THE PROS & CONS
- What’s good: Pricing, V8 power, sumptuous, spacious, and well-equipped interior.
- What’s bad: Having to jump through hoops for V6 option, a few missed opportunities features-wise.
TORONTO, ON – As I made my way to Niagara Falls and the North American debut of the 2020 Genesis G90, the same question kept going through my head: “Can they do it?”
I’d seen the early photos showcasing the epic 19” wheels and massive front grille. I knew that it was going to get a V8 as standard in Canada, and I knew that – surprise, surprise – AWD was standard as well.
I knew all that. Still, though; what I was curious to see was whether or not the plucky Korean brand really had the wherewithal to take the fight to the perennial leaders of the large luxury sedan game – cars like the Lexus LS, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series. Then again; it’s a segment that with the advent of the luxury SUV isn’t as popular as it once was, so perhaps the time was now for Genesis to make a statement, to show that there’s still life in the big sedan game, if you’re willing to think outside of the box a little bit.
In addition to the whole Genesis buying and ownership experience: they will deliver test drive vehicles to you, leave a car at your house when they take yours away for an oil change and so on, the firm’s choice to go with a naturally-aspirated V8 engine as standard is very “out of the box” indeed. The move makes Genesis the only manufacturer to offer such a powertrain at all, let alone at base – everyone else is either going with turbo’d sixes or turbo’d V8s. Some may argue that this sets the G90 back because naturally-aspirated V8 power is antiquated (again, when considering the competition), but they likely haven’t driven the 2020 G90. Oh, and if they have and still aren’t buying it, a twin-turbo six is also available, but Genesis is so confident that most will opt for the V8 that the six can only be had via special order from the factory, albeit at a savings of $3,000.
Some may argue that this sets the G90 back because naturally-aspirated V8 power is antiquated (again, when considering the competition), but they likely haven’t driven the 2020 G90. Oh, and if they have and still aren’t buying it, a twin-turbo six is also available, but Genesis is so confident that most will opt for the V8 that the six can only be had via special order from the factory, albeit at a savings of $3,000.
If they had driven the V8, meanwhile, they would see that this butter-smooth and powerful (420 hp, 383 lb-ft) motor is just perfect for ferrying occupants along quickly and comfortably. You won’t feel any power spikes as a turbo comes on song, and no lag as you first dip into the accelerator. There’s just instantaneous torque delivery to all four wheels (to varying degrees; power can split up to 0:100 front:rear) through the eight-speed auto ‘box, and you’re on your way to the opera. Or the Blue House presidential residence in Seoul; current president Moon Jae-in drives one. Or, rather, gets driven in one.
Which, if you consider what the G90 offers in terms of rear-seat accommodations, is something that Genesis expects more than just presidents to be doing. It’s a limousine-lite ambiance in the back, for sure, with reclining rear seats (and, if you’re sitting behind the front passenger, the ability to move the right front seat forward so you can recline even more), dual rear vanity mirrors, a fully-serviced centre console with controls for all of your climate, infotainment, and seat comfort needs, and privacy shades on the rear window and rear side windows. There’s no seat massage feature, though, which is a bit of a shame but was omitted because when you’re trying to stay below the $90 grand mark – the G90 starts at $89,750 – some sacrifices have to be made. You may also notice that there’s no full-length panoramic sunroof option, a move that Genesis insists was done because it would make it too difficult to maintain the low interior noise levels they wanted for the G90. The only option – back there, up front, anywhere – is a $2,500 rear entertainment system with Blu Ray support and no streaming service
It’s almost perfect in the back, with the one nagging issue being a lack of room for your feet underneath the seat in front of you. Likely only an issue for the tallest among us, but an issue nevertheless.
