Once upon a time, Hyundai’s public relations department bragged about the fact that the company’s compact economy sedan, I recall it as the Elanta but it may have been the Excel, was the most-stolen car in America. What the PR team didn’t point out was that the car was being stolen not because thieves wanted to drive it, but because it had a quality radio that was extremely easy to pop out and sell on the black market.
Not long thereafter, Hyundai invited a group of American automotive writers to visit South Korea, where the next-generation Sonata was going into production.
But our Hyundai hosts had us spend lots of time at their ship-building facilities, where the company produced what apparently were the finest sailing vessels outside of the U.S. Navy’s fleet. I came home thinking the point of the exercise had been an unspoken message that, “We know we don’t build great cars, but look at the ships we build and give us a decade and we’ll be just as good on the highway as we are on the open sea.”
It took a few years longer than a decade, but Hyundai not only achieved its goal but surpassed it with an impressive array of Hyundai, Kia and now Genesis vehicles. Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury line, like Cadillac to GM or Lexus to Toyota, or like Ford wishes Lincoln might be again (perhaps we just need to wait yet another decade?).
For the past week, I’ve been driving the flagship of the Genesis fleet, the G90, albeit one with the smaller of the two available engines. The G90 I’ve been driving is empowered by a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6, which is good for 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. Significantly, the torque peaks at 1,300 rpm and holds that peak all the way to 4,500 revs. Combine it with an 8-speed automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive, and this big luxury sedan can get pretty sporty, especially with 14.2-inch front disc brakes inside 19-inch wheels.
The other engine is a 5.0-liter V8, normally aspirated and pumping out 420 horsepower and 383 pound-feet. We recently drove a 2017 G80 with that engine beneath its hood.
We wrote that because of its power curves, the V8 felt more like a strong V6. Now we can report that that twin-boosted V6 feels more like a powerful V8, again thanks to its power curves. The G90 tester also is equipped with H-Trac, Hyundai’s all-wheel-drive system.
As the flagship, the G90 is larger and more luxurious than the G80, but because of its V6, it gets significantly better fuel economy along with what feels like enhanced dynamic performance. Sure, it’s also more expensive — but only by around $6,500.
The list of standard features is long and impressive. This is a luxury car and not only designed around those sitting up front, but those riding in the back seats. After all, the Gs are designed as limos for Asian executives who have chauffeurs to drive them, so the back seat has an array of switchgear to control various creature features.
But don’t feel sorry for the G90 driver, who can explore such options as Eco, Smart, Sport and even Individual driving modes, the later allowing the driver to select various parameters for a customized dynamic response.
The G90 also is the first car I’ve driven that has what I’ve found to be intuitive voice-recognition technology.
Bottom line: It took Hyundai a little more than a decade to produce world-class automobiles, and maybe another decade or so to join the elite luxury level, but in both cases, the waiting was worth it.
2017 Genesis (Hyundai) G90 RWD 3.3T Premium
Vehicle type: 5-passenger full-size sedan, rear-wheel drive
Base price: $61,100 Price as tested: not available
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6, 365 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 376 pound-feet of torque @ 1,300 – 4,500 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 124.4 inches Overall length/width: 204.9 inches / 75.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,630 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 17 city / 24 highway / 20 combined
Assembled in: Ulsan, South Korea