Genesis G90 bears little resemblance to its Hyundai origins

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 5.0 Ultimate: You can take the Genesis out of the Hyundai. …

Price: $70,650 as tested (no options on test vehicle).

Marketer’s pitch: “Authentic and relevant.”

Conventional wisdom: Once upon a time, “Ultimate Hyundai” might have been a reality TV show involving junky old cars and mud – lots of mud.

Reality: Not sure about “authentic,” but this is definitely in its own class.

Mission accomplished: While driving home on the afternoon I was to receive the Genesis G90, I turned onto my street to spy a seriously fancy-looking sedan parked in front of a neighbor’s house. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “They must have some rich visitors. Mercedes? Bentl— say, wait a minute. That’s the Genesis.” The fleet driver had parked a couple of houses away to add some last-minute polish.

So I’d have to say the Genesis mission is now complete: If they can make Mr. Driver’s Seat do a double take, I think they can fool all of the people all of the time.

What it is: Genesis is a new brand from Hyundai, following the path of Honda with Acura, Toyota with Lexus, and Nissan with Infiniti from the 1990s — separate the brand, class up the joint, and rake in the profits.

Hyundai takes a bit of a risk, though, by using a onetime Hyundai model name for the new brand. 

Outside: The badge evokes Bentley, as does the long sedan hood and the overweight size – which also has a touch of 7 Series to it.

Inside: OK, so people may be fooled with a quick glance. But what happens inside is far more important. And, in there, the G90 keeps up as well. The wide, comfortable driver’s seat — covered in Nappa leather — feels almost just right, stopping just this side of the Lexus' super-caress. A multitude of adjustments even include widening and narrowing the wings, a la Jaguar (and others). Silver buttons and trim and real wood line the front panel, completing the experience.

Up to speed: The 5.0-liter V-8 produces 420 horsepower. It rockets the G90 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver, super fast and fun for a sedan. And the exhaust note is delightful along the way.

Shifty: Genesis offers a nice shifter — with a silver T handle and a separate button for Park. Shift capability comes through paddles in the steering wheel. The eight-speed automatic operates seamlessly, and shift function is delightful.

On the road: For a big, fat sedan, the G90 handles with some ease. Not a lot of body roll makes the curves a bit fun, although you’ll still want to go a bit slower than normal.

Staying informed: The 12.3-inch HD navigation system is among the biggest, clearest screens you can find. The driver can watch radio from one screen and map from another, and the map is readable even if it’s on the “assistant” screen.

The rear-view camera is, of course, better than real life, and offers views from above as well. 

Play some tunes: The Lexicon 17-speaker 7.1 surround-sound audio system performs admirably. I would put it in the A category, not quite A-plus, which requires goose bumps and seriously clear sound.

A rail of buttons across the bottom of the stereo controls all manner of choices, and knobs handle tuning and volume. A console knob guides users through the more in-depth adjustment, and works fairly simply.

A problem I’d long noticed in Hyundai and Kia cars crops up in the Genesis as well: The stereo often misses the opening notes of a song when skipping around. Frustrating.

Friends and stuff: Sturgis Kid 4.0 appreciated his ride in the backseat, with a full range of adjustments, including recline, heating, and cooling.

Trunk space is 15.7 cubic feet, and the console opens right into the trunk, for rich kids to store their multitude of toys and accessories.

Time is on my side: Of course, a silver, numberless clock adorns the center of the dashboard, always the final piece of the luxury and status puzzle.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 20 mpg along my usual highways and byways. The G90 prefers premium but can slum it on regular.

Where it’s built: Ulsan, South Korea

How it’s built: Consumer Reports expects the G90’s reliability to be about average.

In the end: Judging from my reader feedback, I’m not sure how open this country is to a luxury Hyundai. So splitting off the brand was a wise idea, and giving it all the nuances of an Acura or Lexus finishes the job. 

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