I recently had the opportunity to drive a $75,000 Hyundai. To be clear, the vehicle I drove wasn’t quite a Hyundai: it was the new G90 from Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand, which was created to compete with the likes of Cadillac and Lexus and Acura and Mercedes-Benz. But, when you really get down to it, it was a $75,000 Hyundai. And I liked it.
But before I get into all that, let’s start from the start: Yes, Hyundai is now making a $75,000 vehicle. The Genesis brand was launched for the 2017 model year with two products: a luxury sedan called the G80 and a luxury sedan called the G90. This is in spite of the fact that consumers are demanding SUVs more than ever, and all signs say buyers want SUVs, and everyone is going out and buying SUVs in huge numbers. Hyundai launched Genesis with sedans. I have no idea why this is, and I’m sure the dealers are wondering the same thing.
But regardless, it happened, and I decided I wanted to review the most impressive Genesis model, which is the flagship sedan. In previous years, this was called the Hyundai Equus — but now it’s been redesigned, and it’s called the Genesis G90. And, yes, the cost figure is accurate: The G90 starts around $69,500, and the one I drove was around $72,000, but you can equip the G90 to $75,000 or more if you get all the options and the big engine.
The big engine, I should say, is a V8 — a 5.0-liter unit with 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. The one I drove, however, had the engine everyone is going to get, which is a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6 with 376 lb-ft. For 55 horsepower and seven lb-ft, the V8 isn’t worth the added cost — or the fuel economy hit.
And, indeed, I realized that right away, because the G90 is pretty quick even though it’s “only” a V6. In fact, this whole “only” a V6 business should probably stop right about now, given the situation with the Ford F-150 Raptor, and the Ford GT, and now this car. This thing feels just as fast as the old crop of V8-powered luxury sedans — and everyone else is moving to a base-level V6, too, including the venerable Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
But, of course, people don’t buy a car like the G90 for speed; instead, they buy it for comfort and equipment, and the G90 has both in droves. In terms of ride quality, I found the G90 to be a little harsher than the top-end vehicles in this segment, like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW M760i — but that’s to be expected, as it’s tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than those vehicles. However, it rode as well as a mid-level BMW or Mercedes-Benz model (think 5 Series or E-Class), and the interior quietness was a cut above those vehicles — again not quite up to the S-Class, but much closer. The driver’s seat was also tremendously comfortable, with a pillow-like headrest that made the G90 feel like the kind of car you could count on to comfortably and effortlessly cover big distances — something that’s usually left to the Germans.
As for features, the G90 also impresses. Though it doesn’t quite have everything you can get in an S-Class (there’s no panel heating, for example, or massaging seats — and where’s the air freshener fragrance?), it has everything you need and a lot of things you’ll never bother with, like rear controls for the infotainment screen and a sound system, which provides an “intimate concert experience where the boundaries of the vehicle seem to disappear” — a direct quote from the infotainment system.
In short, it’s a great car. But you knew it would be; Hyundai has been in the luxury sedan world for a while, and they’re not going to launch a new brand with something mediocre. The problem, of course, isn’t the car, but rather the name, and that’s where we get to the big question: Would you spend $75,000 for a Hyundai?
For many people, the answer is a hard no — regardless of the reasons why it’s a better value than most other luxury sedans. Most people simply don’t want to buy a car from an “upstart” brand, and they can afford a Mercedes-Benz or even a Bentley, and they’d never consider lowering themselves to some new thing called “Genesis.” For many people, the answer is the opposite: Of course they’d buy a G90 over the European rivals. Why pay more for a European car when you don’t get the Genesis’s impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty? Or any other major tangible benefits, really, aside from brand name?
Unfortunately for Hyundai, I suspect most people will fall into the former camp. But I also suspect Hyundai realizes that — and they’re in this for the long haul, committed to creating an excellent luxury brand to rival the greats, knowing the name recognition will take time to develop. This is just the beginning — and it’s a great start.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.