Expert Reviews

2020 Genesis G90 First Drive Review

JORDAN STATION, ON – Welcome to one of the only launches this year that’s not a midsize luxury SUV. Yes, that said “launch”. The 2020 Genesis G90 luxury sedan is so thoroughly redesigned and rethought, its makers prefer to think of today as the kickoff of a new product. It’s certainly the North American launch of the 2020 G90 – Genesis HQ in Korea gives its regional offices plenty of leeway in their given markets and the USA isn’t as ready as we Canadians for this new vehicle.

The G90’s mission, Genesis PR lead Jarred Pellat says, is to be “a rolling oasis” of comfort and quiet, especially during long trips. So, let’s hop on for a ride.

Rolling oasis? Check. Driving, you quickly notice how this well-proportioned beast provides all the power and pampering baubles needed to soothe all the many moods of a stressed executive in a hurry.

Let’s break that down. First, the proportions: short front and back overhangs accommodate a longer wheelbase of 3,160 mm, which means miles of legroom and headroom. (For perspective, the entire Fiat 500 Cabrio is only 500mm longer than G90’s wheelbase.) Back passengers are almost as spoiled as those in front. And not just for space.

The power is considerable. Its 5.0L V8 naturally aspirated engine emits 420 hp at 6,000 rpm and 383 lb-ft torque at 5,000 rpm. The fuel efficiency for such a big and hefty vehicle is respectable: city 15.4 L/100 km, highway 10.2 L/100 km, and combined 13.1 L/100 km. (You can special-order a V6 engine and save $3,000, but they’re not shouting about that option, and it’ll take a while to get here from Korea.)

The drive modes modify the feel significantly, moving as they do from Eco to Comfort, Sport, and Custom. Custom? It lets you pick and choose elements of each of those first three. So, you could, say, combine Comfort’s steering with Sport’s suspension and so on. Charming.

Some of the G90’s elegant proportions come courtesy of the rear-wheel drive architecture. No, it’s not a RWD vehicle, but the AWD Canadians love. There is, however, a back–front power split ratio of 60/40, so you still get some delicious RWD-esque kick.

More than empty posturing

We’ll talk about luxuries throughout the rest of the article, starting here with the seats. All four seats are individually heated and cooled within three climate zones, one zone for each front seat, and the third shared in the back.

The driver enjoys 22-way seat adjustment (18-way for front passenger) and, if they like, wellness customization with “smart posture care”. What’s that? Select the “smart” button and the centre screen (now fully touch-sensitive) asks your height, in-seam, and weight measurements. Once you confirm, it shapes the seat to best form your posture according to standards set by the German ergonomic society of good posture or something. “What it suggests may not be what you expect or would ever choose at first,” Pellat says, but it’s worth trying at least once on a long trip. So, I did try it. And it wasn’t what I expected. Yet after extended morning and afternoon drives, my back did not ache as it often has in the past. #OldDogNewTricks

As for the passengers in the back, the G90’s no slouch (sorry) here either, with 12-way movement on the left and 14-way on the right. The ski door in the armrest is the only part of the back bench that folds down. Consider the delicate machinery, bending the seat 12 or 14 ways from Sunday. Pellat says it didn’t make sense to rattle all that into premature disuse by also designing the seats to flatten. Consequently, there’s an escape rip cord in the trunk in case someone inadvertently gets locked back there during a heist in Vegas.

Attention to detail

Before we took to the road, Pellat’s colleague Richard Trevisan, Brand Director, talked about the Genesis brand. Despite being a global product, Genesis wants you to know they’re proud to represent Korea. In fact, a heavily fortified version of the G90 is what South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in drives.

Another aspect of Korean pride, he said, is the careful attention to detail. Take the wooden trim throughout. The 2020 G90 isn’t overly buffed, and that’s intentional. Excessive lacquering gives the effect of a 1990s airport gentlemen’s club. Less, in this case of treatment, is more. The warm imperfections inherent in “open pore wood” render every single G90 utterly unique.

When you hear some of the language designers toss about, it’s advisable to pause and remember: they’re designers, not writers! Keep that in mind while you listen to what Pellat and Trevisan shared about their designers’ philosophies and how these spilled into the final product.

We’ll start with the design of the stance. “The long parabolic lines carry tension from the front right to the back of the car like the fully drawn bow of an archer.” Okay, it’s a bit much, but take another look at the pictures here of the G90 on profile and diagonally. It’s there. When you buy an expensive car, you need some good cocktail party chatter about it.

The lead designer considers light as one of the four main elements of design. And in good design, form follows function. That means thinking not just about the physical lights themselves, decorating and functioning throughout the vehicle, but also what gets illuminated – by the G90 and by natural light. The thinking proves functional and not just decorative. For instance, if the computer senses sunshine beating down on your arms while you’re driving, it may adjust the cooling level in the seat. Thoroughly functional, that.

On the other hand, the placement of the G90’s lights can get downright playful: note how the rear quad lamps are the shape of the Genesis wing logo, the actual one no longer present there.

Another noticeable design theme is the diamond. The placement of some of the lights were meant to sparkle like crystals or diamonds. The cross-hatch pattern on the grill is a diamond and you’ll see it all over, inside and out, from the stitching of the soft leather seats to the rims.

Quick and delicate

Enough cocktail party blather! Back to the ride: in the morning we followed an intentionally bendy and hilly route following Southern Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment. It was a good opportunity to test the G90’s driving dynamics.

Ever seen footage of Mohammed Ali at his peak? The popular refrain was how quick and delicate he was for such great size. That describes our morning drive in the G90. It’s big but surprisingly nimble.

After lunch, we were largely on highways, a great chance to experience the rolling oasis. However, these were Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area highways, chock full of idiots on the last day before the last long weekend of summer. A great way to test the safety features and brakes.

Without the 17-speaker Quantum Logic stereo on, the ride is exceptionally quiet. It’s not the dead zone of a recording studio, but well baffled as a rolling oasis needs to be, with extra padding hidden behind the passengers and extra soundproofed glass throughout. A few times, I lowered various windows and was surprised at the difference in noise levels.

All-in packaging and pricing

Tease as I might about the baubles and design jargon, I salute Genesis’s philosophy regarding safety features. That is, they believe customers shouldn’t have to pay more to get the safest iteration of the vehicle. And the G90 comes loaded with all the classics and some interesting new ones.

Like the blind spot view monitor. Remember Honda’s blind spot camera built into the right mirror? More than once, I’ve wondered in articles like this why such a feature isn’t on both sides of the car and in all cars. Well, Genesis must’ve read my copy because, when you tap the indicator for a right or left turn, the G90 blind spot view monitor displays in high-definition whatever is or isn’t in that blind spot.

Then there’s the safe exit warning. This is an insistent noise the car makes before the passenger opens the door when something big is coming towards where the door’s about to be. If that sentence doesn’t make sense, ask your cyclist friends about being doored. Safe exit sees and warns exiting passengers about cars, motorcycles, and, yes, bicycles.

All in, the G90 comes with everything here for $89,750. That even includes freight, leaving only the taxes. There are no options except the cheaper V6 engine and a rear seat entertainment centre for $2,500 more.

What remains to be seen is whether people will embrace any new luxury vehicle that isn’t another SUV. Mind, Genesis will be releasing one of those next year.