Payne: Genesis G90, affordable land yacht

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning Hyundai created a luxury sedan. And Hyundai saw that it was good. So they made more.

One of the most unforgettable cars I’ve tested in recent years is the Hyundai Genesis midsize luxury sedan. Easy on the eyes — Hyundai designers borrowed heavily from Audi and BMW styling — the tech-stuffed Genesis offered BMW 5-series size at a 3-series price. Genesis was stuffed with everything but the kitchen sink (though, honestly, I might just have overlooked it) including clever features like lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise-control that can bring the car to a full stop — features that I had only previously experienced on uber-luxury chariots.

So eager was Genesis to please, it even offered two ways to control the center console screen: American-like touchscreen or German-like rotary dial. More modern than the made-for-Korea Equus limousine, the Genesis was Hyundai’s first real offering cooked to U.S. tastes.

Customers gobbled it up.

Hyundai’s midsize luxury offering has sold like a 12-ounce filet mignon, topping the charts for customer loyalty in a segment that includes Lexus’s ES350. It built its success on customers like my buddy Joe, a Lexus ex-patriot. Joe loves his Genesis. Priced from just $39,700, his sleek 311-horsepower steed has the good looks of an Audi A6 combined with the reliability of a Lexus.

Expect to see a lot more of that winged Genesis logo.

Encouraged by the Genesis’ success and Americans embrace of all things Hyundai, the Korean automaker is launching a separate luxury line of Genesis models. In the book of Genesis, God created earth in seven days. Hyundai modestly expects its plans for global dominance will take a bit longer. But with six models planned for the next six years, it won’t be lying about.

The Hyundai Genesis has been renamed the “Genesis G80.” It will be followed in short order by a G70 compact sedan, midsize SUV, sport coupe and small ute. But every brand needs a flagship, and so to kick off the 2017 model year, Genesis is rolling out the all-new, full-size sedan christened the G90.

Following the G80 formula, the supersize G90 is derivative of German styling that has defined luxury beauty for decades. The Genesis looks like an Audi, BMW and Mercedes were all thrown into a blender. Then Hyundai stuffs this pretty confection with every amenity it can think of.

First seen in Detroit this year, the G90 announces itself with a giant, Audi-like mouth flanked by LED headlights with hockey-stick shaped running lights. Aft of the giant bow are endless, Audi-like slab sides ending in Mercedes-like tail lenses.

From design to budget-pricing, Genesis follows in the successful tire tracks of Lexus. Toyota’s luxury brand built its foundation on upwardly mobile Toyota customers with the Mercedes-knock-off LS model in 1992; then it developed its own look as its brand strengthened. Ditto Genesis.

For now the conservative G90 wears its wardrobe like hand-me-downs from the last-generation Audi A8. Where the new A8’s fascia is beautifully sculpted fascia with lower air-scoop detailing — a toned athlete chiseled from hours in the gym — the G90 shows baby fat, its form still maturing. That maturity should accelerate with the addition of brand manager Manfred Fitzgerald and designer Luc Donckerwolke, the Euro-geniuses behind Lamborghini’s renaissance. The pair are too late to Genesis to affect the G90, but their influence is already being felt in the spectacular Genesis Concept that debuted at April’s New York Auto Show. Expect to see a lot of the Concept in the 2018 G70 sedan and future G90 refreshes.

Perhaps of more interest to luxury yacht buyers is the G90’s palatial interior which is remarkably mature and rivals Audi and Jaguar.

Credit the Hyundai Equus, Hyundai’s first foray into the luxury market in 2010. Grown from an Asian chauffeur culture, the Equus never lacked in interior amenities, including massaging rear seats and home-theater seat units.

Begin with a 22-way driver’s seat, the most versatile in class (at last until the Lincoln Continental rolls into town with its 30-way wonder). Settle into this rolling throne, and you get it all: heating and cooling, thigh support-adjustment, upper-back adjustment, lumbar support, headrest adjustment, back massage and tea service at 4 p.m. (kidding about that last one).

The cabin is beautifully appointed, from the fine-leather stitched dash to 360-degree camera to heads-up display to exquisite Lexicon stereo speakers — their detailing worthy of their own art gallery show. For the G90, Genesis has settled on a Euro-like rotary knob to control the giant 12-inch touchscreen. I prefer touch controls like Chrysler’s supreme UConnect, but G90’s redundant buttons make the meaty knob tolerable.

Rear seat details have been similarly fussed over. At 37.8 inches, the G90 rivals the stretched Audi A8 and Jag XK for legroom. At 6-foot-5, I had room to spare, yet Genesis still gave me buttons on the front passenger seat to kick it even farther forward if desired. Speaking of front controls, your teen will appreciate the rear radio channel controls (the driver can deny access if it becomes too annoying).

On a 300-mile drive across British Columbia, I found the center console intuitive, the seats comfortable, the cabin whisper-quiet. At full squawk under my left foot, even the 365-horse twin-turbo V6 sounded a football field away thanks to the cabin’s double-laminated glass, triple-sealed doors and underbody cladding. The G90 is no nimble Cadillac CT6 — the Genesis tips the scales a full 500 pounds porkier — but it’s no boat either.

“Why would anyone buy want to buy a luxury car made by Hyundai?” asked a bemused Canadian as I emerged from my journey as fresh as when I started.

Good question. Super-size luxury chariots are the kingdom of icons like BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar, after all. Genesis’s answer? The same value that made the G80 a hit.

For just $69,050 everything above is standard on the G90. Everything. Your options are all-wheel drive and a choice of two engines: the 3.3-liter V-6 or 5-liter V-8. Fully loaded, you could drive away in an all-wheel drive 420-horse 8-holer loaded to the gills for just $73,150. A comparable Audi A8 would crest $95,000. That’s enough dough left over to buy a new Hyundai Elantra. Add a best-in-class drivetrain warranty of 10 years/100,000 miles. And Genesis will pick up your car for service so you’ll never have to set foot in a dealership. Nice.

Genesis? Could be the start of something big.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

2017 Genesis G90


Vehicle type

Front-engine, front or all-wheel

drive five-passenger sedan

Power plant

3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6;

5-liter V-8


8-speed automatic


4,784 pounds (V-6 AWD as tested)


$69,050 base ($71,550 V-6 AWD

as tested)


365 horsepower, 376 pound-feet

torque (V-6); 420 horsepower,

383 pound-feet torque (V-8)


0-60 mph, 5.1-5.8 seconds (V-6-

V-8 Car and Driver est.);

top speed: 150 mph

Fuel economy

EPA 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway

/20 mpg combined (V-6 AWD);

15/23/18 mpg combined (V-8 AWD);

report card


Passenger-friendly rear seats;

best bang-for-buck in lux


Derivative styling; that radar

brick in the grille


Grading scale: Excellent ★★★★Good ★★★ Fair ★★Poor ★