The days are numbered for the big luxury sedan, even one as competent as this.
When Genesis was spun out as its own brand, the G90 luxury sedan was chosen to lead the way. A flagship sedan makes sense when the point was to show that Korea could mix it alongside the Germans. And the G90 did that, feeling solid and over-engineered. Now the big car has had its midlife makeover, gaining a whopping new grille and some other distinctive styling details that better align the G90 with Genesis' design language. It has also received a bit of a tech upgrade, with some new advanced driver assistance systems.
And yet, despite the car's competence it felt out of step, like it belongs to a reality close to ours but subtly different. In this alternate universe, there's no climate change, and so the naturally aspirated V8 in the $76,695 G90 5.0L Ultimate still makes plenty of sense. Its 420hp (313kW) and 383lb-ft (519Nm) is more than enough to move the big rear-wheel drive sedan via an in-house eight-speed automatic transmission. And it's only 1 mile per gallon more thirsty than the twin-turbo V6 version we tested last time, at 24mpg (9.8l/100km) on the highway and 17mpg (13.8l/100km) in the city.
Just as importantly, in this alternate timeline, the SUV never reached ascendancy. Instead, executives still flock to the sedan as their preferred form of conveyance, and the G90's newly sharpened jawline offers a more classic look alongside the power bulges of a BMW 7 Series or the crisp folds and creases of an Audi A8. The high points are the intricately detailed headlights, a new family look for the Genesis range, and the 19-inch alloy wheels that go from flat disc to G-Matrix crisscross pattern to tire, seemingly skipping the rim altogether.
That massive pentagonal G-Matrix-filled grille is a bit of a sticking point, though. On the plus side, it drastically cuts down the chances that the G90 will be misidentified as an Audi. Viewed head-on, it calls to mind Superman ripping open his shirt to reveal his emblem, the horizontal stripes across the headlights standing in for fingers. From most other angles, it looks just a little too large. Like those imposing wheels, our eyes expected to see more body and less brightwork.
The revisions to the G90's interior tend more to a new mix of materials than the radical plastic surgery that has resculpted the exterior. The wood trim has an open grain, and it looks and feels much better than the overly glossy stuff that Genesis used to use. The leather is thick and luxurious, as are the carpets. And if there isn't quite enough room in the back, there are easy-to-reach buttons on the side of the front passenger seat that allow your driver to quickly move it into its footwell and away from whoever it is that's sitting in the back behind it.
That's another thing about this alt-Earth—not only do lots of executives still have flash sedans, many of them have drivers to do the actual driving. After all, why have both such a long wheelbase and that extra zip code of legroom if you're not going to sit in the back and enjoy it? Each rear seat occupant gets their own infotainment screen, and the center armrest contains a scroll wheel and all the other buttons one needs to operate the system. More buttons control the two rear seats themselves; the left side through 12 different directions and the right through 14, plus heating and cooling. It's quiet back there, too, courtesy of active noise cancellation.
It's not exactly spartan from the driving seat, though. This one has a 22-way adjustment (16-way for the front passenger). And heating. And cooling. The view straight ahead takes in the large analog physical gauges on the main instrument panel and a heads-up display, with the 12.3-inch infotainment screen embedded in the center stack. It is a touchscreen, but you can use the physical controls in the center console to interact with it as well. The infotainment UI is clear and attractive, and there's also (wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
At 204.9 inches (5,204mm) long and 75.4 inches (1,915mm) wide, there is never escaping the footprint of the G90, in this reality or any other. On the road, it's best to adopt a relaxed driving style. The G90 features a range of drive modes, but Smart seemed to offer the same mpg as Eco and the same comfort as Comfort, and it would probably be as sporty as Sport if I had been trying to rag it. Although I didn't try to hustle the G90, I am quite sure that on a closed track—or an open road when one has to evade kidnappers, ever a danger in this neighboring universe—even a sedan as large as this should show a clean pair of heels to a similarly luxurious SUV.
But we don't live in that parallel dimension. Here on our Earth, climate change is an issue, and I can only hope that the flagship that replaces the G90 in a few years incorporates some of the Korean car industry's clever electric powertrai