The verdict: What was once an impersonation of a flagship luxury sedan has evolved into the real deal. The 2017 Genesis G90 offers exceptional value and comfort in a stylish package loaded with features.
Versus the competition: Value remains a big selling point for the G90, which has more standard equipment at a lower price than the rest of the class. The only thing missing is a tighter driving experience, which would elevate the G90 even further.
Hyundai is launching a new luxury brand named Genesis, starting out with two vehicles that began life as Hyundais, now reborn as Genesis models: the G80 and G90.
The G90 will be the flagship sedan for the new brand. It’s envisioned as a full-size luxury sedan, meant to compete with the best Germany has to offer, such as the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Compare the G90 to some of its competition here.
In its former life, the Genesis G90 was known as the Hyundai Equus, which was the Korean automaker’s second attempt at a rear-wheel-drive luxury-car sedan. It was also the brand’s largest car — longer and more dolled-up than the Hyundai Genesis, which has surrendered its name to the new brand as a whole. (It’s now the Genesis G80). The Equus was a good first try, but it had some rough edges and lacked a bit of the refinement found in the more expensive sedans of its class, like the Audi A8. Hyundai’s second attempt, the G90, is here with a new engine option and a revamped interior that’s packed with technology. Compare the 2017 G90 with the outgoing 2016 Equus here.
The G90 will be sold in two trim levels — 3.3T Premium and 5.0 Ultimate — named for their engines. I drove rear- and all-wheel-drive versions of the 3.3T Premium, which comes with a brand-new engine, to see if Genesis got the formula right this time.
Genesis attempted to give the G90 a big styling update to ensure it won’t be confused with the Equus. The company succeeded only halfway: The front is a big departure from the outgoing sedan, but changes to the rear are minimal, leaving the back looking quite boring.
Up front is a different story. I like the new look, which starts with a large grille. That grille is flanked by intricate headlight clusters that 3.3T models fill with LED daytime running lights and high-intensity-discharge headlights. The 5.0 has LED headlights. The 19-inch alloy wheels will also grab attention, with 15 “turbine-blade” spokes and a bright finish.
The 3.3T’s engine is brand-new for the Hyundai family. It’s a 365-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 that makes 376 pounds-feet of torque. The 5.0 Ultimate gets a carryover engine from the Equus, a 420-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 that makes 383 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and both trim levels are available in rear- or all-wheel drive. The power figures listed are for premium fuel, but both engines also take regular gasoline.
Given this was Hyundai’s first engine with twin-turbo technology, it did a fantastic job. The V-6 is incredibly smooth, and with peak torque coming on at only 1,300 rpm, I didn’t feel any of the substantial turbo lag or quick onrushes of power you get with some turbos. Instead, there was just easy power on tap when you wanted it, which contributed to the smoothness of the driving experience. The G90 is an incredible tourer; I had to keep an eye on the speedometer because even at high speeds, the ride is so composed and the interior so quiet you can add speed without knowing it.
The steering feel, suspension and accelerator are all tuned for one thing: comfort. The Genesis G90 is heavy, tipping the scales at around 4,800 pounds with the larger engine. There’s a bit more body roll on curvy roads than I would like, and the G90 can feel unsettled during quick direction changes due to some rebound from the springs, but that’s to be expected from a car of this size. Even with the adaptive suspension’s settings firmed up, the ride is a touch softer than I’d prefer for handling maneuvers, when you need to feel what the wheels are doing underneath you. The roads I drove were dry and well-maintained, so there wasn’t much difference between the rear- and all-wheel-drive versions that I could detect.
Fuel economy for the 3.3-liter engine is estimated by the EPA to be 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined for both RWD and AWD models. The 5.0-liter is rated 16/24/19 mpg with RWD and 15/23/18 with AWD.
The Genesis G90’s calling card is its interior, which is filled with high-quality materials and definitely looks and feels the part of a flagship luxury sedan. There’s even an analog clock in the middle of the dashboard — a nod to other luxury brands. I can’t figure out why that’s still a thing, but in this class it seems to be a must-have feature. Beneath the clock is a nice storage space next to the shifter. It houses a USB port and a Qi-wireless charging pad for compatible phones. The cubby fit my phone — a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with a case, which is about the largest phone you can buy before entering “phablet” territory — so most phones will fit without a problem.
I wish my bed were as comfortable as the G90’s seats. I traveled about 300 miles in one day as both a driver and a front and backseat passenger with no ill effects. Each seat was supportive and plush, especially the driver’s seat, which has 22 power adjustments that made it easy to find an ideal driving position.
