2016 Genesis G90 review
What is it?:
This is Hyundai’s new flagship model under its new flagship brand. Although there have been range-topping Genesis-badged models before (indeed, the current 3.8-litre Genesis executive saloon is still on sale in the UK), this G90 is the first of six all-new models.
This BMW 7-Series-sized full-size limousine will be joined by smaller G80 and G70 saloons. There will also be a mid-sized coupé and two Genesis SUVs, which are all due to arrive over the next four years.
The company says the new Genesis family is primarily aimed at Korea, the US, China and Middle Eastern markets. Sources say the brand is expected to ‘spread into Europe’ eventually, with the two SUV models most likely to arrive in showrooms.
Hyundai established a new ‘Prestige Design Division’ to develop the G90, and it’s fair to say that the company has thrown everything at creating this car. The effort kicks off with a completely re-engineered rear-drive platform. Aside from a 4.5in wheelbase stretch, the company says the new structure is 6% stiffer in “overall bending rigidity” than the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Some 52% of this structure is made from what Hyundai is referring to as advanced high-strength steel (up from 17% of the outgoing platform), while 650ft of adhesive is used to bond the structure together. Interestingly, the structure is also designed to cope with the ultra-onerous ‘small overlap’ frontal crash tests now being carried out by US authorities.
One area where Hyundai wants the G90 to be class-leading is on refinement. To this end, the cabin is lined with extra layers of sound-absorbing materials, including acoustic film on all the windows, three-layer weather seals on the doors and a single seal around the powertrain bay. The car features hollow 19in alloy wheels that help reduce the transfer of tyre noise into the cabin. Even the rigidity of the transmission housing has been improved, while a new variable intake valve has been designed to reduce intake resonance at specific engine speeds.
The car’s structure rolls on substantial subframes, with double wishbone suspension up front and a multi-link set-up at the rear. This V8 model offers four switchable driving modes and ACS adaptive damping that works on both rebound and compression. ‘HTRAC’ all-wheel drive is an option on this platform, with the power take-off sending up to 40% of the engine’s torque to the front wheels.
What’s it like?:
Even though the G90’s styling was overseen by Peter Schreyer (responsible for some of Audi’s landmark ‘Bauhaus-era’ cars), the G90 clearly fails to establish a distinctive design language. It’s big and imposing, certainly, but the car just doesn’t stand out or, more importantly, immediately deliver a fresh character of its own. The big grille, loosely based on the current Hyundai face, is a particular disappointment. If you are trying to launch a new automotive brand, this is not the way to announce yourself.
You could employ a similar criticism for the G90’s interior. It’s a festival of wood, leather and neatly drawn switchgear, and has a bespoke audio system. A big, clear head-up display and wide colour infotainment screen are standard, along with individual seats in the rear and 22-way adjustable front seats that have been approved by ‘Aktion Gesunder Rücken’ – the German campaign for healthier backs.
But while the cabin doesn’t have a stand-out design theme, it is undoubtedly beautifully constructed and assembled. And while European car makers move to massively reduce the button count, Hyundai sticks with the tested formula of a switch for every function.
The basic architecture – with a high centre console and high dash – encloses the front seat passengers rather nicely. The stubby shift lever is well placed and the head-up and widescreen displays are crystal clear. The front seats are superb, completely supporting this driver’s back, and the headrests can be placed to just kiss the back of the head.
The G90’s down-the-road refinement is impressive. The quietness of the powertrain and lack of suspension noise in the cabin did, however, rather allow what tyre noise there was to stand out. The lack of wind ruffle around the A-pillars and wing mirrors was outstanding, though.
Despite being tuned on the Nürburgring, of all places, the G90 is not designed to be flung around. It is simply too big and well-planted to do anything other than sweep its occupants along – although on the tight hill roads of northern Seoul it proved exceptionally easy to place. Despite isolating the occupants, the G90’s contact points are well weighted. The steering has a satisfying heft and the brake response is also beautifully judged. It is not inert by any means, but the car’s chassis does neatly balance itself between alertness and stability.
Ultimately, the G90 has a kind of commanding competence that allows the driver to relax and not think much about the mechanics of conducting the car.
Should I buy one?:
You can’t, at least if you live in the UK or Europe. For the record, and while acknowledging that making direct currency conversions is never accurate, this super-plush machine sells for around £68,000 where it is available.
Styling and brand image aside, an owner would hardly feel short-changed, especially as Mercedes drives the S-Class further upmarket. There again, a decently equipped Audi A8 L is not so much more expensive.
It is certainly supremely refined and something of a consummate ground-covering machine. The front seats are just superb, and the G90 is both very pleasant to pilot and a fine way to be driven around.
But a new entry into a premium car market that seems to have locked out start-up brands has more than a mountain to climb. In isolation, the G90 is an impressive machine. But there can’t be many buyers willing to ignore the heritage and character of the European competition, even though the G90 would rarely be technically out-pointed by them.
Location Seoul, Korea; On sale Now; Price £68,000 (est) Engine V8, 5038cc, petrol; Power 420bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 383lb ft at 5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Kerb weight 2595kg; 0-62mph 5.7sec; Top speed 150mph; Economyna; CO2/tax band na