When I hear the word “Genesis”, I immediately think of the yesteryear rock band fronted by Phil Collins. If you’re in the 30-plus age bracket, you’ll know what I’m talking about. However, the Genesis we’re referring to here is an altogether different entity, and the challenge for Hyundai is to get consumers to instantly associate this word with its luxury offshoot brand, which aims to emulate the success Toyota has achieved with Lexus and what Nissan has managed, to a lesser extent, to accomplish with Infiniti.
Given how crowded the automotive space is, it takes a lot for a new-born marque to register in the public psyche. Consumers tend to trust a brand with a legacy, and if a formerly non-existent nameplate is presented to them, it tends to be eyed with a certain degree of suspicion — at least until said brand becomes a tried-and-proven one. This is even more so in the premium luxury segment, which drips with snob factor.
Genesis recently crossed 200,000 cumulative global sales — just three years after the brand was born — but ME general manager Altar Yilmaz says the aim is to build organic growth, rather than chase volume with discounting and other incentives that do more harm than good in the long term.
It’s sustainable growth and increased brand recognition that Genesis is targeting with the revamped G90 flagship limo, which breaks free from the design language that’s characterised the marque’s models to date. Take a look at the images alongside and — if your perception is anything like mine — you’re probably seeing hints of Lincoln Continental, Jaguar XJ and Bentley Mulsanne. Feel free to add to this list…
There’s a deliberate agenda behind the profound design shift as the thinking within the Genesis brains trust was that the models to date looked too much like Hyundai offerings. That’s not a complete surprise as the G80 and G90 were originally intended to wear Hyundai badges. The G90 is effectively the successor to the Hyundai Equus, and the initial plan was for it to continue the lineage of the latter. However, the fact that it’s now part of the standalone Genesis brand has presented the opportunity to reinvent the car as something that stands apart from the Hyundai horde. So, where the outgoing G90 wore seemingly Mercedes/Audi-inspired clothes, the heavily facelifted model introduces styling cues that signal the new design direction the brand is heading in. That massive pentagonal grille up front sets it clearly apart from other luxury limos, and likewise the extra-long daytime-running-lights, which extend all the way to the front wheelarches. The derriere also makes an emphatic statement with a full-width taillight cluster that’s meant to mimic the brand’s winged logo.
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Styling is always a highly subjective area, so you can each arrive at your own conclusions about whether or not the new G90 is a step forward aesthetically. The expansive limo undoubtedly has road presence and it makes a more emphatic visual statement than its predecessor did.
Given the complete overhaul on the outside (only the doors carry over from the old car), it’s somewhat disappointing the interior is largely as per the outgoing model however, there are a couple of nice elements — such as the crystal-clear 12.3in infotainment touchscreen and Breitling-esque analogue clock nestled between the central air vents.
The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of adjustability, but the leather upholstery lacks the look, feel and aroma of the opulent cowhide you’d find in any of the premium German saloons. The rear seats are comfortable enough, and legroom is adequate — as you’d expect in a vehicle with 3,160mm wheelbase. That said, there isn’t enough space to slide your feet under the seats in front, which limits sprawling room somewhat. This doubtless wouldn’t be an issue in the stretched G90L, which stretches 5,495mm in length and has a massive 3,450mm wheelbase. However, the XXL variant wasn’t present at the launch drive, so we can only imagine what its interior space would be like.
The ‘Tau’ 5.0-litre V8 is a silky-smooth powerplant, and the eight-speed auto (built in-house by Hyundai) is also seamless in its operation. The result is near-silent, wafting progress — similar to what you’d experience in a Lexus, or even a Bentley. It lopes along with effortless ease, which means you can cover vast distances without feeling taxed in the slightest, regardless of whether you’re doing the steering or perched in the back seat. We only got to drive the length of Bahrain and back — just over 100km in total — but that was enough to get an insight into the G90’s super-relaxed demeanour.
The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 lacks the spine-compressing grunt of the turbocharged German heavyweights, but the G90 is more about refined touring than blistering acceleration. Even so, a sub-6sec 0-100kph sprint is hardly sluggish. Bear in mind the G90 weighs almost 2.2 tonnes, which means it’s carrying around a fair bit more lard than a Mercedes S450 L or BMW 740Li. Time will tell whether Genesis adopts some weight-saving measures in its next-gen limo.
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The G90’s hefty bulk means it’s not the nimblest of chariots, so there’s not much to be gained — apart from generous body roll and understeer — by hurling it at corners. The Genesis copes fine when pedalled more sedately, which is in any case how would-be owners (or their chauffeurs) are likely to drive it. This isn’t a lap-record chaser, so there’s no point in driving it like one.
The new G90 introduces some key new electronic driver aids, and these include Highway Driving Assist (HDA), which works in conjunction with Lane-Follow Assist (LFA) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) to semi-autonomously drive the car on the highway. HDA automatically manages both speed and lane position, but this doesn’t mean you can goof off and take a snooze as the system deactivates if you take your hands off the wheel for more than a few seconds.
Other interesting safety tech includes Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance-Assist (RCCA-A), which uses side radar to detect approaching obstacles, braking to avoid a collision if required. There’s also Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist (FCA-A), which can now detect cyclists, in addition to other vehicles and pedestrians. Even getting out of the car is now less risky as Safe Exit Assist (SEA) alerts the driver and passengers if with a chime and cluster warning message if there’s oncoming traffic when opening any of the doors.
There are many elements Genesis has got right with the revamped G90 — especially when it comes to its smooth, effortless cruising capability and supple ride quality. The 5.0-litre ‘Tau’ V8 is now almost a decade old, but this powerplant can still hold its own against the opposition with its refinement and power delivery. On the downside, the G90’s cabin quality isn’t quite there yet, but as a whole, the big Genesis is a credible offering in the luxury limo segment.