The G90 isn’t the only big luxury sedan to debut in 2016-2017, and I compared the G90’s backseat against those of three more new members of its class and price range: the Lincoln Continental, Cadillac CT6 and Volvo S90. The Genesis easily came out on top, with a good feature set and outstanding comfort. The outboard seats are seriously cushy and offer plenty of room both for your legs and for your head — a key to the luxury experience. There is one exception to this: The middle seat is on a hump, so there’s little headroom. I had to kink my head to the side to fit there.
The 5.0 model’s backseat gets some additional features, including heated and cooled powered rear seats with memory (the rear seats are only heated on 3.3 models), wing-out head restraints and rear seat vanity mirrors for checking your ’do.
Ergonomics and Electronics
The dashboard’s crown jewel is a large, 12.3-inch widescreen display, which ties the S-Class for largest screen in this class (unless you count the electric Tesla Model S’ giant vertical touchscreen). Genesis was happy to point out that its screen is higher-resolution than the Benz’s, and that’s evident when you watch videos. Behind the steering wheel is another large screen used to relay information to the driver. Both displays are bright and can easily be seen through polarized sunglasses.
On the center console between the front seats is the controller for the multimedia system. I found it very easy to use right out of the gate, fitting my hand nicely and placed in a position that’s easy for the driver to access. Genesis also did a great job using all the real estate the screen provides: Not every function requires the whole screen, so the sides of the screen will show other useful info when they’re not needed.
Though the multimedia system is extensively updated, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and Genesis told us not to expect them anytime soon. Strangely, I didn’t miss them; the system that’s included is quite good, and some of Genesis’ technology mitigates their absence. You can send directions from your smartphone to the car, remote start it or find where you parked it through Genesis Connected Services, a downloadable app.
The G90 also has rear passengers covered when it comes to charging: two 12-volt outlets pop out of the back of the storage bin, and the fold-down armrest has another 12-volt port and a charge-only USB port. Up front, however, there’s only one USB port, which connects to the multimedia system. If I had a nit to pick with the G90, it would be its lack of a second USB port up front for a passenger.
The Genesis G90’s trunk provides 15.7 cubic feet of cargo room, which is toward the lower end of this class. Among the other vehicles mentioned, the BMW 740 has 18.2 cubic feet, the Mercedes-Benz S550 sedan has 16.3 and the Cadillac CT6 only has 15.3.
Another thing the G90 shares with its competition is a lack of storage flexibility, with no folding backseat. There is a small pass-through that runs through the middle seat when the armrest is folded, but transporting anything but narrow longer items could be tricky.
As of publication, the G90 had not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. If results are published in the future, they will appear here.
What impressed me about the Genesis G90 was its amount of safety technology and the fact that it all comes standard. Out of the box, every G90 comes with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), driver attention alerts, blind spot warning, lane departure prevention, adaptive cruise control with full stop and start, a color head-up display, a 360-degree camera system, automatic high beams, and front and rear parking sensors.
Each of the Genesis G90’s driver aid systems performed flawlessly in my testing. The adaptive cruise control was especially smooth in speeding up and slowing down, which helped maintain cabin comfort for all occupants. In addition to the four cameras that power the 360-degree monitor, there are two more on the front corners that give you confidence when navigating the big sedan in small spaces.
As of this publication, the G90 has not been crash-tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS. For a comprehensive list of the G90’s safety features, click here.
The Genesis G90 compares very favorably to the rest of the class when it comes to value. The only appreciable difference between the G90’s two trim levels is the additional backseat features found on the 5.0 and the headlights I mentioned earlier. Both are incredibly well-equipped, especially in terms of safety features. Most other vehicles in this class start at a higher price than the G90’s top MSRP, yet have fewer features. A BMW 740 is $82,495 on the sticker, while the lowest S-Class, an S550 sedan, will run you $97,525 (all prices include destination charges). The G90 starts at $69,050 for a 3.3T and $70,650 for a 5.0. All-wheel drive is the only option for each, and it adds $2,500 to the MSRP.
A small gap remains between the Germans and the Genesis G90: They offer a slightly better drive and more cachet. To me, that difference isn’t worth the price premium.
Genesis knows, however, that value is not the only factor in winning the hearts and minds of luxury buyers, especially in this echelon. To that end, the company includes many complimentary services with a G90 purchase, including three years/36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance with valet service. That means the dealer will come pick up the car from your residence or workplace and drop off a loaner to use until the service is complete. Each of the G90’s connectivity services come with three complimentary years, as well, including SiriusXM Traffic, navigation updates, roadside assistance and Genesis Connected Services. Genesis has also kept Hyundai’s robust 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
While value was the biggest thing the Equus had going for it, the Genesis G90 is good enough to stand on its own yet keeps the same features-for-the-money advantage of its predecessor, making it a formidable contender in this class.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.