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2020 Genesis G90 Review

Ron Sessions | May 25, 2020

Introduction

2020 Genesis G90 front view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The cozy club that large luxury sedans inhabit doesn’t admit new members easily, or often. Lexus pulled off an upset 30 years ago with its LS and Porsche snuck the 4-seat Panamera saloon into its sports-car lineup a little more than a decade ago, but most luxury flagship sedans are basically the same ones that have been around for a half century or more. So the idea of a value-oriented flagship sedan for a segment that celebrates indulgence seemed like a longshot when Hyundai announced its first all-new vehicle for its all-new Genesis luxury division for 2017.

The resulting G90, while breaking no new ground from a technology or design standpoint, was exquisitely executed and manufactured. What the original G90 offered, however, was exceptional value, from its low (for the segment) base price to its lengthy everything-standard equipment list. What the G90 lacked was passion.

Four years into its product run, the G90 gets a significant exterior makeover. The 2020 model is officially just a mid-cycle refresh with updates consisting of an exterior facelift, as well as infotainment and safety technology improvements. But in terms of curb appeal, the new look alone is transformative. 

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a 2020 Genesis G90 with the top Ultimate trim, 5.0-liter V8 and rear-wheel drive. Including the $995 destination fee, the total came to $76,695. All-wheel-drive versions carry a $2,500 upcharge. 

What Owners Say

Before exploring the details of our Genesis G90 review, what follows are some insights into who is the buyer for this luxury flagship sedan and what their most and least favorite features of the vehicle are based on responses to the 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

J.D. Power categorizes the Genesis G90 as a large premium car along with the Audi A8, BMW 7 series, Jaguar XJ, Kia K900, Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera.

In the APEAL survey, G90 respondents aligned fairly closely with those in the large premium car segment as a whole. G90 buyers are largely male (83% vs 86% for the segment). The median age of G90 buyers in the survey was 71 (vs 68 years old for large premium cars as a whole). Median annual household income for G90 respondents was $340,909 vs $415,214 for the segment.

As with other large premium car respondents in the survey, the overwhelming majority of G90 buyers agreed that reliability and quality of workmanship were top purchase considerations. Both 91% of G90 buyers and large premium segment respondents indicated a preference for a car that stands out from the crowd.

Where G90 respondents diverged from the large premium segment norm was a unanimous avoidance of vehicles they think have high maintenance costs (vs 68% for the segment). Also, only 31% of G90 buyers considered themselves to be performance buyers (vs 60% for premium large car buyers as a whole).

Compared to the large premium segment as a whole, G90 respondents indicated their favorite aspects of the vehicle included the amount of trunk space, its fuel economy, driving range, the ease of adjusting the rear seats, ease of using the infotainment system’s voice recognition and hands-free features and ease of using the climate control system. Conversely, G90 respondents were less enthusiastic about the car’s exterior styling (keeping in mind they were evaluating 2019 models before the styling refresh for 2020), headlight effectiveness, ease of ingress and egress, and outward visibility.

What Our Expert Says

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the Genesis G90 measures up in each of the 10 categories that make up the 2019 J.D. Power APEAL Study.

Exterior

2020 Genesis G90 exterior view

Photo: Ron Sessions

When you take into account that exterior appearance was considered by 2019 APEAL study respondents to be among the car’s greatest weaknesses, it’s no surprise that Genesis designers devoted so much attention to updating that for the 2020 models. Among full-size luxury flagship sedans, curb appeal is king. 

All but the doors and roof of the 2020 G90’s exterior are new this year with fresh sheet metal, front and rear fascias and lighting. Most notable is the jumbo-sized pentagonal shield-shaped grille, the biggest and boldest in the Genesis line until the brand’s all-new SUVs begin their rollout starting later this year. The outsized grille features a prominent geometric diamond pattern that’s repeated in the luxury sedan’s 19-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lamps and interior stitching. Squinty-eyed LED headlamps flank the big grille up front with slender wraparound tail lamps forming horizontally themed ribbons of light at the rear.

With its long hood and generous dash-to-axle ratio, there can be no doubt that the G90 is anything but a premium luxury sedan. The G90’s classy profile, wide stance, bustle-back rear end and elongated rear cabin support its flagship mission statement.

