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2017 Genesis G90 Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

2017 Genesis G90 front quarter view
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Introduction

With the Genesis and Equus, Hyundai tried to compete with the large rear-wheel-drive sedans from prestigious brands, but without creating their own premium brand. It turns out that many potential customers are unwilling to spend big money on a car wearing the Hyundai "H." So, for 2017 the Korean auto maker has repackaged "Genesis" as a brand name rather than a model name. The Genesis model becomes the G80 with no significant changes aside from its badges. The Equus, on the other hand, has been completely redesigned in addition to being rebaged as the G90.

For the Genesis brand to acquire the prestige Hyundai seeks for it, the cars better be good. I've been a fan of the second-generation Genesis / G80 from the time I first drove it. Does the new G90 similarly perform nearly as well as its famous-name competitors, while costing far less? I spent a week with one to find out.

For comparison purposes, I drove another new sedan that seeks to compete with the top-shelf Europeans, the Cadillac CT6.

G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 front quarter view

A bit heavy in the tail from this angle, but handsome. more G90 photos

G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 interior

Traditional, conventional interior with a lot of leather and glossy wood.

Tested: 2017 Genesis G90

4dr Sedan turbocharged 365hp 3.3L V6 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Compared: 2017 Cadillac CT6

4dr Sedan turbocharged 404hp 3.0L V6 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Why the 2017 Genesis G90?

  Compared to the CT6
Price or payments
Price or payments: Better Better Worse

To state the obvious, I'll note that price is the largest advantage the Genesis G90 has over competitors. People might scoff at the idea of a Korean car with a $69,050 base price, but many features optional elsewhere are standard on the G90. Standard features include a fully leather-upholstered interior, a synthetic suede headliner, a top-notch audio system (specifically a Lexicon with 900 watts and 17 speakers), power door closers, a head-up display (HUD), full-speed-range adaptive cruise control, and a full array of collision avoidance systems.

Add $2,500 for all-wheel-drive (on the tested car). Add $1,600 to substitute a 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 for the 365-horsepower turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 (acceleration remains about the same). The V8 brings with it LED headlights (instead of xenon) and power-adjustable rear seats. Why are they charging only $1,600 for features the Germans would charge at least $5,000 for (and quite possibly twice that)?

You can get one large luxury sedan with a leather-lined interior for about the same price as the Genesis G90: the new Lincoln Continental. The key concession: the Lincoln doesn't attempt to match the big boys with a dedicated rear-wheel-drive chassis. Instead, the Continental is based on the pedestrian Ford Fusion, including its front-wheel-drive (with all-wheel-drive optional) configuration.

Among comparable cars, the Cadillac CT6 comes closest in price, and when equipped like the G90 even it lists for over $13,000 more. In the Cadillac's defense, in Platinum trim (necessary to get an all-leather interior) it does include about $5,400 in additional features, including a panoramic sunroof (the G90 oddly has only a conventiional sunroof), semi-automated parking system (does anyone actually use these?), a night vision system, a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system, additional front passenger seat adjustments (as is often the case in Asian cars, this seat gets fewer adjustments than the driver seat in the G90), and rear-wheel steering (which would make no sense on the G90). Adjust for these differences, and the Cadillac is only about $8,000 more.

A similarly equipped BMW 740i lists for over $23,000 more than the G90. Additional features on the BMW account for about $2,700 of the difference.

This one surprised me. A similarly loaded Lexus LS 460L lists for about the same as the 740i, so it is also over $23,000 more than the G90. And unlike the BMW it doesn't have more features than the Genesis at this price point.

The Genesis G90's price advantage noted, depreciation could be even worse than for other larger luxury sedans--and all of them tend to lose value rapidly.


Warranty, maintenance cost
Warranty, maintenance cost: Better Better Worse

Like sister brands Hyundai and Kia, Genesis offers a longer standard warranty. 5/60 on nearly the entire car and 10/100 (for the first owner) on the powertrain. But this advantage is smaller than for a Hyundai or Kia, as premium brands tend to have 4/50 basic warranties, a year and 14,000 miles longer than those on non-Korean mainstream brands. Some of these premium brands (including Cadillac, Lexus, and Lincoln) have 6/70 powertrain warranties that transfer to the second owner. Jaguar recently extended the warranty on its cars to 5/60.


G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 rear quarter view

Black car, frozen white lake.

G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 instrument panel

Silver buttons like Mercedes. Relatively simple controls for this class of car.

Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: Much better Better Worse

Large luxury sedans tend to have good driving positions, and the G90 gives no ground here. The windshield is set at a moderate angle and the instrument panel isn't overly deep or overly tall, so outward visibility is good. (While parking I greatly appreciated the standard around-view camera system.)

Large luxury sedans also tend to have comfortable seats--otherwise, what would be the point of them? The G90's front seats are among the most comfortable I've experienced. The driver seat benefits from a few power adjustments that the front passenger seat lacks: upper seatback recline, cushion length, and side bolster spread.

The front seats in the Cadillac CT6 compare poorly. Their non-adjustable bolsters are spaced too widely for anyone of remotely average size, and the cushion between them feels overly flat and firm. I much prefer the G90's cushier and more contoured front seats.


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Why Not the 2017 Genesis G90?

  Compared to the CT6
Brand reputation & image
Brand reputation & image: Worse Better Worse

As a new brand, Genesis falls well short of Cadillac and Lexus, much less the Europeans, in prestige. While $70,000 might be cheap compared to the prices of equivalent competitors, it's still far more money than the average car. People spending this sort of money tend to want a prestigious brand.


Ride smoothness  

While the Genesis G90's cushy suspension effectively soaks up large bumps, it doesn't control small body motions as well as more tautly suspended competitors, including the Cadillac CT6. I sensed a slight jiggle much of the time I drove the car. While this jiggle might be slight enough that most people won't notice it, people who do notice it might find it annoying. Setting the adaptive dampers to sport helps quell this jiggle, but at the expense of firmer tire impacts. Neither setting hits the sweet spot for me like the non-adjustable conventional dampers on the less expensive Genesis G80 do.

I am admittedly being picky. People seeking a "luxury car ride" will find it in the G90. It drives the way most people expect a top-flight large luxury sedan to drive, very smoothly and very quietly--just with that slight jiggle. To be fair, I also noted some jiggle in the rides of the Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ, so it seems to be endemic among large luxury sedans. In those cars I attributed the jiggle to air springs, but the G90 (unlike its Equus predecessor) has steel springs.

If memory serves, the Lexus LS has a more faultless ride, but like the G90 cannot approach the European cars in terms of handling precision.

Other reviewers have criticized the Cadillac CT6 for riding too firmly for the typical luxury sedan buyer. I haven't driven one on a bumpy road, so I can't comment much on its ride quality. On rural Wisconsin roads the CT6 felt decidedly less cushy and less insulated than the G90, but its suspension did more tightly and more precisely control body motions.


G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 front view

Audi influence in the grille except for the adaptive cruise control sensor, which needs to move.

G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 rear seat, armrest down

Large control-laden armrest for rear seat passengers.

Handling
Handling: Much worse Better Worse

With a hefty 4,630-to-4,905-pound curb weight and ride-oriented suspension tuning, the Genesis G90 is no sport sedan. Going down the road, it feels every bit as large and as heavy as it is. Even with its adaptive dampers set to sport, the G90 doesn't handle with the precision and quick responses of some competitors. Like the Lexus LS, it'll take a curve at speed tolerably well, but doesn't ask to take curves at speed. The steering firms up a little when set to sport, but never feels as precise or as direct as the steering in some competitors.

Among large sedans, the Cadillac CT6 is the clear handling champ. Constructed largely of aluminum, the CT6 weighs up to a half-ton less than the G90. Suspension tuning prioritizes handling. Especially when fitted with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine the CT6 feels remarkably agile for a car of its size. The Cadillac's steering also feels more nuanced and less numb than that of current large BMW sedans, including the otherwise impressive, more agile than it has any right to be M760i. If you want a large sedan that drives like a midsize sedan, the Cadillac is the one to get.


Color choices
Color choices: Much worse Better Worse

Want a vibrant exterior color? Or perhaps a brown, a blue, or even a red interior? Then you'll be buying something else, as Genesis offers only a limited range of colors, none of them exciting. The Cadillac offers more color choices, but still not as many as the Europeans.


