New Korean Luxury Aspirations
Hyundai has dearly wanted to push its way into the luxury car market for quite some time. In 2008, the Korean automaker introduced the midsize, rear-wheel-drive Genesis four-door sedan, then later followed with the larger Equus. Last year the company renamed the Genesis as G80, redesigned the Equus and called it the G90, then went all in and spun off Genesis as a whole new company: Genesis Motors. The new cars have a large luxurious distance from regular Hyundai vehicles, much as Acura is to Honda, Infiniti to Nissan and Lexus to Toyota. The all-new 2017 Genesis G90 is just the first of a group of luxury vehicles that the carmaker says will number six by 2020. And to that end, the G70 was introduced in Korea in September that will arrive in the U.S. sometime next summer.
Hyundai has never been shy about its aspirations, and the new Genesis G90 clearly wants to take on the newest BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class as well as the Audi A8 and Lexus LS. In doing so, the G90’s 124.4-inch wheelbase, 204.9-inch overall length, and 75.4-inch width is close to the Mercedes S-class, making it a properly large luxury car.
Prospective Genesis G90 buyers have two engines to choose from. The first is a powerful twin-turbocharged V-6 engine that offers 365 horsepower out of its 3.3 liters of displacement. The other is a 5.0-liter V-8 pushing out 420 horsepower. Both are connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission that directs power to the rear wheels. For an additional $2,500, both versions can be ordered with all-wheel drive (AWD) and, after choosing a paint color and either a black or tan interior, the deal is done.
Fuel Economy & Price
Both engines are designed for premium fuel, and neither is particularly thrifty in its consumption. The V-6 G90 is EPA rated at 17-mpg city/24 highway/20 combined, while the V-8’s estimated numbers are 16 city/24 highway/19 combined. Those numbers lag behind similar full-size luxury sedans like the BMW 740i and Mercedes-Benz S450.
What clearly separates the G90 from the other luxury nameplates is price. The base G90 with a turbo V-6 is priced at $68,100. A base BMW 740i has a price tag of $81,500, while Jaguar’s XJ starts at $74,400. Stepping up, a base G90 V-8 with all-wheel drive starts at $70,600. A base Mercedes S-Class with AWD starts at $99,600. BMW’s AWD 7 Series is a bit better at $84,500, and the Audi A8 comes in at $82,500.
Up front, the Genesis G90 follows the current design trend with a mega grille that is wide at the top and tapers downward. It is topped by the company’s winged emblem that appears to me as a close knock off of the one found on Chrysler cars.
The grille is flanked by either bi-xenon or LED headlights and all of the associated lights are LEDs. The view from the side shows the car’s classic rear-wheel drive stance with a long hood, a setback cabin, a short rear deck and short overhangs. A chrome strip accentuates the length of the doors, and wraps around the back of the car, dividing the bumper. Large LED tail lamps live on the rear fender corners, helping to define the edges of the trunk opening, while twin trapezoidal tailpipes anchor the rear. Take a step or two back, and it’s a handsome car that calls for a second look.
Inside, the G90 features a horizontal layout that accentuates its width and luxury. The cabin combines stitched Napa leather, soft-touch surfaces, real wood trim and metallic elements to create a handsome, if understated, environment. A large 12.3-inch screen dominates the center of the dash, and below it are ergonomically designed metal buttons to help control it as well as the climate functions. Several of these buttons have unique shapes so you can identify them without necessarily seeing what you are touching. Paddle shifters are attached to the back of the steering wheel, not to the column. Clear instrumentation with a seven-inch central driver information screen gets supplemented by a full-color head-up display that’s dense with information.
Front seats are generously sized and comfortable, with 22-way power on the driver’s side and heat and ventilation for both driver and front passenger. The second row is the place to ride, with plenty of leg room and a set of climate and audio controls concealed in the center armrest. Three can sit comfortably abreast, and even with the front seat adjusted for a tall driver, there’s still plenty of legroom for adult second-row passengers.
Keeping things quiet, the G90 comes with a laminated rear window and thicker carpet, and all doors feature triple seals with double-pane glass. Other conveniences include advanced adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, auto-braking with pedestrian detection, a driver-drowsiness monitor (including a cabin CO2 sensor) and other usual assists. The absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto could be a deal breaker for some. And, unlike Audi, Mercedes, and Volvo, Genesis lacks a semi-autonomous mode that can take near-full control on the highway.
The biggest hurdle that Genesis must overcome is separating itself from Hyundai. Pieces of the interior design feature plastic rather than higher-quality wood or metal, and there is some carryover switchgear that are shared with lesser Hyundais. If you can get past that, the G90 is every bit a luxury contender on its own.
Driving the G90 Turbocharged V-6
The 3.3-liter twin turbocharged V-6 gets going in a hurry. The torque arrives with a light whistle from the turbochargers, and off you go, hurtling toward extra-legal speeds if that’s what you want to do. The eight-speed transmission is eager to play along, shuffling gears in the background with a delightful smoothness. I must say it is one of the most refined six-cylinder powertrains I’ve experienced. The G90 drove with a super-steady, rock solid feel. A five-link front and rear suspension combined with electronic adaptive damping kept things smooth on almost all roads. There was very little harshness, even on some rough back country roads, where little noise made its way into the cabin.
Cruising in traffic was smooth and quiet, and at speed, the ride bordered on the edge of being soft, but was still perfectly acceptable. The G90 is the kind of car I could drive for hours on end and arrive feeling relaxed and refreshed. Yet when I put the G90 into Sport mode and the car’s suspension stiffened, giving it just enough bite that I thought, “Hey, what if I cook it through that upcoming S curve?” When I did, I was pleasantly surprised as the big sedan took a bite and held on, with steering that was communicative along with excellent grip.
I enjoyed driving the turbo V-6 powered G90 for 256 miles in a mix of highway, urban, and suburban driving with a back country road jaunt thrown in. Before I set out on our week-long test drive, I topped off the tank and reset the trip meter. My head told me that the world is a better place when computers give me overall mileage; my gut told me to trust, but verify. The EPA said the Genesis G90 V-6 was rated at 17 mpg city/24 highway/20 combined. I think Genesis would like it if I provided fuel economy numbers; the computer readout and my manual mathematics chalked up 22.9 mpg combined.
The Luxury Car for You?
The 2017 Genesis G90 makes a surprisingly good case for itself, especially when price is a factor. However, a new luxury nameplate like Genesis can’t match the prestige and higher-cachet of its more established competition. And where’s the “why buy?” other than price? The G90 doesn’t bring one unique feature or standout technology to the market. That’s an issue that gives luxury car buyers little reason to switch from their current luxury brand to Genesis. Though its interior is filled with features and quality details, there’s considerably more plastic hiding in the G90’s interior—while its competitors opt for metal and wood.
And what about the buying experience? Hyundai dealerships are not renowned for a premium dealership experience. Genesis does add three years/36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance, valet services, Genesis Connected Services, SiriusXM Travel Link and Map Care to each vehicle they sell as part of what they call the “Genesis Experience.” The intent is “to elevate ownership, demonstrating that time is the ultimate luxury.”
If you aren’t afraid to venture off the beaten path of luxury, you’ll find yourself looking at a value proposition that’s hard to beat. If the feel of luxury is more important than the latest automotive technology, then the 2017 Genesis G90 is just fine.
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