2021 Best Large Luxury Car: Genesis G90

Disrupter. There’s a term that’s bandied around a lot these days. Something that shakes up the status quo and comes out of nowhere to upset the apple cart. The rarefied world of large premium luxury sedans, ruled by the all-mighty and perennial German triumvirate of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi, is an apple cart that seems all but impervious to seismic influences. Yet Korean automaker Genesis, the luxury arm of the Hyundai/Kia juggernaut, has been relentlessly chipping away at this mission. Each new offering scales the ramparts that much further, and with its newest generation G90 flagship sedan, Genesis has crafted a legitimate contender, and one that undercuts the established players by thousands of dollars. Say hello to the winner of the Best Large Luxury Car category of the 2021 Awards, the 2021 Genesis G90.

The biggest challenge for Genesis has been building the necessary brand cachet needed to lure executive saloon buyers, and while it can never compete with the long legacies of the German marques, this new G90 marks somewhat of a milestone in that it solidifies Genesis’ styling language. No longer a pastiche of cues from other sedans (save for the Bentley-esque badge), the G90 stands out on its own as an elegant, bold, and quite beautiful sedan that comes at us with purpose, authority and a big, stately mesh grille. A diamond theme reoccurs in the car’s fine detailing. This immaculately tailored Genesis has “arrived” – no apologies required.

Genesis is also changing the way we buy automotive luxury. In Canada, the Genesis G90 comes in only one trim level, the top spec 5.0 Premium with all-wheel drive that runs with Genesis’ silken naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 spinning out 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Its all-in price of $89,750 completely sidesteps the usual wading through of endless packages and standalone options necessary to bring your European luxury sedan up to spec. And for this price, Genesis is not leaving anything out – all driver’s aids and advanced safety systems are present and accounted for, as are such niceties as world-class audio and heat and ventilation for both front and rear seats.

All this would be for naught if the G90 were not such a lovely place to spend time, but Genesis has crafted a cabin that coddles and delights with elegant design, exquisite materials and obsessive craftsmanship. The quilted, perforated Nappa leather is fragrant and creamy, and the fine stitching on the dash and door panels, along with the open-pore wood trim and brushed metal trim, signal authentic class. contributor Steve Bochenek noted, “The driver enjoys 22-way seat adjustment (18-way for front passenger) and, if they like, wellness customization with ‘smart posture care.’ What’s that? Select the ‘smart’ button and the centre screen (now fully touch-sensitive) asks your height, in-seam, and weight measurements. Once you confirm, it shapes the seat to best form your posture according to standards set by the German ergonomic society of good posture or something.” Additionally, if the computer senses sunshine beating down on your arms while you’re driving, it may adjust the cooling level in the seat.

Dynamically, the Genesis G90 knows exactly what it’s going for. It won’t beat every car at the stop-light derby, nor does it aspire to be an apex-strafing super sport sedan. But this Genesis does deliver a swift, quiet, and supremely cossetting driving experience – one that most buyers of full-size executive sedans seek. A new Rear Comfort driving mode improves the ride for rear seat passengers enjoying the plush rear seats. Silent and sybaritic, comfort reigns supreme in the G90.

As with all offerings from Hyundai/Kia/Genesis, the G90’s ergonomics get high marks for clarity and user friendliness. The dash is dominated by a 12.3-inch crisp and clear touchscreen and there are plenty of well-marked buttons and rotary knobs for HVAC and audio functions. Techno-geeks will note the G90 is trailing the Europeans when it comes to digital real estate and gimmick one-upmanship (gesture control, fragrance dispensers, multiple drive modes, and interior “experiences”), but in our view, the G90 nails the essentials. Along with the superb 900-watt 17-speaker Lexicon audio, we get a head-up display, powered rear sunshade, multi-view camera system, seven-colour interior ambient lighting, and hands-free trunk operation.

The Genesis G90 faced some tough finalists for this win that included the perennial Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Porsche Panamera, the BMW 5 Series, and smaller sister Genesis G80. But after considering and evaluating every car for sale in this category, and narrowing it down to these five finalists, our jury of ore than 20 automotive experts from across the country agreed that this big, finely crafted sedan’s blend of impressive value and authentic luxury deserves the win.