Exterior styling
Exterior styling: Worse Better Worse

Like the G80, the G90 is a handsomely styled car, but not a stunning or distinctive one. Anyone seeking elegant big-sedan proportions and road presence will find them here. If I could change one thing about the car's exterior, it would be relocating the sensor for the adaptive cruise control from the center of the grille.

And the exterior of the Cadillac CT6? It is more distinctive than that of the G90. In the right color, with the right wheels, and from the the right angle it has a sharp, long-and-low elegance. But it doesn't have the road presence of the G90, much less a Mercedes S-Class. The rear roof treatment strikes me as plain and even dated.

Some people might find the interior styling of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, and Cadillac CT6 overly forceful. Each of their cabins seems styled to beat you over the head with how high-tech, feature-packed, and expensive they are. In comparison, the G90's interior seems much more traditional and restrained. Don't care for glossy brown wood? Then you won't care for the G90's interior.


Other features of the 2017 Genesis G90

  Compared to the CT6
Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Much worse Better Worse

Fuel economy nearly qualifies as a reason not to buy the G90. The turbocharged V6 manages only 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway in the EPA's tests, barely better than the V8. With a turbocharged four the Cadillac CT6 rates as high as 22/30. Even with a 404-horsepower turbocharged V6 and AWD the CT6 scores 18/26. The Audi A8 compares especially well: 19/29 with a supercharged V6 and AWD.

In my real-wold suburban driving the G90's trip computer typically reported averages in the high teens, but occasionally cracked 20. On a 70-mph highway the trip computer reported a two-way average of 27 mpg.


Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: About the same Better Worse

Genesis offers two engines in the G90, a 365-horsepower turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 and a 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8. Hitched to an eight-speed automatic, either accelerates the car about as quickly as the boosted six-cylinder engines in competitors despite the mass they must motivate.

Need the power of a turbocharged V8? Genesis doesn't yet offer one. (Then again, Cadillac and Lincoln no longer offer a V8 of any sort in their sedans.) But few buyers need quicker acceleration than the G90 offers. How often is it necessary to get from a dead stop to 60 mph in fewer than six seconds? In typical daily driving the 365-hoturbocharged V6 has the sound and feel expected in a car of this sort and motivates the car with little apparent effort.

Despite its much lower curb weight, the Cadillac CT6 is no quicker, while its engines, louder and less refined, sound like they're working harder (even though the opposite must be the case).


Materials & workmanship
Materials & workmanship: About the same Better Worse

Smooth, precisely stitched leather covers nearly every interior surface that isn't covered by synthetic suede (the pillars and headliner) or wood. To get similar leather coverage in the Cadillac CT6 it's necessary to spring for the top-trim Platinum.


Conclusion

In size, styling, materials, interior space, and comfort the new Genesis G90 can go toe-to-toe with established large luxury sedans, for much less money. In terms of performance and refinement the 365-horsepower turbocharged V6 is competitive. Ride and handling, not so much, but anyone seeking a luxury sedan and not a sport sedan will likely find the steering and suspension acceptable unless they're especially sensitive to minor jiggling. Styling and features aren't up with the latest, but they're not too far behind.

The Cadillac CT6 leads the class in steering and handling, but lags even the Genesis in comfort and refinement. Cadillac should consider offering the more adjustable seats of the Platinum in lower trim levels. A price closer to that of the Genesis G90 than those of the Europeans compensates. If steering and handling are your top priorities, the CT6 is worth its additional cost compared to the Genesis. But how many buyers of large luxury sedans have steering and handling as their top priorities?

The largest question you must answer when deciding whether the Genesis G90 is for you: how much do you need a prestigious brand? If you're reading this review, you've decided to at least give the car a chance, so probably not too much. That out of the way, if you're expecting a large serving of luxury sedan for a relatively small amount of money, the Genesis G90 delivers.

G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 engine

Smooth, torquey turbocharged DOHC 3.3-liter V6 engine.

G90 Reviews: 2017 Genesis G90 trunk

Decent-sized trunk. Typical of the class the rear seat does not fold.

See more 2017 Genesis G90 photos

Genesis provided an insured G90 with a tank of gas for a week. Cadillac provided a CT6 at a regional media association event.

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2017 Genesis G90 pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2017 Genesis G90. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.
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