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First Drive: 2017 Genesis G90

The Genesis G90 isn't 'nice for Hyundai,' it's the start of a luxury empire

The Genesis G90 proves that great luxury cars don’t always come from Europe

First impressions are the most lasting.

I kept this adage firmly in mind as I flew to beautiful Vancouver, BC, to drive the 2017 Genesis G90. The first homegrown product from Genesis Motors, the G90 doesn’t just represent a new flagship vehicle, it represents the launch of a new player in the luxury space, one with an entirely different set of goals from its siblings at Hyundai. While the latter primarily focuses on affordable sedans and family-friendly crossovers, Genesis will use dedicated platforms and engines to take on well-established juggernauts like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Lexus. The brand plans six models in total by 2021, so the G90 will set the tone for the company’s future.

To do it right, the big cruiser is aiming straight for the top.

Core luxury values

The definition of luxury varies wildly from person to person. For me, luxury means comfort and convenience — the less effort required the better. If you ask the folks at Genesis, they’ll tell you luxury is a balance between exceptional products and rewarding experiences. No matter what your definition is, I think you’ll agree the G90 fits the bill, especially from the driver’s seat.

Virtually all of the G90’s features come standard — the seats, the stereo, the displays, the adaptive suspension, everything.

When I first entered the car, I was met with a sea of Nappa leather, real wood, and suede that all felt great to the touch. The cabin is quite nice to look at as well, with uncluttered surfaces and adjustable interior lighting to provide contrast. For the driver, there’s a 22-way ventilated power seat in addition to the 16-way passenger unit, and as a nice little detail, the buttons are contoured to feel better from the driver’s approach angle. Sometimes it’s the little things.

The meaning of luxury could also refer to a vehicle’s on-road manners, and thanks to special acoustic materials and an adaptive suspension, the G90 is exceptionally smooth and quiet even at high speeds. Stress-free freeway cruising: check. If you want to crank up the volume though, the G90’s 17-speaker Lexicon sound system is more than happy to help with brilliantly crisp and clear tones, however it may be a bit treble-heavy for some.

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All that said, the centerpiece of the G90 is that almost all its features come standard — the seats, the stereo, the displays, the suspension, everything. There are no annoying tech packages or bundles to fuss with, and there’s a wonderful simplicity to that.

2017- Genesis G90

To put it bluntly, the car feels high-grade with no qualifiers. It’s not “nice for a Hyundai” despite what comment sections may have you believe; it’s just nice, period. If there’s one negative, it’s that the rear seat just doesn’t live up to the standard set by the Mercedes’ S-Class or BMW’s 7 Series. It’s roomy and comfortable to be sure, but if you’re looking for a mobile office or a spa on four wheels, this probably isn’t the right choice.

But can it keep up?

Let’s run down the available powertrains the G90 offers. Much like with the interior features, Genesis has made the process very easy — there’s a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 with 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque and a 5.0-liter V8 with 420 hp and 383 lb-ft. From there, you choose rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the paint color, and you’re pretty much good to go.

Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to try the big V8 in Canada, but I can attest that the V6 is quite good. Peak torque arrives at just 1,300 rpm and stays there until 4,500 rpm, which means acceleration is swift, yet undramatic. An eight-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice for either power plant, and although you can change gear with shift paddles, we sincerely doubt many G90 owners wills be tearing up country backroads on the regular. Why? In its lightest configuration, the sedan weights 4,630 pounds, with stouter versions tipping the scales at 4,905 lbs. The kilometers definitely added up quickly when I put the hammer down, but automakers like BMW and Jaguar are a bit better at blending performance and opulence.

The G90 is clearly not a driver’s car (not that it ever claimed to be), but it is definitely an intelligent one. The four-door includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, a bevy of cameras, Driver Attention Alert, Blind Spot Detection, Smart Cruise Control, and Lane Keep Assist as standard. The lane keep function stuck out to me in particular, as it is quite refined and includes two modes — Standard and Active — which use different levels of steering input to either guide the car to the center of the lane or hold it there. Most lane keep features are divisive and quite frankly annoying, so it’s nice that Genesis gives drivers some choice.

A trio of displays comes along for the ride as well, including a knob-operated 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a Heads-Up Display, and a 7-inch Multi-Info Display between the gauges. Everything responds quickly and does what it’s told, but admittedly there aren’t as many features as, say, Audi’s MMI system.

The G90 will make up some ground when it comes to cost though. We’re told its starting price will be noticeably less than its European counterparts, however we’re about two weeks out from the official release of that information. Either way, a more accessible option in the luxury space could give the segment a fresh breath of air.

Updated on 09/06/2016 by Andrew Hard: Full pricing information can be found here

It’s about the experience

Genesis understands that modern luxury encompasses more than just the product, so the brand has invested heavily in the so-called “Genesis Experience” to give them a leg up. In short, the plan includes complimentary maintenance, valet services, roadside assistance, SiriusXM Travel Link, and connected services like stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand diagnostics for 3 years or 36,000 miles where applicable. All these services match up quite well with the 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty that has become a staple of Hyundai Motor Group.

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In other words, Genesis doesn’t want you to lift a finger unless you absolutely have to, because in the luxury word, lifting a finger is incredibly inconvenient. The company recognizes that in a sense, the product draws customers in, but the experiences keep them there.

Conclusion

If first impressions are the most lasting, Genesis and the G90 made one hell of a good one in Canada. The flagship is lovely to drive and ride in, and its simplified standard features could be the X factor for buyers on the fence.

Moving forward, Genesis will launch the top-of-the-line G90 in the coming weeks, with a G70 smaller sedan, two SUVs, and a sport coupe arriving by 2021. Watch out luxury world: things are about to get a lot more interesting.

Highs

  • Attractive designs and first-rate materials
  • Smooth, refined ride
  • Twin-turbo V6 provides plenty of power
  • Smart and intuitive semiautonomous tech
  • Tons of standard features

Lows

  • Rear seat experience is better in the competition
  • German rivals feel more dynamic