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car review

The 2023 Genesis G90.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The Genesis G90 is a large and sumptuous sedan, designed to be as comfortable in the rear seats as in the front. It has two main strengths over its competition: It has a minimalist approach to the cabin, which is filled with comforts and conveniences, but doesn’t overwhelm the passengers, and it costs less. Much less.

The G90 costs $115,150, all in, and it also includes five years of basic maintenance. There’s no haggling, no additional freight and pre-delivery inspection (PDI) fee, no “retailer administration fee” or “market adjustment fee” – just the provincial and federal taxes. There’s only one trim level in Canada, so you get the 1,400-watt Bang & Olufsen surround sound system with its 23 speakers, whether you like it or not. The B&O option – with small speakers that rise up from the front fascia – used to cost an extra $10,000 in the Audis of two decades ago, but it’s standard with the G90. The only way to spend any more money is for the $1,700 matte paint option.

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The Bang & Olufsen option with the small speakers that rise up from the front fascia used to cost an extra $10,000 in the Audis of two decades ago, but it’s standard with the 2023 Genesis G90.Handout

(For the record, Genesis sells a less-equipped car in the United States for about US$10,000 less. It’s not a mild hybrid and makes less power, and doesn’t include the high-end sound system and various other options, such as rear-wheel steering and air suspension.)

The main competitors to Genesis are the German makers, and their equivalent vehicles cost at least $30,000 more. They offer more too, but you may not want it: huge screens, front and rear, and larger engines. It will take a while to lure buyers away from the appeal of a German badge – the attitude of “I could spend less, but hey, it’s a Mercedes” – but Genesis is making inroads that Lexus, Jaguar and Cadillac can’t seem to find.

It’s doing this by now acting quickly on market demand. After all, it’s been barely six years since Genesis launched as Hyundai Motor Co.’s premium brand. The evolution has not always been so quick, however: Sedans are popular in South Korea and the first three Genesis vehicles to come to North America were sedans, so sales here were slow. The company explained this as dipping a toe into the luxury market, while clearly the world was calling for SUVs.

The first model was the full-size G90, and now it’s been redesigned for a second generation. The V8 engine of the previous model is gone, replaced by a 3.5-litre V6 that’s boosted by a mild-hybrid, 48-volt supercharger. The new engine makes 409 horsepower compared with the 420 of its predecessor, but more important, it now makes 415 lb-ft of torque from just 1,300 revolutions per minute, compared to the earlier 383, which needed much higher revolutions before kicking in.

There will likely be an all-electric version in the next year or two, just as there’s already an all-electric edition of the slightly smaller G80 sedan, but Genesis isn’t talking about that yet. It does say its entire lineup will be all-electric by 2030, but it’s also possible the G90 will be replaced by something quite different by then.

Tech specs

  • Base price/as tested: $115,150
  • Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6, with 48-volt electric supercharger
  • Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic / all-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres per 100 kilometres): 13.6 city, 9.6 highway, 11.8 combined (premium recommended)
  • Alternatives: BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, Lexus LS

The G90 is a good-looking limousine, with a long, clamshell hood that adds a sense of power.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Looks

The G90 is a good-looking limousine, if you like limousines. A long, clamshell hood adds a sense of power, while the large C-pillars ahead of the trunk and 21-inch wheels lend a feeling of strength. Door handles extend out when the car unlocks, and the open doors close with the touch of a button. The brand’s trademark parallel light bars form the ultra-thin headlamps and tail lights, which extend down the side across the front wheel well. Those headlamps are actually small squares, each containing 200 micro-optic lenses. (Good luck finding a replacement at your local Canadian Tire.)

Interior

The comfort of the G90's interior is outstanding.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The strength is in the minimalistic approach, but there’s nothing minimal about this large sedan. The quality of materials cannot be faulted by any rational passenger, and the comfort of the seats is outstanding. The various screens are well integrated into the dashboard without being in your face, and can be controlled by either touch or a central dial. The transmission shifter is a second, large dial on the centre console.

There’s even a “mood curator” that you can set, depending on how you’re feeling. It will co-ordinate the massage settings on the seats, the ambient light and window shades, the music on the sound system and even choose one of two scents in the cabin to quell any feelings of road rage.

In the back row, the right-hand seat can recline to a long stretch and, if the seat ahead of it is slid forward, a foot rest will raise to add a little extra comfort. This is all very pleasant and matches the costly options found on the big German sedans, but Canada’s one-price-fits-all model means you have to get this and pay for it. Frankly, a minority of G90s will probably be driven by chauffeurs – any privately owned sedan will most likely be driven by its owner, and the reclining seat will be a gimmick for the kids. This is one standard feature that, to my mind, should be an option.

Performance

The Genesis G90 replaced the V8 engine of the first generation with a 3.5-litre V6 boosted by a mild-hybrid, 48-volt supercharger.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

It’s a pleasure to drive the G90, and the four-wheel steering helps make the long sedan more nimble. Those rear wheels will turn in up to four degrees at slow speeds for parking, and turn out to a lesser degree at higher speeds for faster cornering. There’s an electronic Sport mode that works well to sharpen responses, but the Eco mode and Chauffeur mode just dulled everything down, and I couldn’t tell any difference between the two.

There’s no shortage of power, though not the instant throttle response that you’ll get with an electric vehicle. The G90′s standard air suspension raises and lowers the car a little for different road surfaces, and it’s linked to the front cameras that help it prepare for bumps ahead. This was a pioneering (and software-heavy) technology from Mercedes a decade ago that all the large limos now use to cosset their passengers.

Technology

The screens on the 2023 Genesis G90 can be controlled by either touch or a central dial. The transmission shifter is a second, large dial on the centre console.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Every new generation of a vehicle includes new or improved driver’s assistance features and the G90 is no different. Most of them you’ll never notice, but the digital key that can be programmed to your phone is apparent. The new GV60 offers a similar feature, with which you only need your phone and your fingerprint to unlock and operate the car. You can share the digital key with others if you want and it will even work if the phone is turned off.

Cargo

The trunk on the 2023 Genesis G90 has 300 litres of cargo space, which is less than the German competition.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The trunk has only a 300-litre capacity, which is about three-quarters the size of its German competition. The space needed for the mild-hybrid system accounts for much of the difference.

The verdict

It’s comfortable, it’s cosseting and compared with its competition, it’s clearly good value for money. Genesis still doesn’t have the well-established brand appeal of Mercedes or BMW or Audi, but it’s working quickly to catch up.

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