Genesis is the first new luxury brand in the U.S. since Tesla in 2004
Genesis is a startup luxury brand, and the G90 is the flagship designed to appeal to those who want a big, honking, but affordable high-end sedan and the chance to be part of something new.
The G90 also shows that parent Hyundai knows it must pay its dues in the luxury space that is dominated by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus. Like original Hyundai vehicles, which had to find their way in the mainstream market, Genesis has a long-term plan to find its place in the luxury segment, starting by competing against second-tier luxury brands.
In other words, the flagship Genesis G90 won’t be greedy in price or expectation. Pricing won’t be announced for a few more weeks, but the G90 is expected to cost about $65,000 USD and compete against lower-tier luxury brands such as Cadillac, Audi, Infiniti, Lincoln, and even sister brand Kia with its K900.
And the G90 stands out on the road by virtue of being a newcomer. It’s the first new luxury brand introduced in the U.S. since Tesla in 2004. The name will will be confusing for a while because there has been a Hyundai Genesis sedan on sale for seven years; now the Genesis name shifts to Hyundai’s luxury brand. The Hyundai Genesis was discontinued after the 2016 model year and replaced for 2017 with Genesis’ first offering, the G80 midsize sedan, which is now on sale and will be available from both Genesis and Hyundai dealers for about five years until the next-generation G80 comes out on a dedicated Genesis platform.
The 2017 Genesis G90 replaces the larger Hyundai Equus, which was also discontinued after the 2016 model year. The G90 rides on a new, dedicated Genesis platform and will only be sold by Genesis dealers. It will go on sale in early September. Executives say Hyundai has proven it can sell upmarket vehicles and has matured to the point that a luxury brand can be successful. But Genesis General Manager Erwin Raphael says he knows the new brand will have to persuade customers and that the car has to be good because “fluff won’t sell.”
The G90 is a big car at 204.9 inches long with the classic proportions of a rear-drive sedan: long hood and short overhang. It has a bold and prominent signature grille dubbed the “Crest” with the winged Genesis emblem. There are standard LED daytime running lamps and available full LED lamps on the V-8 model, and following the long body to the rear, you’ll find dual exhaust tips. The car rides on standard 19-inch wheels, and the continuously adaptive suspension provides an insulated ride.
Under the hood is a new 3.3-liter, direct-injected, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine that was developed exclusively for the Genesis brand. It generates 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. An optional 5.0-liter, direct-injected V-8 engine bumps the power up to 420 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. Both are mated to a second-generation eight-speed automatic transmission.
Executives say they have not done 0-60 testing yet but doubt there will be much difference in the results between the two engines. The expectation is 80 percent of buyers will go for the V-6, which we found provided quick and smooth acceleration with barely detectable turbo lag. There are four drive modes, but we did not find huge differences between them. The car was designed to be stiffer than the outgoing Equus but closer to Lexus than BMW in drive characteristics.
From Vancouver to the interior of British Columbia near Vernon, we experienced a pleasant, comfortable, somewhat floating, and satisfying ride with plenty of power to pass when needed but no neck-snapping moments requiring a visit to your chiropractor. Steering is also more responsive than its predecessor.
The rear-drive car is available with all-wheel drive, which Hyundai Motor America President Dave Zuchowski expects to account for 45 percent of sales.
Engine and AWD are essentially the only choices on a car where almost everything else is standard, including all the advanced safety systems.
The G90 has a few packaging issues. The sumptuous rear seats only recline with the V-8 model, a decision Zuchowski disagrees with, so look for that to change in the future. The car only comes in five colors—brown, black, gray, white and silver—but the interior is awash in Nappa leather and walnut and ash wood trim, a nice two-tone color scheme, a soft microfiber headliner, a 22-way adjustable driver’s seat, wireless phone charging, and Lexicon audio system. The seats do not massage, nor are there perfumers for the cabin—they are not in keeping with frugal Korean ways—but they are features that executives say can be easily added in the future if customers deem them important.
The high-definition 12.3-inch touchscreen has incredible clarity, and the G90 has a 9.7-inch head-up display.
The 124.4-inch wheelbase contributes to a huge back seat with a swath of controls to change the stereo, heat, and air-conditioning and manage the heated/cooled seats. The G90 also has multiple overhead lights, including night-lights, map lights, and reading lights, and the side and rear windows get power sunshades.
The cabin exhibits a nice attention to detail throughout, down to the trim and stitching on the handholds in the soft microfiber headliner.
Even exiting the car is designed to be an event. Symphonic music plays when you turn the car off, and the seat goes back for easier egress. The doors are substantial but have a power closure to finish the job. The proximity key opens doors as well as the trunk.
Genesis expects a top safety rating with its suite of technologies as it joins the growing number of vehicles with semi-autonomous features. The lane keeping system’s corrective steering is unobtrusive. When the car detects it is drifting out of the lane, the steering wheel will vibrate. If the driver does not take corrective action in time, the car will steer back into the lane. And if it detects hands have been off the wheel for 13 seconds, it will send a message to resume steering, and the auto-correcting steering will disengage. The blind-spot detection also will steer back into the lane if it detects a car nearby. The G90 also has the usual menu of automatic emergency braking with pedestrian braking, rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention alert, bending-light headlamps, smart cruise control, and 360-degree cameras.
Genesis executives say they don’t want to nickel and dime customers, so the car comes with three years of complimentary scheduled maintenance with valet service if you don’t want the trip to the dealership. It also comes with three years of free enhanced roadside assistance, satellite radio, traffic links, map care, and connected services.
In true Hyundai style, there is a 10-year/100,000-mile (10-year/161,000-km) powertrain warranty and five-year/60,000-mile (five-year/97,000) comprehensive coverage.
Bottom line: Genesis wants to make its mark as an option for the Hyundai buyer who wants to move up, the first-time luxury buyer, or the customer ready to trade in their Japanese luxury brand. In time, the goal is to conquest German luxury, as well, but that day is still several years out. For now, the focus remains on affordable luxury. “We don’t want to be a cheap date,” the always-blunt Zuchowski says. “We want to be a lot of bang for your buck.”