Interior

2020 Genesis G90 interior and dashboard view

Photo: Ron Sessions

With a cabin crafted with topnotch materials, fit and finish, the G90 has the look and feel of a car with a six-figure price tag. Aside from some new colors, the G90’s interior is carried over largely unchanged for 2020. The cabin is a quiet retreat thanks to extensive soundproofing, generous use of acoustic glass and a noise cancellation system that works through the G90’s audio speakers. As expected in a car of this class, there are plenty of soft-touch, double-stitched leather hides on the dash, doors and console plus real open-pore wood cheering the interior.

Other luxury touches include a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, smart cruise control with stop and go, a head-up display, power-operated rear-door and back-window sunshades, and a suede headliner. Power soft-close doors are standard as well; just gently nudge a door toward the closed position and an electric motor will snug it tight and latch it.

Seats

2020 Genesis G90 backseat

Photo: Ron Sessions

The 2019 APEAL Study respondents gave the G90’s seats high marks. The seats are unchanged for 2020. Up front, the power-adjustable steering wheel motors up and away and the driver’s seat motors rearward to aid getting in and out. At the rear, large door openings give generous access to the back seat. Seating surfaces wear creamy Nappa leather coverings and offer heating and cooling front and rear. The cushy yet supportive driver’s seat adjusts 22 ways with a seatback that can literally articulate in the middle and offers settings for fine-tuning lumbar, lower cushion extensions and shoulder bolsters. In Ultimate trim, the rear seat’s outboard positions can be adjusted to individually recline and comfort any number of executive physiques.

Climate Control System

2020 Genesis G90 hvac controls

Photo: Ron Sessions

Also highly rated in the 2019 APEAL Study, the G90’s standard three-zone automatic temperature control with air quality and CO2 sensors is easy to operate. Up front, the driver and front passenger have their own temperature control knobs and share analog buttons for directing airflow and defroster air atop the front console. The only real negative occurs in bright sunlight, when the chrome climate control buttons reflect a lot of glare and can be hard to read. Rear seat occupants get their own ventilation ducts and have nearly as many knobs and buttons on the fold-down rear center armrest/console as front seaters to make backseat-specific climate control adjustments.

Infotainment System

2020 Genesis G90 infotainment system

Photo: Ron Sessions

The 2020 Genesis G90 keeps its already generously sized 12.3 infotainment display but makes it a touchscreen. The system still can be accessed via the console-mounted controller wheel, steering-wheel or voice controls as well as the analog volume and tuning knobs and shortcut hard buttons on the dash. New for 2020 is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring which allows users to make the 12.3-inch display mimic that on their mobile device. At this time, the cellphone mirroring only works on the front infotainment display; the pair of screens for rear seat passengers on the front seatbacks do not have the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto feature.

A rich-sounding premium 900-watt, 17-speaker surround-sound audio system is standard, with HD navigation, an AM/FM/HD Radio, SiriusXM and CD/DVD/MP3 playback capability. Also standard is a high-tech head-up display and wireless phone charger. The G90 is the first Genesis to offer over-the-air wireless updates for software and maps.

Storage and Space

As a premium large car, the G90 offers the expected generous spread-out space for passengers in the cabin, plus 15.7 cubic feet of luggage space in a trunk with remote, hands-free access. APEAL respondents gave the G90 high marks for trunk space and usable center console storage. 

Visibility and Safety

2020 Genesis G90 backup camera

Photo: Ron Sessions

APEAL Study participants found the 2019 G90 wanting in the areas of rearward visibility from the driver’s seat and visibility when changing lanes. While the 2020 styling refresh didn’t move any hard points such as roof pillars or head restraints to improve visibility, for 2020, Genesis expanded its already impressive roster of safety equipment to address these issues. These updates include Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance assist which not only warns the driver of unseen vehicles and pedestrians crossing behind the rear of the vehicle but will also apply the brakes to avoid a collision and Safe Exit Assist (shared with some Hyundai vehicles such as the Sonata) which will warn interior occupants if a person or vehicle is approaching an opening door and will keep a door from opening if the rear door child locks are activated. Other 2020 advancements include Lane Following Assist that adds mild corrective steering to help keep the G90 lane centered, Highway Driving Assist which is smart cruise control with steering assist for well-marked highways, and a Highway Auto Speed slowdown feature that will adjust vehicle speed to posted limits when the standard smart cruise control is engaged. 

