2017 Genesis G90 first drive review: A luxurious beginning

In the beginning, Honda created Acura. Toyota and Nissan looked upon it and saw it was good, and they beget Lexus and Infiniti.

Many years later, Hyundai looked upon these luxury makes, saw they were good, and beget the Genesis coupe and sedan followed by the Equus sedan. Hyundai looked upon the sales of its luxury cars, decided they were good, and separated Genesis from Hyundai.

That is, in essence, the genesis of Genesis, the new luxury division of Hyundai.

To create its partner division, Hyundai moving two cars to the new brand. The first is the G80, which is on sale now as a rebadged Hyundai Genesis sedan. The other is the G90, the spiritual successor to the Hyundai Equus. If you ask Genesis officials, however, they insist it’s no Equus.

It’s kind of an Equus

Had Hyundai not launched Genesis, the G90 would certainly be the second-generation Equus. However, as part of the new brand, Genesis has given unto the G90 an all-new platform. Compared to the Equus, the G90’s structure is 80 percent stiffer and it uses far more high-strength steel: 51.7 percent compared to 28.7 percent. Unlike the competition, though, there is no carbon fiber or aluminum. The wheelbase is 4.5 inches longer and the car is 1.8 inches longer overall. It’s also an inch wider, and the extra size means it weighs about 200 pounds more comparably equipped, though a new V-6 engine saves 120 pounds off the total.

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That V-6 is the new Lambda twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter engine that makes 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, which is available from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm. It joins the Tau 5.0-liter V-8, which carries over from the Equus and produces 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are bolted to a Hyundai-produced 8-speed automatic transmission.

The steering switches from electro-hydraulic assist to a rack-mounted electric assist system with variable ratios. The wheels are 19s and they house big brakes that grow from 14.2 to 14.8 inches in diameter up front (though the V-6 has 14.2-inch rotors). Like the Equus, 5-link suspensions are found front and rear, and the shocks are electronically controlled to offer Comfort, Comfort+ and Sport modes.

Genesis makes more than just the suspension programmable. An Intelligent Drive Mode selector offers Eco, Smart, Sport, and Individual modes to control the steering, suspension, and the engine/transmission. The powertrain has only Eco and Smart modes, while the steering offers Comfort and Sport settings.

Highway star, canyon challenged

To show off all that new hardware, Genesis invited Motor Authority to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for a drive inland to the Okanagan Valley. The roughly 250-mile trip involved a a few stretches of sweeping canyon roads and a lot of highway driving, where the G90 is at its best. It’s about as comfortable a cruiser as you will find, reeling in the miles and soaking up road imperfections with ease, but it tends to balk at twisty turns.

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The slight bit of float and instability you feel on the highway is more pronounced when it’s time to link the corners. The G90 feels like it tilts side-to-side and front-to-rear from a point in the middle of the car, leaning over in turns without taking a set right away. There are even some secondary motions as the car struggles to find its equilibrium once it returns to a straight line. These motions aren’t pronounced, but they even occur in the Sport mode and they make you think twice about attacking a canyon road.

Like some other luxury sedans, the steering is overly light for my taste. In fact, I found myself setting it to the Sport mode to add a little more heft that helped improve stability at highway speeds. While the 12.9:1 ratio is quite quick, that ratio varies and I didn’t find it to be quick in most driving. Still, it does feel appropriate for a luxury sedan.

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