Test Drive: 2017 Genesis G90

Genesis has a lot of work ahead of it. This is a pseudo-brand, one that has the task of extracting itself from the mainstream value-leader brand its very name was attached to. More than attached. The Genesis was very much responsible for Hyundai’s elevation in status and in brand image. When the second-generation Hyundai Genesis (now G80) was launched, it made many sit up and take notice.

It’s one thing to build a luxury car, another entirely to spin off a luxury marque from a mainstream brand.

A genuinely gorgeous car with a well-executed interior and a choice of two surging drivetrains, the Genesis was every bit the luxury car it claimed to be.

But it’s one thing to build a luxury car, another entirely to spin off a luxury marque from a mainstream brand. Lexus took a decade to do it, Infiniti has almost got there, Acura still hasn’t, really.

So Can This Genesis Make the Marque?

The tester delivered to me is a 2017 Genesis G90, the “base” model of the flagship sedan with a 3.3L turbocharged V6. And yes, delivered. Genesis’s new “Genesis at Home” concierge service is just one way the brand is trying to differentiate from the mothership. Conveniently it also means Genesis customers don’t have to walk by any flashing neon signs for $10K Accents.

The G90 is priced aggressively, but not in the usual way. It’s $84,000 for this power plant, there are no options and the price is solid. $84K, period. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts. Want to spend more? Well, you can, by buying the 5.0L V8 edition at $87,000.

That extra $3,000 not only gets you the V8, but bi-LED headlights with Adaptive Cornering System and High Beam Assist, ventilated rear seats, 14-way power-adjustable right rear seat and 12-way power-adjustable left rear seat, rear-seat power-adjustable head restraints with manual tilt, Integrated Memory System for rear outboard seats and rear-seat illuminated vanity mirrors. This is a curious situation, because the engine that packs more punch is paired with options aimed at the driven, not the driver.

Back Seat Drivers, Rejoice!

In fact, the Genesis is set up heavily to reward rear-seat passengers. My six-year-old daughter thought this was the best thing ever. The rear seat armrest folds down to expose a full-on control panel for the automatic climate control and entertainment system. There’s even a button to lock out driver control, so the rear-seat passenger has full autonomous control of the audio system. Maddie’s favourite song is “anything by Katy Perry or Taylor Swift” and her preferred volume is “Ha I made Daddy’s ears bleed!”

I know this now. I don’t know what Managing Editor Michael Bettencourt just said to me, however. Probably because of the ear blood.

When she opened up the little drawer in the back of the console it exposed two 12V power outlets – though not a USB or a 115V. She can also slide either of the front-row seats forward with controls on her little central console, or via buttons on the side of the passenger seat. Thankfully this doesn’t work while driving, but it does work in the 10 seconds it takes me to walk from buckling her in to trying to climb in the driver’s seat…

How Does it Drive?

From the driver’s seat, things get nice. The 365 hp/376 lb-ft six is what a German manufacturer’s former head would have called “sufficient” – and it’s not that far off the 420 hp/383 lb-ft available from the eight, especially as peak torque here is available from 1,300 rpm as opposed to 5,000. There is a confident surge of speed from the liquid-smooth engine and the eight-speed automatic, accompanied by a muted but pleasing engine growl when the revs climb higher. The substantial 2,170 kg of curb weight is noticeable when accelerating but the sensation is overwhelmingly pleasant. Elegant even, as the G90 builds momentum.

The HTRAC all-wheel-drive system will send as much as 90 percent of the available torque out the back in sport mode, which is handy for making minor corrections in the snow. Like when you turn right, for example, but meant to turn left. So you just keep turning right until you’re pointing left. Or was it right? Oh wait, no, back to the left. Silly me, I seem to have drawn an eight.

I barely glimpsed a sense of the system shuttling power back and forth and found it was always at the rear wheels when I wanted it, and never once did I feel any slip I wasn’t calling up deliberately. This is an AWD system though, and it’s worth noting for the ultra AWD/4WD enthusiasts and mechanical engineers out there that this is an electric clutch-operated system. There’s no traditional transfer case here, all four wheels are hooked up to the juice at all times.

HTRAC is one of the best systems out there in my opinion, being unobtrusive and permissive at the same time with more rear wheel than front in most conditions. Still, I’d have liked it as a rear-wheel drive better.

The steering is well-weighted and appropriately dull. The wheel offers enough resistance for you to feel like you’re doing something substantial but translates very little feedback to Jeeves’s hands. The brakes are appreciably firm and confidence-inspiring.

Yes, but is the G90 a Luxury Car?

The Adaptive Control Suspension rides beautifully and gives a firm platform but you can expect a lot of body roll and weight transfer if you decide to drive this like a sport sedan. Which you shouldn’t. That’s what the G80 is for. The G90 is a luxo barge – you can tell by the expansive wood grain which surrounds the interior right around eye level.

