2017 Genesis G90 First Drive Review: A Luxurious Beginning
In the beginning, Honda created Acura. Toyota and Nissan looked upon it and saw it was good, and they begat Lexus and Infiniti.
Many years later, Hyundai looked upon these luxury makes, saw they were good, and begat the Genesis coupe and sedan followed by the Equus sedan. Hyundai looked upon the sales of its luxury cars, decided they were good, and separated Genesis from Hyundai.
That is, in essence, the genesis of Genesis, the new luxury division of Hyundai.
To create its partner division, Hyundai moving two cars to the new brand. The first is the G80, which is on sale now as a rebadged Hyundai Genesis sedan. The other is the G90, the spiritual successor to the Hyundai Equus. If you ask Genesis officials, however, they insist it’s no Equus.
It’s kind of an Equus
Had Hyundai not launched Genesis, the G90 would certainly be the second-generation Equus. However, as part of the new brand, Genesis has given unto the G90 an all-new platform. Compared to the Equus, the G90’s structure is 80 percent stiffer and it uses far more high-strength steel: 51.7 percent compared to 28.7 percent. Unlike the competition, though, there is no carbon fiber or aluminum. The wheelbase is 4.5 inches longer and the car is 1.8 inches longer overall. It’s also an inch wider, and the extra size means it weighs about 200 pounds more comparably equipped, though a new V-6 engine saves 120 pounds off the total.
That V-6 is the new Lambda twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter engine that makes 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, which is available from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm. It joins the Tau 5.0-liter V-8, which carries over from the Equus and produces 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are bolted to a Hyundai-produced 8-speed automatic transmission.
The steering switches from electro-hydraulic assist to a rack-mounted electric assist system with variable ratios. The wheels are 19s and they house big brakes that grow from 14.2 to 14.8 inches in diameter up front (though the V-6 has 14.2-inch rotors). Like the Equus, 5-link suspensions are found front and rear, and the shocks are electronically controlled to offer Comfort, Comfort+ and Sport modes.
Genesis makes more than just the suspension programmable. An Intelligent Drive Mode selector offers Eco, Smart, Sport, and Individual modes to control the steering, suspension, and the engine/transmission. The powertrain has only Eco and Smart modes, while the steering offers Comfort and Sport settings.
Highway star, canyon challenged
To show off all that new hardware, Genesis invited Motor Authority to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for a drive inland to the Okanagan Valley. The roughly 250-mile trip involved a a few stretches of sweeping canyon roads and a lot of highway driving, where the G90 is at its best. It’s about as comfortable a cruiser as you will find, reeling in the miles and soaking up road imperfections with ease, but it tends to balk at twisty turns.
The slight bit of float and instability you feel on the highway is more pronounced when it’s time to link the corners. The G90 feels like it tilts side-to-side and front-to-rear from a point in the middle of the car, leaning over in turns without taking a set right away. There are even some secondary motions as the car struggles to find its equilibrium once it returns to a straight line. These motions aren’t pronounced, but they even occur in the Sport mode and they make you think twice about attacking a canyon road.
Like some other luxury sedans, the steering is overly light for my taste. In fact, I found myself setting it to the Sport mode to add a little more heft that helped improve stability at highway speeds. While the 12.9:1 ratio is quite quick, that ratio varies and I didn’t find it to be quick in most driving. Still, it does feel appropriate for a luxury sedan.
Also appropriate is the new 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6. It is smooth and strong, and it works well with the slick-shifting 8-speed to provide passing punch when needed. We took a quick spin in the V-8 as well, and while the V-8 offers a slightly more masculine engine note when pushed, we see no need for it. The 0 to 60 mph times for both engines are likely in the low 6-second range. If Genesis wants to offer a V-8 worthy of a price premium, we recommend it develop a twin-turbo, small displacement V-8 like many of its European rivals.
Overall, the G90 is far more in line with the Lexus LS460 in terms of dynamics than it is a challenger for the BMW 7-Series or Cadillac CT6. It’s a soft-riding, incredibly pleasant car that doesn’t ask to be driven hard.
