Hyundai dipped its toes into the luxury space when it launched the Genesis sedan back in 2009. It was… alright. A nice step above the Sonata, it was also certainly no Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, or Lexus. Those brands were safe but probably wise to at least keep an eye and ear on what the Koreans were capable of crafting.
Fast forward a few years and Hyundai has finally tested, poked, and prodded both its Genesis sedan and Equus enough that they feel ready to take that deep dive into the world of luxury automobiles. I agree with them, after driving both a Genesis G80 and the Equus-replacing G90.
These are pretty damn close to the real deal now.
Genesis is now a brand. It’s a separate lineup of vehicles and it aims to take a bite out of the luxury pie. That’s a difficult task seeing as most luxury buyers are blinded by their preferred brands. Not all of them, of course. A good number understand the concept of value, which is where a car like the Genesis G80 and the G90 come into play.
Now don’t mis-equate value with cheap. That’s not what is happening here. Instead, you’re getting a heck of a lot of car for far less than the competition offers up its own wares. Is this the full-on luxury experience afforded by those other car makers? It’s 95% of it. Those last five percentage points are found in some of the most minute fit and finish details, the overall heft you get from a full-size German sedan, or the refined excellence of a big Lexus vehicle.
On the outside, the Genesis G90 is a sharp machine. The large multi-spoke wheels work well to add an air of class while the large grill lays back into the shoulder lines that run from tip to tail. It’s a welcome evolution over the arguably over-styled Sonata from the lower half of the family tree. Even those Sonatas have been reworked to dial it all back to a more comfortable level of looks.
Moving inside the cabin space of the G90 is where the car really starts to shine. The seats are extremely comfortable, and that’s owed to the generous use of padding stuffed under the leather bits. These are seriously enjoyable thrones, and it’s even better for back seat passengers as the legroom is plentiful. If you start to look around closely, however, that’s where you see some demerits. The wood looks a bit plastic-like and the pieces that appear metal are plastic. This is an area where another luxury automaker would go the distance and use the uprated materials.
But that’s where Genesis is able to keep its costs lower. The car looks and almost feels like $100,000+, but a closer inspection reveals the disparity between this G90 and the German and Japanese born luxo-barges.
Hyundai worked hard to refine some of its driving dynamics with the prior Genesis sedan. That shines through on both the updated G80 and this newer G90. Gone is the ultra-rubbery electronically assisted power steering and it’s replaced by a system that’s been much more properly tuned. It’s no sports sedan, but it’s not a terrible bore either. In fact, this G90 is a highway cruiser that eats the miles without lulling you to sleep. Your passengers, however, could quite easily go for a nap thanks to those aforementioned seats.
Providing the thrills is an engine I was actually hoping wasn’t in the supplied press car. I am an admitted vehicular idiot. I like to do dumb things because that equals fun in my little brain. That’s why I was really hoping the 5.0-liter Tau V8 would be in place under the long hood of this G90. That engine is good for 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Instead, I was greeted by this G90 and its 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6.
This Lambda unit is an all-new mill and it produces a rather impressive 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. All of that torque is available as low as 1,300 rpm, so the G90 has zero issues when the light dances from red to glorious green. In fact, and I apologize to the tire swappers in the press fleet management trade, the traction control is easily shut down and this TT V6 is more than happy to indulge my infantile left foot-right foot brake standing shuffle.
Each engine is backed up by an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and the V6 was a happy partner for this smooth-shifting transmission. I’d still prefer the noise that a V8 provides, but there’s no option for a sport exhaust on a car like this anyway. The really enjoyable sound does come courtesy of a Lexicon audio system though.
So you’re getting a large luxury machine that’s 95% of the experience you’d find with the more expensive competition. But how much more expensive is that competition? Well, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class starts at $96,000 and zooms to the moon from there. A BMW 7 Series begins life at $82,000, and an Audi A8 will start the bidding at $83,000. That big Lexus runs from $72,500 on up.
This Genesis G90 starts at $68,100. If you selected every option, which is basically just the V8 engine and all-wheel-drive, you’d arrive at just under $74,000. If you add any options on the competition you’re zooming to $100,000 and beyond.
If you don’t need all of that legroom, you can get the G80. It starts at $41,400 and all of the options ticked (V8, some accessories) will bring you to just over $55,000. That’s going to be a fair bit better than the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, and close to the Lexus GS.
The Genesis brand is evolving to include more vehicles down the road. For now, it’s off on the right path with both the G80 and the G90 sedans. You’re getting some seriously comfortable and stylish machines for a price that makes a lot more sense to a good portion of the luxury car buying segment.
[Disclaimer: Hyundai/Genesis tossed us the keys to both the G80 and the G90 and included a tank of fuel with each car. I didn’t fully burn through the tires, but the G90 was happy to do just that even with the TT V6.]