In a tiny corner of the luxury car world there is a brand producing automobiles that are criminally underrated. Spun from the depths of the Hyundai/Kia more-for-your-money juggernaut, the three-year-old Genesis brand makes sedans (and eventually an SUV that can’t come soon enough for the brand) that exceed the sum of their parts-bin origins. The facelifted 2020 Genesis G90, which we drove briefly through the hills of Los Angeles, is the latest glimmering and bravely styled example.
Sure, the spinning off of luxury brands is a hallmark of successful Japanese manufacturers and a path to bigger profits for any carmaker. But the notion that Hyundai would challenge the German patriarchs of opulence, the makers of the great S-Class and 7 Series, seemed laughable right up until it became a reality.
But let’s be careful here: Genesis’s merits are twofold. First and most obvious is that it provides a lot of car for the money. Genesis products, like its Hyundai and Kia siblings, are aimed squarely at our value receptors. But its bigger wager, the one that makes this flagship sedan so compelling, is the simple and intuitive way it presents the G90 as a luxury car. It forgoes many of the gimmicks that help others maintain brand image – road-reading air suspension, gesture controls, the indignity of talking to a machine like we experienced in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 and 2019 Mercedes-Benz A 220 – and instead substitutes comfort and a competent luxury experience.
This is not a full redesign. In fact, the G90 has been around since the 2017 model year. But for 2020 it comes of age with shapely new sheetmetal everywhere save the doors and roof, and a massive, bold grille. Its optional 19-inch wheels feature a grid pattern that matches its new maw. And it’s significantly quieter. This is the car that should have launched the brand, a flagship that makes a statement.
The V8 makes the G90 quicker, but not meaningfully so. The V6, which delivers nearly equal peak torque 3,700 rpm earlier in the rev range, is the practical choice for more than just financial reasons. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional with either engine.
There’s ample safety tech. Nine of the G90’s standard driver aids are either new or revised for 2020, but the most striking is its remarkably gifted lane-keeping system, which accurately centers the sedan in its lane with none of the pinballing so common to these systems. That it’s probably the best system on the market today speaks to the Korean brand’s ability to do tech right without resorting to unfinished distractions. There’s also adaptive cruise, a surround-view monitor, a blind-spot monitor, ultrasonic parking sensors and a rear cross-traffic alert, among others.