Ultimate guise, the Genesis G90 features a V-8 motor
generating 420 horsepower.
thing you need to know about the Genesis G90 luxury sedan is that itís
definitely not a Hyundai. Even though itís made by Hyundai Motor
Genesis is the
young, high-end brand from the South Korean auto conglomerate, which
has been careful to distinguish the luxury division from its more
affordable Hyundai and Kia lines of sedans and sport utility
vehicles. The full-size G90 is the nameplateís flagship vehicle, a
stately ride that tops out around $75,000 and comes loaded with
luxury and technology features you wonít find in an Elantra.
And if, by
mistake, you call the G90 a Hyundai in conversation with Erwin
Raphael, Genesisí general manager in the U.S., he will correct
you. He noted my gaffe, at least.
Raphael was accustomed to this. He took it in stride, breezily
pointing out the inaccuracy ó but it felt as though he couldnít
let the error slide. I imagine others could make the same mistake,
and not because the G90 seems economical, but simply because the
Genesis brand is only 2 years old.
part of Genesisí challenge: to educate consumers about its
existence, while keeping a safe distance from Hyundai and the
residue of unreliability that clings to the marque, which entered
the stateside market in 1986 with cars plagued by quality issues.
were dealt with years ago ó aided by Hyundai famously offering a
10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty ó and now the company is
known for producing well-made and dependable vehicles.
But just a
whiff of shoddiness, even if it is by association, could taint the
rollout of a brand thatís asking consumers to drop Mercedes-Benz
money on a car from South Korea, which never before has sent such a
pricey car to America and whose cars have yet to attain the prestige
of European and Japanese rivals.
In a way,
Genesis is trying to accomplish what Lexus did in the early 1990s,
when the Toyota Motor Corp.-owned company upended the U.S. luxury
car market with its LS400 sedan.
which bowed in 1989, was priced well below its competitors and
offered Japanese reliability alongside new features such as an
automatic tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and power-adjustable
seat belts. These doodads may seem quaint now, but the LS400 stood
out and quickly outsold many rivals.
In the G90,
Genesis has an effective opening offering in the luxury marketplace
ó one that is less expensive than most of its entrenched
competitors while including many of the same advanced features found
in those rides, some of which have been playing in this moneyed
space for decades.
our test vehicle, a 2018 G90 5.0 Ultimate edition that cost $72,825,
I was struck by this: It certainly looks credible. The sedan has a
muscular grace, which is most effective at the rear, where its high
belt line, brawny haunches and swooping, vertical taillights mesh
ribbons of wood and chromed surfaces, and lots of technology, such
as a 12.3-inch screen that displays all manner of information,
including a 360-degree exterior view of the car thatís beamed from
an array of cameras. It makes parking in tight spaces a cinch.
wheel, the rear-wheel drive G90 is refined, equally comfortable on
L.A.ís scarred city streets and freeways. The distinguishing
element of the Ultimate version is its V-8 engine, which generates
420 horsepower and propels the car to 60 mph in an estimated 5.3
The car is
faster than it needs to be. And yet, even at speed, itís
impressively quiet inside the cabin. A sharp stab of the throttle
does generate some noise indicating there is internal combustion
happening somewhere in the vicinity, but the experience is otherwise
however, areas where the car is a letdown, allowing the down-market
anxieties to fester. The issues in our test vehicle were small ó a
flimsy glove box door that did not open smoothly, and plastic door
lock/unlock buttons that seemed fit for a car one-third of the price
ó but I noticed them.
respects, the G90 feels like it is trying too hard. As with some
other cars ó including far less expensive ones, such as the
Chevrolet Volt ó the G90 plays a short musical theme over its
stereo system upon powering the vehicle on and off. In the G90,
slightly different tunes are played at the beginning and end of a
journey, and the piano-focused pieces seem to be an attempt to evoke
But Iím not
a music critic, so I asked a friend, Michael Wells, the choral
director of the Silver Lake Chorus, to listen to the four-second
introductory composition and offer his thoughts.
harmonic progression begins with an arpeggiated inverted minor chord
that shifts to a major chord, giving an uplifting feeling. Itís
refreshing, but doesnít fully resolve as a musical phrase, such
that you are left wondering whatís next, which in this case is
whatever your journey is going to be," he said. "The idea
of having a musical greeting ó itís like a fanfare in medieval
times for a king."
inverted minor chords arenít your thing, the musical function can
be turned off.
