It’s a bold move, taking on the established European luxury car makers, but that’s exactly what Hyundai is doing with the subject of this first drive review, the 2017 Genesis G90. The G90 is a large sedan, about the same size as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7- Series, Audi A8 or long-wheelbase Lexus LS460.
It’s also about the same size as the Equus, a car the G90 replaces in the Hyundai universe. But the G90 takes the name of the Korean automaker’s brand spanking new Genesis luxury brand. For now, Genesis consists of just two sedans, the flagship G90 and the former Hyundai Genesis mid-luxury sedan, redubbed the G80 in Genesis-speak. In the short term, Genesis products will coexist under the Hyundai dealer big top, likely in a dedicated wing. But with four more luxury cars or crossovers coming by 2021, expect a few dedicated Genesis points to pop up later. By creating Genesis, Hyundai avoids stretching its Accent-to-Sonata, meat-and-potatoes brand too far and gives luxury car buyers a pampered place to land.
And we do mean pampered. With the G90, the only options are drivetrain choices. Buyers can choose between a 3.3T Premium model with a 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 or a 5.0 Ultimate packing a 420-hp 5.0-liter V8. Both are available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Beyond that, everything else is standard. And the list of standard equipment is considerable, including many high-tech safety systems and creature comforts that are extra cost in competitive models.
There is no mistaking the G90 for anything but a premium luxury sedan. It has flagship written all over it, from the big, bold hexagonal grille (first seen in the Hyundai Genesis) to the long nose, stately 19-inch wheels, wide stance, stretchy rear cabin area and bustle-back rear end.
The cabin is a refuge, a quiet retreat. As expected in a car of this class, there is plenty of soft-touch, French-stitched leather and real wood dressing up the place. A high-tech head-up display, 12.3-inch infotainment screen and wireless phone charger provide a contemporary vibe. The sumptuous and supportive driver’s seat adjusts 22 ways and in addition to fine-tuning lumbar, shoulder bolster and lower cushion extensions, has a seatback that can actually articulate in the middle. The rear seat’s outboard positions also adjust a multitude of ways and offer lucky rear occupants nearly as many climate control and infotainment controls as the driver’s. Crank up the standard 900-watt, 17-speaker surround-sound system and the rest of the world just melts away.
Road Feel and Handling
On the road, the new Genesis G90 carries its generous proportions with dignity. The standard computer-controlled damping system enables the multi-link suspension to control body movement without a fuss and delivers a secure ride over all sorts of road surfaces. Tracking straight and true, the G90’s rack-mounted variable-ratio electric power steering is low-effort around town and weights up naturally on the highway. Massive 4-wheel disc brakes inspire confidence, delivering the kind of instant pedal response and pinpoint control you’d want to snub nearly 2-1/2 tons of luxury in a hurry.
Fitting for a flagship of the G90’s bearing, the 3.3T Premium’s 365-hp twin-turbo V6 provides hushed locomotion and more than ample performance. The turbo V6 spools up quickly with little or no lag, developing a robust 376 lb-ft of torque from 1300 to 4500 rpm, so around-town part-throttle response is very satisfying and moderate uphill grades can be tackled at highway speeds without the need for the G90’s slick-shifting 8-speed automatic to downshift. Or for a more authoritarian sound and hearty punch, buyers can opt for the G90 5.0 Ultimate model with its 420-hp V8.
Both V6 and V8 models are available with all-wheel drive, something the previous Hyundai Equus did not offer and a big draw for luxury car buyers in the Northeast or Upper Midwest states. The G90’s AWD system, developed in conjunction with 4WD experts Magna International, is biased to make the G90 feel like a rear-wheel-drive car, feeding drive torque to the front wheels as needed to maintain optimal traction.
Respectable Mileage Numbers
EPA estimates for the V6 model is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway. I managed an indicated 25.7 mpg in mostly gentle driving of a 3.3T Premium model over 100 miles or so of British Columbia’s strictly speed-enforced highways. Later in the day I switched to the V8-powered 5.0 Ultimate model for more spirited stabs at a twisty section in B.C.’s back country. You can definitely feel the added weight of the eight cylinders of the nose of the 5.0 Ultimate, but it’s not enough to spoil the balance of the car. I had to work really hard to get the slightest squeal out of the 245/45R19 front or rear 275/40R19 all-season tires. The V8’s EPA estimates drop a bit, not that it will matter to most luxury buyers in this time of cheap gas. The rear-drive V8 gets a 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway rating and AWD 5.0s are pegged at 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway. Premium fuel is required. My phone’s stopwatch app says the 5.0-liter V8 car will hustle from rest to 60 mph in a little more than five seconds.
You can experiment with different drive modes, set to Sport, Smart, Eco or Individual programs with a console-mounted switch. The modes will adjust throttle response, transmission shifts, shock damping and AWD settings, but I found the Smart mode, which learns how you drive, to be the most appropriate for the G90.
As you’d expect, the G90 is brimming with tech. This includes an extensive array of safety systems, from smart cruise with full stop and forward collision alert with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking to lane-departure prevention, drowsiness detection and a blind-spot alert system with brake assist.
Key to the G90’s success will be the Genesis Experience, a suite of premium services including 3 years/36,000 miles of complimentary maintenance, valet service, roadside assistance and a concierge to distinguish the G90 from the more pedestrian products in the Hyundai showroom. There will also be three years of connected services from your cellphone, and free SiriusXM, travel link and navigation updates. Not to mention a link to Alexa-enabled devices on Amazon Echo for remote locking/unlocking, remote engine start.
Can the G90 break into the exclusive club of premium luxury buyers who have been brand loyal to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and others for decades? If value counts in this segment, then a roomy, powerful, well-crafted, everything-standard saloon with unmatched 5-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and Hyundai’s top-rated JD Power quality scores should make a noticeable dent. The turbo V6-powered G90 3.3T lists for just $68,100 and the V8-equipped 5.0 Ultimate at $69,700. Add $2500 to either model for the optional all-wheel drive.
Photo Credit: © 2016 Genesis