By Derek Price
If you think the roads are awash in too many copies of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8, here’s an interesting alternative: the Genesis G90.
The biggest, most feature-packed car from Hyundai’s upstart luxury brand aims straight for the heart of German luxury sedans at a price that’s hard to ignore — at least, if you’re in the market for this caliber of vehicle.
Priced from $72,950, the G90 starts a whopping $24,000 less than the venerable S-Class. The price difference alone is enough to buy a brand-new Toyota Camry, but does the Mercedes offer a Camry’s worth of advantages? That’s the question Genesis hopes its G90 shoppers are asking.
To be sure, the big Genesis doesn’t soak up bumps and noise quite as well as the magic-carpet Mercedes. But it’s close. And its cabin and feature set match up nicely with all the best German luxury cars.
It even beats them in some ways, including the passenger-side back seat that reclines into a first-class lounge at the touch of a button. Perfect for being chauffeured, or more realistically letting your spouse do the driving, the back seat of a G90 is an ideal place to lean back and take a nap. It even has controls and big digital screens to keep the back-seat passengers comfortable and connected.
Updates this year were heavily focused on the G90’s styling, which is arguably its weakest point. From the start, it was designed to blend in more than stand out, but new lines on the 2020 version flip that formula.
At the forefront is a new grille design that’s so huge you can’t miss it. I thought the diamond-shaped grille looked garish and awkward in photos, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it in real life. It’s a design you have to see in person to appreciate.
My tester also came with a new 19-inch wheel design that’s as eye-catching as it is controversial. It looks like shiny spokes around a solid disk, a retro shape that reminds me of 1990s Buicks. It’s the most daring and inventive wheel choice I’ve seen on a premium car in years, designed to both reduce road noise and provide a big visual impact without resorting to the ridiculous 20- or 21-inch wheels I despise in cars like this. Personally, I think it’s brilliant and beautiful, but it’s also sure to generate debate.
The body changes are substantial. In addition to the flashy wheels and totally redrawn grille, every single body panel on the G90 was changed for 2020, with the exception of the doors and roof. Genesis is aiming for a look of “Athletic Elegance,” and I think it works — perhaps emphasizing the elegance side more than the athletic.
While it’s not changed much, the G90’s driving feel matches its elegant exterior. The 420-horsepower V8 engine in my tester seems like the perfect fit for it smoothness and silence, something increasingly hard to find even in expensive luxury cars. A buttery eight-speed automatic transmission sends all that power to the rear wheels or, optionally, all four on the AWD version.
One of its strongest selling points isn’t even on the vehicle. It’s the service and support behind it, something for which Genesis has been racking up awards recently. It comes with three years or 36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance with a Service Valet.
That means you can schedule your service appointment online or through an app, and a valet will pick up your car, take it in for service, and leave you a loaner to drive while the work is done. For busy people, that’s as important as the car itself.
Pricing for the G90 tops out around $80,000 with all-wheel drive and the fancy Ultimate package.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2020 Genesis G90 RWD 5.0 Ultimate ($75,700). Options: None. Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $76,695
Wheelbase: 124.4 in.
Length: 204.9 in.
Width: 75.4 in.
Height: 58.9 in.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 (420 hp, 383 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 16 city, 24 highway
Why buy it?
It’s a money-saving alternative to high-end German luxury cars. The back seat can recline like a first-class airline chair, and the driving feel is a mix of muscular and supple.