Hyundai has twice proven it has what it takes to compete in the premium sedan space, first with the Genesis and then the Equus.
Both were viable options for the budget-conscious buyer who wasn’t concerned about the badge their car wore (ironically, neither car bore much to identify them as Hyundai products). Whereas those cars were little more than warning shots fired from down market, the automaker is ready to meet the competition head-on, with a new premium brand created to battle the segment’s best. And the 2017 Genesis G90 marks the first model to hit the market. Just don’t call it a Hyundai.
Looking the Part
The G90 is Genesis’ flagship model and the first of six vehicles it plans to launch over the next five years. It’s also the largest in the brand’s planned crop of cars, and makes a visual statement right out of the gate. If you’re looking for on-road presence, the G90 oozes it. While technically a replacement for the Equus, the car is underpinned by an all-new platform that is unique to the Genesis brand. It’s also larger than the outgoing Equus, and is closer in size to a long wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The G90’s wheelbase is just five millimeters shorter than that of an S 550, while its overall length measures just 1.6 inches shorter. For perspective, at 205 inches from bumper-to-bumper, the burly sedan is equivalent to the length of a small moving truck. Yeah, it’s that big. Those sizeable dimensions are complemented by an imposing grille and simple, elegant character lines, while handsome 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels and LED lighting round out the exterior aesthetics.
When it comes to the cabin, there are certain expectations in this segment — ones that the G90 falls just short of. It has the makings of a true luxury sedan, but it’s just not quite on the same level as much of the competition. The Nappa leather that covers the seats is right up there with — and perhaps even superior to — the best the segment has to offer, but there’s more plastic inside than an episode of The Real Housewives. The door handles feel cheap and flimsy, the signal and wiper arms could have been pulled from virtually any Hyundai model, and the aluminum-look trim on the dash won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s metal. It’s a warm and inviting space to be sure, but it’s absent a certain quality that leaves it a step behind the competition.
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Other interior shortcomings include the lack of massaging seats and panoramic sunroof, though the latter does have its advantages when it comes to headroom, particularly for rear seat passengers. V6-powered models also go without adjustable rear seats, though they’re still the most comfortable seats to be in on a long drive. With 38 inches of headroom in the back, the G90 boasts slightly more space than a Mercedes S-Class regardless of length, though legroom, at 37.8 inches, is closer to the shorter version of Mercedes’ largest sedan. Regardless, it still offers plenty of room for four adults — or five in a pinch — while the fold-down center armrest also features a handful of buttons and knobs that control everything from the position of the front passenger seat to the air conditioning and infotainment system.
Up front, the center stack is well laid out, and features a full compliment of HVAC and infotainment controls that are easily within view and reach of both front seats. Much like the S-Class, the G90’s 12.3-inch infotainment screen is not touch sensitive, which is disappointing but certainly not a deal-breaker. Thankfully, the G90’s Mercedes-like scroll wheel offers hassle-free operation and takes no time to get accustomed to. The infotainment system itself is as easy to use as any on the market, and features the ability to split the screen to display two features at once — say navigation and stereo functionality. The G90 also gets a head-up display that puts key information including the given speed limit and current speed, turn-by-turn navigation directions and safety system warnings directly in the driver’s field of vision. The system isn’t perfect, however, with the height of the display only adjustable through the infotainment system. The display itself can also be washed out through the lenses of polarized sunglasses.
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Add in the standard safety suite that includes the usual suspects like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, a multi-view camera and blind spot monitoring, among others, and the G90 makes for a well-equipped option in a segment that is all about add-ons and pricey packages. It’s all part of Genesis’ ploy to simplify the car-buying experience.
Premium Driving Experience
Where the G90 shows it is truly deserving of a spot amongst the premium pack is in its tremendous ride and handling. Multi-link independent suspension makes its way to all four corners, along with electronically-controlled dampers that are constantly adjusting to road conditions. The drive is smooth and almost S-Class-like, and ride comfort is enough to rival the very best this segment has to offer, particularly from the back seat.
The car is powered by the choice of a new twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 or an existing 5.0-liter V8 that carries over from the outgoing Hyundai offerings. Both powerplants feature direct injection, while the 3.3-liter makes 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque from as low as 1,300 rpm, not far behind the 420 hp and 383 lb-ft made by the larger V8. The six-cylinder proves plenty powerful and offers more than enough pickup, particularly through the first three gears, though it falls off a bit after that, with its hefty curb weight beginning to show during passing situations. It will rev to a healthy 6,000 rpm with the skinny pedal pressed to the floor, with power delivered evenly on its way to comfortable cruising speeds in excess of 80 mph, which is where the G90 really shines.
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Like the eight-cylinder, the turbocharged engine transmits power to the wheels through a shift-by-wire eight-speed automatic that runs through the gears smoothly and intelligently. The G90 is equipped with paddle shifters, but there is no manual mode; use the paddles and the car will default back to drive within seconds. With all-wheel drive along for the ride (it comes as standard equipment on Canadian cars) the G90 drives smaller than its dimensions would suggest, feeling closer to a midsize sedan in most situations. Understeer is relatively minimal, impressive for a car of the G90’s size, though body roll is still prevalent even with the suspension set to sport and can be enough to make even the most hardened stomach turn when pushing the car in and out of corners. Of course, its hefty curb weight is largely to blame. An all-wheel-drive G90 with the V6 under the hood tips the scales at 4,784 lb, while the addition of two cylinders brings with it an extra 119 lb for a curb weight of 4,905 lb. By comparison, the twin-turbocharged V8 Mercedes S 550 with all-wheel drive weighs in at 4,773 lb, lighter, albeit slightly, than the Genesis regardless of engine choice.
The Verdict: 2017 Genesis G90 Review
The Genesis and Equus sedans were aspirational cars for Hyundai; examples of the direction the automaker saw itself heading. The launch of Genesis as a standalone brand is the logical next step in that progression, creating some separation between its mainstream and premium offerings. And while the G90 may not be quite as refined as the likes of the standard-bearing Mercedes S-Class, it’s an impressive first attempt at taking aim at the competition from even ground.
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