These new safety systems are in addition 10 standard airbags, forward collision alert with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure prevention, automatic high-beam control, drowsiness detection and a blind-spot alert system with brake assist. It’s all standard; there are no extra-cost safety options as with many of the G90’s European competitors.

The 2020 Genesis G90 is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick + with Good ratings across the board for small- and moderate-overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength, head restraints, seats and headlamp effectiveness.

Engine/Transmission

2020 Genesis G90 V8 engine

Photo: Ron Sessions

Unchanged from 2019, G90 buyers can opt for a flagship-worthy 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 in the Premium model or an even more authoritative 420-hp 5.0-liter V8 in Ultimate trim. The 3.3-liter turbo V6 provides hushed locomotion, spooling up quickly with little or no lag, and develops a healthy 376 lb-ft of torque from 1300 to 4500 rpm. Around town, part-throttle response is effortless. On the highway, the 3.3T V6 can climb moderate uphill grades without the need for the G90’s slick-shifting 8-speed automatic to downshift.

The 5.0-liter V8, also teamed with the 8-speed automatic, offers a heartier punch for quicker acceleration and a deeper, more authoritative exhaust note. The V8’s 383 lb-ft of torque is developed at higher rpm than the turbo V6 and gives extra confidence for merging onto freeway onramps or passing slower cars on two-lane secondary highways.

Both V6 and V8 models are available with an all-wheel-drive system co-developed with 4WD experts Magna International. The system is set up to make the G90 feel like a rear-wheel-drive car, with drive torque apportioned to the front wheels as required for maintaining traction.

Fuel Economy

APEAL Study respondents ranked the G90’s fuel economy and driving range as two of its top ten strengths compared to large luxury sedans as a whole. EPA estimates for both the rear- and all-wheel-drive versions of the 3.3-liter V6 twin-turbo model are 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway The V8’s EPA estimates drop somewhat with the rear-drive 5.0-liter V8 netting a 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway/19 mpg combined rating and the AWD 5.0 version achieving a 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway/18 mpg rating. During a week of mostly residential cruising, I averaged just over 21 mpg in the G90 Ultimate RWD test car.

Compared to the premium large car segment with its greater preponderance of “performance” oriented buyers, it’s likely the G90’s older buyer base had more to do with the perceived good fuel economy of the Genesis luxury sedan than any mechanical factor. 

Driving Dynamics

2020 Genesis G90 driving dynamics

Photo: Ron Sessions

As with other large luxury sedans, the G90’s most endearing quality is its waftability. The G90 feels substantial, yet carries its generous proportions with dignity. The meaty 245/45R19 front and 275/40R19 rear all-season tires put down a big footprint and along with rack-mounted variable-ratio electric power steering that’s low-effort around town and steady and true on the highway inspire confidence. Computer-controlled adaptive shocks do a great job of damping body movement without a whole lot of fuss and allow the multilink suspension to tackle all sorts of road surfaces and endure impact harshness without rattling the china. Tracking straight and true, the G90’s large-diameter 4-wheel disc brakes deliver pinpoint control and crisp response for snubbing big luxury decisively. 

Drivers can experiment with different drive modes using a console-mounted switch. Whether set to Eco, Sport, Smart, Individual modes, each will customize throttle response, transmission shifts, shock damping and AWD settings to suit. I found Smart mode, one that learns and adapts to your driving style, to be best for the G90.

Neither the 3.3-liter turbo V6 nor the 5.0-liter V8 provide the kind of over-the-top performance you’ll find in a range-topping European flagship sedan. Of the two Genesis powerplants, the V6 turbo is the most polished and flexible, if not overly entertaining. The V8 is a bit more brusque, adding more Old School punch that can be held in reserve until needed for tactical advantage. 

Final Impressions

2020 Genesis G90 rear view

Photo: Ron Sessions

A phalanx of fresh premium SUVs are on their way to Genesis showrooms beginning later this year, but in the meantime, the G90 reigns as the flagship of the brand. No luxury brand worth its salt would dare claim premium territory without a large 4-door sedan in its lineup.

If value counts with large luxury buyers, the roomy, powerful, well-crafted, and everything-standard G90 with unbeaten 5-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranties and top-rated J.D. Power quality scores should count for something. With the fresh new design signature of the 2020 model, the G90 may be worth a second look.

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