History repeats itself as another generation of automaker crashes the luxury segment.
First, the Germans displaced the Americans, then Toyota elbowed its way in via Lexus.
Now, the upstart Koreans are knocking on the door.
Genesis is the Korean maker Hyundai’s luxury sub-brand. Launched in the States in 2016, its lineup comprises three sedans — the large G90, the mid-size G80 and the compact G70.
Hyundai’s timing could have been better. Since the beginning of the year, luxury sedan sales in the U.S. have plummeted 37 percent, while luxury crossover sales are up 73 percent.
Genesis’s first crossover, the midsize GV80, will debut this fall.
Comfort trumps performance
As befits a flagship, the G90 is lavishly appointed and almost sinfully comfortable. It’s strong and quick and has the look — and feel — of a proper grand touring car. Ride comfort trumps performance and, though the G90 is swift, it’s not super-responsive or athletic.
A mid-cycle refresh this year focuses largely on exterior design, and especially the mammoth, five-sided grille Genesis calls the “crest grille.” To these eyes, Genesis, whose design chief once held the top design job at Bentley, has successfully negotiated its entry into the Era of the Mega Maw.
Inside, materials quality is upgraded and the infotainment system learns new tricks. The system responds more quickly to input and the 12.3-inch touchscreen gets new functionality, including a split-screen setup.
The display can be used as a traditional touchscreen, but Genesis also provides a console-mounted control knob that offers a more efficient — and safer — alternative.
The front seats are broad, supportive and deeply cushioned. The driver's seat is adjustable in 22 ways, including thigh, seatback side-bolster and upper-back articulation.
As Hyundai did, when it was establishing itself, Genesis presents itself as the value proposition of the segment. Priced thousands less than its primary German rivals, the G90 comes close to matching them, feature for feature.
Hyundai is a newcomer to the luxury game, while its competitors have been at it for decades. Not surprisingly, the G90 comes up a bit short in refinement. It’s largely a matter of touch-and-feel; the lightly damped glovebox door opens abruptly, not with the gentle finesse of other premium models.
Three rows of audio and climate-control buttons coated in actual chrome, with labels etched into their faces. It’s classy, but the etchings wash out in bright sunlight.
Finally, good as it is, the G90’s ride lacks the precision and finely honed body control of the segment veterans.
Two fully equipped models
The G90 is available in two trims, each keyed to a separate powertrain and each fully equipped. Aside from color-palette choices, there are no options.
The G90 3.3T Premium ($72,200) is powered by a twin-turbocharged 365-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6. The 5.0 Ultimate ($75,700) has a 5.0-liter V-8 engine rated at 420 hp.
Both are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission that makes swift, sure and essentially transparent shifts. In city driving, the gearbox never got flat-footed, either in the wrong gear or unable to make a choice quickly.
The 3.3T and 5.0 are closely matched from 0-60, each running it in the low- to mid-5-second range. The turbocharged six is marginally more efficient than the eight.
The G90 is built on a rear-wheel-drive platform. All-wheel-drive is available.
Terrific Lexicon audio
Genesis packs both models with exhaustive standard-feature rosters. It’s hardly worth running through them all, but highlights include soft-close doors, power sunshades for rear-seat passengers and — the piece d’resistance — a very good, 17-speaker Lexicon surround sound audio system.
All the latest safety and driver-assist functions are aboard. Rivals are likely to either hold some out as pricey options, or include them only in upper trims.
The 5.0 Ultimate is all about pampering rear-seat passengers. The seats are heated and ventilated and the powered seatbacks recline. A rear entertainment system includes a pair of 10.3-inch displays.
The 5.0 Ultimate also substitutes LED headlights for the high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps standard on the 3.3T.
It’s a lousy time to try to get a luxury sedan up and running. But Hyundai specializes
in accomplishing the unlikely. Don’t bet against it.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2020 Genesis G90 RWD 5.0 Ultimate
Vehicle base price: $72,700
Trim level base price: $75,700
As tested: $76, 695 (includes destination and handling)
Options: The Genesis G90 5.0 Ultimate is fully equipped, with no options available.
EPA rating: 19 combined/16 city/24 highway
Premium gasoline specified