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2020 Genesis G90 Test Drive Review
The Genesis G90 exists for a very small number of car buyers. The Korean-made flagship of the Hyundai Motor Group is a satisfying car to drive, yet it has no direct competitor. No one who can afford a full-size luxury sedan suffers from sticker shock, and next to a brand-new Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus, or Jaguar, there is no compelling reason to pay less for a Genesis. But against 2- or 3-year-old luxury sedans, a brand-new G90 can make lots of sense—if you're willing to forgo the high-tech features, performance, and cachet of established brands. Even without the discount price, the G90 is an exceptional vehicle on its own. For 2020, it's changing the entire face of Genesis.
Look and Feel
Walk past the new G90, and that burning sensation on the back of your neck is the car's grille beaming every last ray from the sun. You can't hide from a reflective surface this massive. This is the new face of Genesis; please forgive the execution. The 2020 G90 was never designed to wear it, so the effect on this otherwise anonymous sedan is exaggerated. This grille, along with twin strips of LED headlights, is most elegant on the smaller G80 sedan and the GV80 SUV. Here, it's a bit brash—but I think the G90 needed to be. This car was brand-new for 2017, but it already looked old by 2020. During my week piloting through some of Connecticut's tony towns, people perked up seeing the G90 drive past Benzes, Jags, and Bimmers.
The Genesis G90's turn signals look striking. On the G90, they bisect the headlights and run into the fender. Another thick bar illuminates on the car's front flank, and two more illuminated bars—echoing the headlight design—light up the twin-strip taillights. Changing lanes is an event with this car. In addition to the new front bumper and straked hood, the rear bumper, trunk lid, and exhaust tips are new. You'll see Genesis spelled out across the lid, and the exhaust tips are shaped like miniature home plates from a baseball diamond. Finally, the wire-spoke wheels with the filled-in centers—they're classy as can be, and they only look like metal from afar. Remember: Old Caddies never had 19-inch rims on staggered tires. Only these and optional black alloys with lesser, thicker spokes are available. All other body parts carry over, and that's why the G90 is a little strange, especially its profile. There's a disconnect between the archaic silhouette of an out-of-production Lincoln Town Car and a few new, handsome angles.
The inside is a better story. Genesis swapped out the glossy woods for matte finishes, stamped the Genesis wing badge into the headrests and rear armrest, placed quilted inserts into the seats, and added three new color combos, including brown and blue leather. The center stack has a smooth leatherette instead of gray plastic, and the old black plastic buttons and black center air vents are now painted in silver. The space is grand and inviting. But there's little fanfare inside the G90—there's no panoramic moonroof—and the interior, while finished with exacting quality, is many steps below an S-class, 7-series, or LS. Every other luxury car is bathed in higher-end leathers, woods, digital screens, lighting, and overall layouts. It's way nicer than the Cadillac CT6, and better still than the Lincoln Continental. Both those cars exceed the G90's price. But it won't wow anyone out of an Audi or any established foreign brand.
Two engines are available with either rear- (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) and an 8-speed automatic transmission. I tested the 3.3T Premium with the twin-turbo V6 and AWD. This is a phenomenal powertrain—365 horsepower, 376 pound-feet of torque, and perfect gearing that gets this big boat up to high speed in no time. It's ultra-quiet and hardly any vibration comes through the steering wheel or from any of the four adaptive dampers, even when in the Sport mode's firmest setting. It's not as quick-shifting or fast to react as the ZF 8-speed automatic in the 7-series—from a takeoff, the G90 hesitates a second before the turbos spool up and surge forward. A 5.0-liter V8 with 420 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque comes on the 5.0 Ultimate, but I don't think you'll need it. It's not any quicker in low- and mid-range acceleration, plus it drinks more gas.
The G90 is best driven in a straight line for hours. It's one of the softest-riding new cars you can buy, unperturbed by any stray bump or crack in the pavement. Driven in anger, the G90 falls apart. That's because it doesn't have super-expensive hardware like an active air suspension, active anti-roll bars, torque vectoring, or rear-wheel steering. It feels heavy and ponderous, where every competitor in this field can instantly convert from smooth-riding cruiser to agile handler. The brakes aren't up to task. The pedal feels too soft and the bite is too late—that resulted in the ABS activating during a high-speed stop on a dry, clean surface. I've never experienced that behavior in a large luxury sedan, nor have I felt the tires lose grip, allowing the back end to step out, as I did with the G90. Owners won't drive this way, of course, but I'm mentioning this to demonstrate the G90's one-way dynamics. These days, big luxury cars can do it all—and their chassis, steering, suspensions, and brakes are superior in delivering high performance in any driving situation. Don't upset the G90. Steer politely, and it'll reward you with mile after mile of comfort.
Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 17 miles per gallon city, 25 highway, and 20 combined for my test car's V6 AWD configuration (it's the same for RWD). I averaged 19 mpg over 420 miles. The V8 AWD is 15/23/18—and like I said, it doesn't make the G90 drive any better. The RWD V8 delivers 16/24/19. Choose the V6. You'll be plenty satisfied.
Form and Function
The G90 is a long-wheelbase sedan, and that means thick, extra-large rear doors that swing open like the entrance to a bank vault. Of course, the front is roomy. But it's the back seat that matters most, and never is there a shortage for space. Just in case, the G90 lets rear passengers move the front passenger seat from switches on the seatback or from more switches on the center armrest. With powered side- and rear-window blinds, stretching and zoning out into a deep sleep is too easy. Trunk space is limited by the car's suspension, and the seats don't fold, but the same goes for any car in this class. The power-close trunk is even quieter than the soft-close doors.
Up front, piloting the G90 is simple thanks to analog gauges and plenty of accessible buttons to adjust features like lane centering, drive modes, cameras, and the stereo and climate. Everything is legible and easy, including the infotainment which now offers a touchscreen in addition to the rotary controller on the console. While the ambient lighting can switch colors, there's nothing elaborate going on here. Big cupholders, a phone holder with wireless charging, and roomy door pockets make good use of space.
Unlike the 2020 G70 and G80, the G90 has a reskinned infotainment interface that's unique to Genesis. Colored in a bronze and black scheme, the home screen is tiled while the menus scroll. The first screen can be customized, and it's easy to make swipe and pinch finger gestures to move about the screens and zoom in and out on the maps. One unique feature is the G90's seat-posture suggestions. Enter your height, weight, and waist measurements, and sensors will determine if your spine is properly supported. If not, it can move the seat, along with the lumbar support and the steering column, to a new position. It's fun to try, although I didn't like the new position the car chose for me.
I was very impressed with the Highway Driving Assist, which comes standard on all G90 models. It steers, brakes, and keeps pace with highway traffic without ringing excessive warnings at the driver. It's accurate and helpful, though like any of these semi-automated systems, that help is limited.
Else, the amenities are light. There are no massaging seats, the Lexicon stereo is adequate but not thrilling, and the displays could be sharper. Backseat passengers can recline and enjoy personal screens in the 5.0 Ultimate, but otherwise, that's it. The active-bolstering seats on an S-class, the pop-out tablet to control everything in a 7-series, and the rich, enveloping materials that create such sumptuous environments in the LS are not present. On every other car, the small details sparkle. Yes, you'll pay dearly, but to have them as an option is the reason these cars exist.
On the plus side, Genesis throws in 3 years of SiriusXM radio with live traffic and weather data, plus 3 years of map updates and telematics including remote unlocking.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2020 Genesis G90 its Top Safety Pick+ designation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not rated the G90. Forward and reverse emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, auto high beams, and 360-degree cameras come standard. So do a driver attention monitor and Safe Exit Assist, which will keep the rear doors locked if the blind-spot radar sensors detect an approaching vehicle that could hit passengers trying to exit.
There is no better value among large luxury sedans than the 2020 G90. Prices are up from 2019, which is only fair considering the improved styling and interior touches. The 3.3T RWD is $72,200 and the 5.0 RWD is $75,700. Adding AWD costs $2,500 on either trim. And that's it. Aside from engine and drivetrain, there are no options, packages, or any add-ons. My 3.3T AWD test car stickered for $75,695 with destination. Included are 3 years of scheduled maintenance, where the dealer will pick up and drop off your car anywhere you wish, along with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Combine that with Hyundai's reliability and cheaper parts shared with more pedestrian cars—plus the satisfaction knowing your G90 won't leak an air spring because it doesn't have any—and the G90 is a super value. It's far from the best, and because of that, it costs a lot less. But I still felt great driving this car.
Clifford Atiyeh is a reporter and photographer who has spent a good portion of his life driving cars he doesn't own. He is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and committed to saving both manuals and old Volvos.
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