Not one to leave the chauffeur completely out of the loop when it comes to interior upgrades, the cockpit has been given a comprehensive once-over as well. Piano black is no longer the purview of the centre console; instead, appealing leather has been added to all the places that used to harbour this dust-magnet material. The plastic switchgear has also been painted to match the leather around it (there are three available colours – black, brown and beige) and that which isn’t painted gets a pleasing silvery finish and the infotainment system has been given a much more responsive touchscreen, measuring 12.4 inches. The gauge cluster itself is shared with the Hyundai Elantra and could use a little bit of a punch on the eye-candy department, though; the fonts are boring, the colours are muted and as everybody and their dog seems to be going to all-digital displays this year, it’s lacking customization. There is, however, an in-gauge screen that becomes a left- or right-hand side blind spot camera once the turn signal is flipped. It’s a great feature whose placement between the gauges feels more natural to use that does Honda’s Lanewatch system, which only shows the right-hand side blind spot and only on the main infotainment screen. Would that be easier to see for those with weaker eyes? Maybe, but it just doesn’t feel as natural.
The gauge cluster itself is shared with the Hyundai Elantra and could use a little bit of a punch on the eye-candy department, though; the fonts are boring, the colours are muted and as everybody and their dog seems to be going to all-digital displays this year, it’s lacking customization. There is, however, an in-gauge screen that becomes a left- or right-hand side bind spot camera once the turn signal is flipped. It’s a great feature whose placement between the gauges feels more natural to use that does Honda’s Lanewatch system, which only shows the right-hand side blind spot and only on the main infotainment screen. Would that be easier to see for those with weaker eyes? Maybe, but it just doesn’t feel as natural.
Another very unique add is the driver seat adjustment – not because it can be modified 86 different ways like a Lincoln Continental, but because it’s been programmed so that it can do all the necessary adjustments for you – allegedly. By plugging in your weight, height, and inseam (?), the seat self-adjusts. Trouble is, both my drive partner and I tried this and both times, it didn’t work right as it left us too far back from the wheel. Maybe I don’t know my own height, or maybe – as Genesis says – Koreans prefer to sit further back and so that’s why it ended up like it did. Either way, we both overode the system and just adjusted the 22-way seat ourselves.
The infotainment system, meanwhile, gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard and in addition to being a touch-interface, also gets a central scroll wheel/joystick on the centre console. Usually I’m all for using more traditional controls, but since the G90’s touchscreen is so nice and responsive, I found it hard to determine which interaction I preferred.
The infotainment screen is also your portal to certain drive mode adjustments – the standard stuff such as selecting between predetermined modes is done via a single button press, but it’s in the car’s computer that you activate at least two unique commands: one that makes the engine/exhaust note a little peppier, and one that activates something called intelligent coast.
The former works as advertised; the noise upon acceleration becomes noticeably louder to the point I thought I was in something much more performance-oriented. Not sure how much it will be used in a cruiser like this, but since everything is so muted when it’s not active, the louder exhaust could save you from reaching none-too-legal speeds in fairly short order.
The intelligent cruise function essentially decouples the entire transmission from the powertrain (assuming you’ve first selected Eco mode), allowing you to freewheel as you coast to save gas. As soon as the brake or accelerator is pressed, everything reverts back to normal. It’s in Eco mode that you also get full power to the rear wheels, once again saving fuel since not all four wheels need to be powered.
In addition to changing the drive parameters, Sport mode also changes the steering weight almost as noticeably as the exhaust note changes. It gets much heavier which is nice, though the off-centre deadzone is still significant enough to remind you that you’re in a big car made for tackling the autobahn as opposed to tackling the b-roads. The same can be said for the self-adjusting adaptive dampers, which never get firm enough to distract from the fact that this is a limo for the masses, and make no bones about it.
But has it turned the trick, though? Are Bimmer drivers going to be flocking to the G90?
Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that depended on which Bimmer (or Audi, or Benz) buyer we were talking about. Full-size luxury sedan buyers will remain tough nuts to crack. The S Class is one of the most legendary nampelates in the automotive sphere, and while the 7 Series or A8 are less so, they have loyal customer bases.
However, if, when it comes to potential G90 buyers, we’re talking about prospective mid-size luxury sedan buyers – think Mercedes E-Class or BMW 5 Series – then I think the G90 has a play. It’s priced well, it’s loaded with features, it gets that great V8 and it’s now got a little more styling to go with all of that. Not only could that buyer be rife for poaching, but so could a buyer that just wouldn’t consider a full-size sedan because a six-figure price tag just wasn’t going to work. Five figures is much easier to swallow, and it could very well be the ace up the G90’s sleeve.