The G90 may not provide the best driving experience you’ve ever had, but it might offer the best riding experience. Hop inside, and you will find a simply stunning cabin. The wood is real ash or walnut, the headliner is alcantara, and the speaker grilles are stainless steel. Soft Nappa leather adorns the seats, door panels, dash, and steering wheel. Genesis has even gone so far as to design the metal buttons on the center console with ergonomics in mind; several have unique shapes so you can identify them without necessarily seeing what you are touching.
The cabin is not just beautiful, it’s also whisper quiet. Genesis went to extraordinary measures to reduce noise in the cockpit. All the doors have three-layer weather-striping, and special double sound-proof glass insulation is applied to all of the cabin’s glass. Carpet and headliner insulation thicknesses are up 20 percent, foam pads are added to the rear quarter panels, and a powertrain seal has been applied to block engine noise in the cabin. Even the wheels and aerodynamics got into the act. The two-piece wheel design produces a resonance effect that reduces tire noise. Underbody deflectors, an active front air flap, and front wheel air curtains cut wind noise while also cutting the air to the tune of a class-leading 0.27 coefficient of drag. All of that effort works so well that you can hear the thoughts of any passengers in the car.
Space and comfort are more than ample. If you can’t get comfortable in the 22-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, you can’t get comfortable. Front head room and leg room are abundant, and the extra wheelbase leaves plenty of rear leg room. The rear seat is optimized to accommodate two back there, but a third will fit as well. Rear occupants have a fold-down center armrest with a dial to control the audio and climate systems.
Oddly, Genesis doesn’t offer any of the rear seat luxuries that make it first-class comfortable for those who prefer to be chauffered. For instance, there is no rear DVD entertainment system, no fold-out tables, no ottoman, and no bottle cooler. Heck, the V-6 model doesn’t even offer power-adjustable rear seats. It seems like Genesis is missing an opportunity here.
The G90 does offer good storage solutions, though. The trunk has 15.7 cubic feet of space, which is average for the class. In the interest of comfort, the rear seat doesn’t fold down, but there is a center pass-through. The front seat features a large clamshell-style center console and a really cool cubby for storing smartphones, complete with a Qi wireless charger. Unlike other similar wireless chargers, the angle of this cubby ensures the phone will stay in place so it can charge and at the same time be easy to access.
Genesis is offering the G90 in just four models, 3.3T Premium and 5.0 Ultimate, each with rear- or all-wheel drive. The 3.3T starts at about $65,000, and Genesis has not released pricing for the 5.0 yet. Standard on every model are such tech features as 12.3-inch center screen, a navigation system, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, satellite radio, a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, a head-up display, and Genesis connected services via a smartphone app. The only features the 5.0 adds are power-adjustable ventilated rear seats (14-way right side and 12-way left side) with memory, rear vanity mirrors, and LED headlights.
The standard safety features are even more impressive. They include forward collision warnings with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, a forward-view cornering camera, a surround-view camera system, front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warnings and lane keep assist, blind spot monitors with rear cross traffic alerts and lane change assist, driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, and nine airbags (including a driver knee bag).
Many of these safety systems can be adjusted, too. For example, the lane keep assist can be set to standard or active; standard lets you drift to a lane line, while active keeps you more in the middle of the lane but makes more steering wheel corrections. The forward collision warning has late, normal and early settings, and the lane change assist has normal and late modes. Try these settings out once, set ’em, and forget ’em.
More important than those settings is the fact that Genesis doesn’t nickel and dime its customers for those features. They are all included in a car that costs thousands less than most of its rivals.
More than just the car
Genesis customers will be buying more than just the car. They will also get some gold-star service. With every G90, buyers get three years of free scheduled maintenance, three years of satellite radio and data, three years of map updates, and three years of roadside assistance. They also get three years of valet service that will come to their home, drop off a loaner, and pick up the car for service. Not having to visit the dealer, no matter how nice it may be, could be the best reason to buy a G90.
That’s not to put down the car. This Genesis story is a good one. Genesis has created a brand out of the proverbial rib of Hyundai. We have driven its first all-new car and seen that it is good.
These driving impressions are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Genesis covered our overnight accommodations, meals, and transportation costs.