Hyundai’s new upscale brand’s range-topping(ish) Genesis G90 was supposed to be my steed for being shuttled to a smattering of Oscars Week parties in and around Los Angeles, but the fleet was occupied so I had to wait a whole week.
Fortunately, I was still in LA when it was delivered, which, with its infinitely varied topography and wonderful roads, is an ideal test site for any vehicle, except if you’re looking for something resembling wintry weather, which I decidedly was not. Below, our review of the new luxury full-size sedan.
LOOK AT THAT:
The Genesis has a sort of blanketing upscale-esque appearance about it, like a Cole Hahn dress shoe. There’s nothing that stands out as deliberate or delightful, but it’s generally a cohesive design, despite the fact that it looks like an amalgam of Audi (big shield nose, featureless fuselage), Mercedes (trunk and taillamps), and Lexus (daylight opening) cues.
DON'T LOOK AT THIS:
Of course, most people don’t buy luxury cars to be innocuous, or appear derivative. But it’s a useful playbook for emerging into this segment—it worked well for Lexus during their first few generations of LS's, which pretty much aped the generation of S-Class just prior to their release. Sadly, the longer you stare at the cabin of the G90, the more familiar elements of it appear, and the more disconnected it seems from its front end.
COCKPIT AND CABIN:
The interior is very welcoming, especially if you’re familiar with the Audi A8 and BMW 7-Series, from which it seems to pull a majority of its cues. These are not bad sources from which to crib, with a lovely horizon of metal buttons, and a warmly padded shifter.
De rigueur sunflower pierced speaker grilles add a bit of brightwork to an otherwise dour palette of black and black and black. Leather and wood veneer are both a bit shiny, a gloss that reduces their premium feel, but the seats are comfy, especially in the roomy back seat.
The front passenger seat can easily be powered forward by the rear right occupant to increase legroom for this pampered position, but in the lower-spec version we were given, this executive seat did not recline, massage, or do anything else resembling fun like release a hidden tray table, shpritz out some musky cologne, or reveal a mini-fridge. There’s not even a screen to look at back there, save the one on your own phone, and your seatmate had best not have one that needs charging, because there’s only one USB port in the rear (there are two additional lighter ports.)
It is quite quiet inside the car. Not Tesla quiet, but very hushed—quieter seeming than the cocoon that is the S-Class. This damping seems to apply equally to the way the car is sprung. It’s not German stiff, or even British sporting stiff, but simply soft. That’s not to say there’s roll or excessive motion, it’s just cushier than most of the cars in the segment that don’t rhyme with Buick.
In fact, it’s kind of vintage American feeling, which is not a bad thing. This might be the G90s standout feature: a soft, quiet ride. It also has decent hustle from its twin-turbocharged 3.3 liter engine, particularly when you select Sport mode, the biggest result of which seems to be more aggressive throttle mapping.
Would I prefer a honking V-8? It would probably sound better, but I don’t think its extra weight would offset its minimal gains in potency, and this isn’t a performance car by any stretch of the imagination. (The V-8 does seem to come with more standard luxury equipment, which would help; see below.)
My expectation was that the G90 would provide S-Class levels of equipment and luxury for a discount price. That’s not the case. It provides a simulacrum of basic luxuriousness without many bells and whistles, for $70,000. I want bells and whistles. Or one bell and one whistle. I never felt uncomfortable in the G90, but I also never felt particularly special. Can I put in a request for less not-special?
THE FUTURE IS NOW:
The G90 has a big, clear infotainment screen with easily decipherable layers of submenus and a simple rotary controller. It has Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile devices. It has distance cruise control, lane keeping, steering assist, and all the other driver’s assistance features found increasingly on nearly every new car residing anywhere above the bargain basement.
What it doesn’t have is anything standout, like Volvo’s big center screen and minimalist design, or Audi’s exquisite materials and trick LCD dash, or Jaguar’s ship-like wooden prow and panoramic roof. It does play a delightful little departure song when you’re getting out, though even that sometimes just made me feel like I’d left my keys in the ignition, though there isn’t a key or an ignition.
Cargo Capacity: B
Lust Factor: B-
I have a hard time with near-luxury. Not because I’m a snob, which I sometimes am when it comes to cars. But because it’s oxymoronic. Something is either luxurious or it isn’t. It's like having almost three of a kind in poker.
Price (As Tested): $69,050
Powertrain: 3.3-Liter Twin-Turbo V-6 365hp/376 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City/24 mpg Highway
Proximity to Luxury: Remote