly, one heck of a luxury car.

Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz
Chase Bierenkoven/CarBuzz

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