When the Lexus
LS400 debuted nearly 30 years ago, it was knocked for aping some of
the design and engineering elements of competing vehicles such as
the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, whose uncompromising ó albeit stolid
ó approach to luxury has made it an industry leader for years.
Now, the G90 is the latest luxury interloper, and this time itís
the Lexus LS (among others) that looks to be the subject of some
Raphael about the issue of imitation. He pushed back, even as I
noted that, for starters, the Genesis logo looks a lot like Bentleyís
thought about it, you could probably come up with four or five car
brands with wings," he suggested. (I couldnít.)
Raphael about the styling similarities between the G90 and other
cars. "We certainly donít benchmark ó we donít even like
using the word," he replied. "If somebody sees a line or a
light or a handle that looks like another car, I donít really take
much from it."
wanted to get some seat time in the new-for-2018 Lexus LS500 for the
sake of comparison. The base LS500 starts at $76,219, which is
within range of a G90 Ultimate optioned with all-wheel drive. But it
was tough to make an apples-to-apple comparison with the LS that
Lexus lent me ó an options-laden hybrid version that cost nearly
$105,000. (Among the niceties were surprisingly effective massaging
front seats, which are part of a $12,270 luxury package; such
thrones arenít available in the G90.)
the ultra-luxurious trappings, the LS500 simply outperformed the
Genesis in some respects ó its radar cruise control and
lane-keeping assist system, for example, were more effective and
less obtrusive. And then there are the little things the Lexus does
well, suggesting a level of refinement achieved over decades of
honing. Consider the stereoís volume knob, which is pleasingly
hefty and smooth in activation. Thereís no clicking as you turn
it, and a few twiddles will leave you thinking that any volume knob
that clicks is supremely declasse.
But there are
also areas where the G90 excels. Its voice command system was
superior to the one in the Lexus, never once flubbing one of my
demands, expertly routing me via the navigation system to places
with tricky names ó among them the restaurants Musso & Frank
course of a few days, I happened to be having lunch at both of those
eateries with exactly the sort of people Genesis would like to
convert into paying customers: Hollywood executives. I surmise this
because in March, the brand co-hosted the Vanity Fair Toast party, a
pre-Academy Awards soiree held at Spago, and deployed a fleet of
specially outfitted G90s for use by stars during the week leading up
to the Oscars.
lunch, I asked my two dining companions to check out the G90. As a
curious valet attendant hovered nearby, one of my tablemates, a
millennial, said that she didnít know who made the car but that it
was beautiful. She offered ó after being told that Genesis was
Hyundaiís new high-end nameplate ó that she had a positive
impression of the company and considered it a maker of solid autos.
a middle-aged man, knew exactly what the G90 was, and praised it,
saying heíd considered buying one. But in the end, he had opted to
lease a Mercedes-Benz.
And thatís a
conclusion I suspect some prospective G90 buyers will reach,
settling on a brand not only with decades of success but also ó
and perhaps most importantly ó with an image that connotes wealth
and sophistication in a way that few new nameplates could.
G90ís U.S. sales show that Genesis is convincing plenty of
consumers. Last year, 4,398 G90s were sold here, besting the Audi
A8, Jaguar XJ and the outgoing Lexus LS460.
The G90 was
handily outsold by the BMW 7-Series (9,276) and Mercedes-Benz
S-Class (15,888). And this year, the new LS500 is off to a better
start than the G90, according to data provided by Genesis.
tendency to want to label Genesis a plucky upstart ó and, with
that in mind, peg the G90 as a superb first effort.
reality is, the standards should be higher because Hyundai has been
selling luxury cars in the U.S. for a decade, having launched the
Hyundai Genesis in 2008 (yes, "Genesis" was once a Hyundai
model name before becoming a separate marque ó some people are
sure to be confused). A year later, the company debuted the Equus, a
full-size luxury sedan that got decent reviews but was seen by some
critics as too rough around the edges.
It has been
assumed by many that the creation of the Genesis nameplate occurred
because the company finally realized that some consumers had trouble
stomaching a $50,000-plus Hyundai. But Raphael couched it
differently, saying that a new brand was necessary to better reach a
rarefied customer base "who behave differently than
With the G90,
Genesis has mostly nailed it. And consumers in a sometimes snobbish
segment are validating the effort, whether or not itís an
A competent initial offering by a luxury upstart
looks, plenty of technology for the money
rough around the edges
Four-door, five-passenger luxury sedan
5.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine