Hyundai is now a successful business incubator.
A generation ago, Honda, Toyota and Nissan went all-in as they entered the luxury segment with Acura, Lexus and Infiniti.
But in 2008, Hyundai decided to test the waters first. The automaker wasn’t ready to launch a full-blown premium brand from scratch, so it let its midsize Genesis luxury sedan share showroom space with its budget-minded lineup.
A coupe by the same name, a full-size flagship called the Equus and a second-generation sedan soon followed. And you know what? They did well. Well enough to get the big check from Hyundai to become the standalone Genesis brand this year.
The marque’s first all-new car is the G90, which replaces the Equus at the top of the range. The coupe is on hiatus and the old Genesis is now known as the G80.
The G90 starts at $69,050 and comes loaded with pretty much everything at that price. But you do get a choice of engines: the standard 365 hp 3.3-liter twin turbocharged V6 or the 420 hp 5.0-liter V8, which goes for $70,650. All-wheel-drive is available with either motor for another $2,500, and both are paired with 8-speed automatic transmissions. The only other decision you’ll make is the paint color. A similarly-equipped Mercedes S-Class would cost over $100,000. Even a comparable Cadillac CT6 runs about $85,000.
Like a lot of vehicles in this class, the G90’s style is stately, but subdued. It won’t turn heads, but in city traffic it gets respect from the black livery cars, which many G90s will likely become.
It has the rear legroom for it, plus adjustable, climate controlled seats with pillowy headrests to cradle your noggin as you nod off. There are no TV screens, but there is a panel in the center armrest that lets you control the climate and audio systems and remotely move the right front seat for your executive needs. (Yes, it can be disabled if you’re shuttling your kids instead of other VIPs.)
Though passengers are the ones a car like this is for, the driver isn’t treated like hired help. The front compartment is handsomely finished in Nappa leather, real wood and metal trim. And if you like buttons, the G90 has more than a vintage Boeing. Many supplement a very up-to-date touchscreen infotainment system that can also be controlled by one of those console-mounted knobs that the fanciest luxury cars have these days. It’s all very, very nice, but a notch below the quality you get in one of the European imports. They had to save that $30,000 somewhere.
But they didn’t skimp on the ride quality, that’s for sure. While the Equus had a cushy air suspension, the G90 feels like it does, despite cruising on steel springs. The dampers are adjustable, so you can firm things up a bit, but the G90 never resembles a sports sedan. It’s a pure plush-mobile.
But it’s one with plenty of power to get out of its own way. The all-new V6 in the car I tested is a marvel, absolutely worthy of this class. It’s smooth, practically silent and just generally excellent.
The V8 is a proven award-winner, and a tempting bargain, especially since it gets 18 mpg combined in AWD cars, which is just 2 mpg less than the V6. But it’s basically the same old engine that was in the Equus. The G90 is about the future, so the turbo seems more appropriate.
The original Genesis won the North American Car of the Year award, and the G90 is one of the finalists for the honor in 2017. It’s up against stiff competition from the all-electric Chevy Bolt and the semi-autonomous Volvo S90, so odds are it won’t take the title again, but it’s a winning effort, just the same.
2017 Genesis G90 AWD
Base price: $69,050
As tested: $71,550
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Engine: 3.3-liter turbocharged V6
Power: 365 hp, 367 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 17 city/24 hwy