I remember when Hyundai occupied a little erector set of a display in the basement of Cobo Hall during Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. Clearly, the Korean automaker has traveled great distances in the past couple of decades; it’s now one of the most respected global players. It’s also come a long way since it launched the Genesis sedan in 2008 with a sub-$35,000 sticker. Now a separate brand, Genesis goes after an elite class of luxury buyers with the G90.
The G90 replaces the Equus and accompanies the smaller G80, formerly the Hyundai Genesis, in the new brand’s line-up. It’s a massively large car, looking every bit as imposing as the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, or Cadillac CT6. Clearly an evolution of the Equus’ style, it’s also very elegant. From some angles it looks a little like a Bentley Mulsanne, but Hyundai’s trademark grille, glistening LED headlamps, fanned LED taillamps, and 19-inch wheels set it apart.
Outward appearances translate inside. It’s not the most Avant-garde cabin fitted to a luxury sedan, but it is a sybaric comfort suite surpassed by few. Nappa leather, matte finish wood trim, and saturating Lexicon audio fill the senses. Front driver’s seats are 22-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated. Warm up the steering wheel too. The cheap seats are elevated with power backrests, heat, and redundant infotainment controls. Tri-zone automatic climate control keeps everybody at their desired temperature while wireless phone charging, navigation, and rain-sensing wipers add convenience.
As expected in a prestige luxury car, the G90 is loaded with safety gear. It ranges from adaptive cruise control that automatically keeps a safe distance from other cars to auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Blind spot detection, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection add an additional margin of protection. A color head-up display keeps drivers focused ahead – important as power gathers.
Base G90s come with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that delivers 365 horsepower and 376 lb.-ft. of torque. And, that’s plenty of power for even a large car, but we stepped up to the available 5.0-liter V8 that routes 420 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is optional. Drivers can adjust the powertrain and chassis for Smart, Eco, Sport, and customizable Individual modes. Drive lightly to see 16/24-MPG city/hwy.
I couldn’t help but enjoy myself on a drive to my parents’ house. On open Interstate and four-lane highways, the big Genesis is only surpassed in comfort and quiet by a Gulfstream jet. The drive modes err on the side of comfort, but can mimic a sport sedan. On a two-lane road, I was following a slow-moving sport coupe. I am not a patient person. All the driver saw was a massive black flash as the big V8 summoned itself and shoved the car forward at a gathering pace until the sloth was just a spot in the G90’s rearview mirror.
Is the G90 a Mercedes-Benz S-Class? No, but given a price one-half of the last S-Class I drove, it’s a tremendously good value. More importantly, the G90 raises the roof of what drivers think a Korean car can be and makes me shake my head that Hyundai was ever in the basement. Genesis should be taken seriously, and when it fills out its line-up with a smaller G70 sport sedan and a range of crossovers, it will be formidable.
A base price of $68,100 - $70,650 as tested – makes the G90 at least $10,000 less expensive than key competitors. Add to that Genesis’ valet service for scheduled maintenance and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty to seal the deal.
2017 Genesis G90 5.0
- Five-passenger, RWD Sedan
- Powertrain: 420hp 5.0-liter V8, 8-speed auto trans
- Suspension f/r: Elect Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Power, Style
- Fuel economy: 16/24 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Ulsan, S. Korea
- Base/as-tested price: $68,100/70,650