Sound levels inside the G90 are downright Lexus-esque. It’s a tomb that drowns out wind, road and engine noise with remarkable efficiency. It does however let in suspension noise over large bumps and potholes, enough to draw my father-in-law’s attention.

Materials in the cabin feel the goods, the steering wheel leather is good quality, as are the stitched leather seats. I found them comfortable and easy to adjust into a good ergonomic position. The large, weighty gear lever is a welcome site in a world of dials, push-buttons, and worst of all – flimsy column stalks.

There are drive modes but I have a confession – I left it in “Smart” and never felt the need to touch it again. There is a definite change in suspension, transmission and engine behaviour that happens depending on your throttle inputs, but I really couldn’t tell you what the difference is between each mode, because like I said, Smart mode did the job.

The infotainment system is slick and easy to use but the graphics are muted and it feels a little lacking in features. Over-simple really. Likewise the instrument cluster is dominated by two underwhelming dials and a smooth but over-simple TFT screen. I do like using the control puck and its touch-sensitive surface for managing the infotainment system and the plethora of redundant hard buttons compliment the setup well.

But there is one glaring omission. Despite being available on a Hyundai Santa Fe, or an Elantra, at a fraction of this price, the G90 does not have Android Auto or Apple Carplay. It’s coming for model year 2018 but its absence here is a significant let-down.

The lashings of wood grain and aluminum are nice if you like that sort of thing, but the highlight of the cabin materials for me is a little patch of textured plastic nestled in a corner next to the centre stack screen. I would have liked to see more of that, and less glossy woodgrain.

The Lexicon audio system is more than adequate for my tastes, and you’ll get luxury standards like an analogue clock with blue highlighting in the dash too, as well as shiny, textured buttons and switches.

As a luxury car the G90’s interior ticks the boxes without really dropping the mic. It’s all there, but it’s merely nice, not spectacular.

What About All the Practical Stuff?

Range is stout courtesy of the 82.9 L tank, which you may only fill with luxurious premium fuel, thanks. Once filled, it will flood through the engine at a rate of 13.7/9.7/11.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined according to official ratings. With my week of snowy weather, traffic jams and poor parking lot navigation I saw an average of 14.6 L/100 km.

The rear doors are enormous. Huge, even. Making ingress and egress incredibly easy. The 444 L trunk is adequate but has only a ski pass-through, no split fold seat. On the plus side, the boot lid is power operated, so you can spare yours or your butler’s arms when the shopping is all loaded.

Is the G90 Worth $84,000?

As I said before, pricing is aggressive. Or rather: assertive. The price is the price is the price – but the price includes more than just the car. It also includes delivery and destination charges, five years of Sirius XM satellite radio, and five years of navigation updates.

And the crowning jewel of this pricing structure? The Genesis at Home service will send a concierge to your home, drop you a car and take yours away to complete each of its required services for five years or 100,000 km.

Competitively the G90 is hard to place. Price-wise, this competes with the well-appointed end of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, or Audi A6 end of the spectrum. Size-wise though, the G90 is more S-Class, 7 Series or Audi A8. The Infiniti Q70L is perhaps a good competitor, though is a little smaller and cheaper than the G90. In Lexus land, the G90 splits the GS and LS almost down the middle in pricing, and is a just a smidge smaller than the LS.

You are getting a lot of car for your money here, but whether the Genesis G90 is something that can lure away shoppers from other luxury cars in this segment remains to be seen. The no-fuss, no-muss ownership, sales and maintenance structure may attract many. Some will also be intrigued by the compelling drivetrain and robust, mature styling.

It may be hard to shake Genesis loose from Hyundai. Just writing this review I wrote “Hyundai Genesis G90” more times than I’d care to admit, so deeply are the two identities connected in my psyche. This car isn’t enough to pull free of the past – yet.

Genesis has in the G90 a very well-executed car that ticks all the right boxes and is a worthy contender as a luxury car. But they will need to play a sharper tune on the heart strings to cement themselves as a contending luxury brand.

2017 Genesis G90
Engine displacement: 3.3L
Engine cylinders: V6
Peak horsepower: 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak torque: 376 lb-ft @ 1,300–4,500 rpm
Fuel economy: 13.7/9.7/11.9/14.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb/observed
Cargo space: 444 L
Pricing: 2017 Genesis G90
Base Price: $84,000
A/C Tax: $100
Destination Fee: $0
Price as Tested: $84,100
Optional Equipment: None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.4
8 Styling
10 Powertrain
8 Quality
9 Comfort
7 Practicality
8 Drivability
9 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
9 Features
9 Value