2020 Genesis G90 first drive review: Putting a bold face forward

Its appearance is certainly polarizing, but get past that grille, and the 2020 Genesis G90 impresses with a comfortable interior, lots of standard tech and a low starting price.

By Steven Ewing | Road Show

Love it or hate it, the 2020 Genesis G90’s prominent grille goes a long way toward helping this luxury sedan stand out on the street. And for a brand like Genesis that’s still struggling to gain traction here in the US, every double-take counts.

Yes, the new sheetmetal is striking. But underneath, this is essentially the same G90 sedan that launched in 2016, the first model to be sold under the standalone Genesis brand. That means it’s as quiet, comfortable and well-appointed as it’s ever been. Did I mention it’s also one heck of a bargain?

It’s a look, alright

So, the grille. It’s polarizing, to say the least. Some people dig it, others hate it with pearls-clutching passion. And while I tend to fall on the latter end of that spectrum, I will admit, my hatred is waning. On the road, the G90 doesn’t look half bad. The thin headlamp housings and LED running lights look great, and I like the way they wrap around the side, ending just before the front wheel well, only to be picked up again with the side-marker light on the quarter panel.

Then there are the wheels, which, oh my stars, I love. These rollers seem to have garnered as many hot takes as the G90’s grille, but I am firmly on board with them — they look like what you’d expect to see on a Maybach, and really make the G90 stand out. Interestingly, the G90 is only offered with 19-inch wheels — I really think these could stand to be 20s, especially considering the design — and hey, if the ornate pattern isn’t your jam, Genesis says a less ostentatious set will be available too.

Around back, the G90 has two thin taillight strips, the bottom of which spans the entire width of the trunk. I’m honestly not sure what to think of these; it almost looks like a rejected Lincoln design. At the very least, I’ll say the G90 is indeed distinct from stem to stern, and you absolutely will not mistake it for an Audi, BMW , Lexus or Mercedes-Benz. You might not immediately think Genesis, either, but one thing’s for sure: You’ll definitely go back for a second look.


Flagship luxury and tech

Things aren’t so wild inside, where the G90’s cabin is largely the same as it was before. That’s not a slight to Genesis, by the way — this is one of the finest interiors to ever come out of the Hyundai Motor Group. It’s so comfortable and quiet, with such a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail, you’d think it was done by Lexus.

All G90s come with quilted leather seating, brushed aluminum accents and open-pore wood inlays. The front chairs are super comfortable, with 22-way adjustment to hug you just right. You can even input your height and weight, and the car will calculate your optimal seating position based on your body’s specs. Of course, the best seats in the house are in the back, where the outboard chairs are power-adjustable and heated. On Ultimate models, rear passengers get cooling and massage functions, as well, and the right seat has an extendable footrest, which can be deployed when the front seat is pushed forward (automatically, natch).

If it’s multimedia tech you’re after, the G90 offers a robust suite. A 12.3-inch central screen offers the usual smattering of infotainment functions, including embedded navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You can control everything via the dial on the center console, or by simply touching the screen. The graphics aren’t quite as beautiful as what you’ll find in one of the German luxury barges — this is basically a larger version of the infotainment software you’ll find in new Hyundai and Kia vehicles — but the feature set is nevertheless on par with other luxury sedans. Every G90 comes with a head-up display as standard, as well as wireless phone charging and a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system.

Speaking of standard tech, the G90 doesn’t skimp on advanced driver-assistance features. In addition to collision-avoidance systems, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring and other ADAS functions, the G90 adds a few new niceties to its roster for 2020. The Highway Driving Assistant from the new Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride makes its way to Genesis, combining the car’s adaptive cruise control, speed limit assist and lane-centering tech to make long commutes less stressful. When the drive is over, Safe Exit Assist will alert drivers and passengers if traffic or cyclists are approaching when the car is stopped, so no one opens a door into an oncoming obstacle.

2020 Genesis G90

A comfortable cruiser

Mechanically, the 2020 G90 is pretty much the same as its predecessor. Genesis representatives tell me the suspension, steering and transmission have all received minor adjustments, but without driving a new G90 back to back with a 2019 model, I can’t say I notice any real difference. That’s perfectly fine, though — the G90 is as smooth and pleasant to drive as it’s ever been.

Genesis will continue to offer the 2020 G90 in two models: 3.3T Premium and 5.0 Ultimate. The former uses a twin-turbocharged, 3.3-liter V6 with 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, while the latter gets a naturally aspirated, 5.0-liter V8, pumping out 420 hp and 383 lb-ft. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is optional with either powertrain. The 3.3T engine is EPA-estimated to return 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg highway no matter the driveline configuration. Opt for the V8, and the rear-wheel-drive G90 should achieve 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway; all-wheel drive lowers those numbers to 15 mpg and 23 mpg, respectively.

The twin-turbo V6 is strong, with lots of low-end torque. The V8, meanwhile, offers a heartier exhaust note and linear power delivery. I think the 5.0-liter engine kind of suits the G90’s boulevardier character a little better — there’s something about a big engine in a big sedan that just feels right. But since no one is buying a G90 for its performance credentials, for most people, the 3.3T engine offers more than enough grunt.

You can switch between several drive modes, including a Sport setting that sharpens throttle response, adds a bit of weight to the steering and even increases the side bolsters to hold you in place a little better. But I really find it best to leave the G90 in its default Comfort setting and let the world fly on by. The G90 doesn’t have the same bank-vault solidity of an Audi A8 or BMW 7 Series on the road — it can be a touch floaty by comparison — but by no means is the ride uncomfortable or unsorted. With light but accurate steering, a suspension that soaks up all but the largest bumps and no wind or tire noise permeating the cabin, I’d happily drive one of these things from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back in one sitting.


One heck of a value

At no point does the Genesis G90 try to fool you into thinking it’s an Audi, BMW or Mercedes. Instead, as Genesis Chief Operating Officer Erwin Raphael says, it aims to “offer a great alternative in the luxury space.” The German rivals are all more engaging to drive, and offer a wider array of powertrains and customization options, not to mention performance variants. But don’t forget, while the cheapest Mercedes-Benz S-Class starts at $94,000 before options, the G90 3.3T should come in around $70,000 with all the aforementioned goodies standard. (Official 2020 G90 pricing isn’t available just yet, but Raphael says the sedan will be “priced appropriately” compared to the 2019 model.)

Really, this car’s biggest hurdle isn’t any fault of its own, but rather, its parent company. Raphael admits Genesis is “addressing some foundational issues” with its US launch — you know, like the fact that its dealers are still housed within Hyundai stores. “We have a lot of work yet to do there,” he says.

The G90 is a solid car and a solid value, more people just need to know it exists. So maybe it’s good that the G90 looks the way it does. That huge grille might not be for everyone, but it’ll certainly turn heads — just in time to see the big Genesis badge on the trunk.

Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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