Hyundai Genesis G90 / EQ900

Debut: 2016
Maker: Hyundai
Predecessor: Equus Mk2

 Published on 31 Aug 2016
All rights reserved. 

Assuming you were the senior product manager driving the Hyundai Genesis program. Having been struggling for 8 years, the car is still neither a hit nor a miss, failing to replicate the Lexus legend. Your big boss is losing patience. How would you answer his doubt? “We have to upgrade our effort. To match BMW and Mercedes we need to turn Genesis into a standalone brand, give it 3… no, 6 models to cover every premium segment by the turn of the decade, and build an independent sales network globally, just like Lexus! Only by doing so we could lift the brand awareness to match our established rivals.” Clever answer. You are then given another 5 years and billions of dollars to prove your point.

Never mind. Hyundai has lots of money to take risks. The first Genesis-brand model, G80, has actually arrived, and you have seen it already – it is what we called “Genesis Mk2” from 2014, but has been renamed to G80 recently. The second act is the flagship limousine G90, which replaces the aging, last generation Hyundai Equus. It is really large, measuring 5.2 meters in length and weighing in excess of 2 tons even in the lightest form. In other words, it is Hyundai’s equivalent to S-class or 7-Series.

The styling of the car, overseen by Peter Schreyer, might be called “imposing” but by no means beautiful. Worse still, it lacks character. The shapes of its huge front grille and headlamps are arbitrary. The side and rear end design leaves no impression. If I tell you it was the product of an anonymous Chinese manufacturer, you might just believe. European luxury cars are full of character. Lexus, Infiniti and Cadillac also take design seriously these days. The Korean group did some nice designs further down the range, but in terms of luxury car design it still has a lot to learn, even though its design boss came from Audi.

The chassis of G90 is conservative. It is constructed from mainly high-strength steel, whereas use of aluminum is limited to some suspension components. This sounds like a 2002 Volkswagen Phaeton rather than a rival to the latest Mercedes and BMW. Steel makes it heavier than the norm, but it is effective to deliver high rigidity and good noise suppression. In addition to the extensive use of structural adhesives, its chassis is claimed to offer higher bending stiffness than the S-class, although in real-world driving you would swear it feels the opposite. Nevertheless, with all-around laminated windows, triple door seals and a sealed engine bay, the G90 is quiet on the run. There is little wind, suspension and engine noise you can hear in the cabin. Only tire roar presents a constant reminder.

At home market, the G90 is called EQ900 instead. It has 3 engine choices, cheapest of which is the familiar 3.8-liter GDI V6, Its 315 hp and 293 lbft output struggles to cope with the car’s weight. Much better is the new 3.3-liter twin-turbo GDI V6, which offers 370 horsepower and 376 pound-foot of torque, almost matching the flagship 5.0-liter Tau V8. Moreover, the peak torque is produced from as low as 1300 rpm all the way to 4500 rpm, guaranteeing instant response when you ask. With little turbo lag and a generally smooth operation, its refinement is high. No wonder Hyundai expects three-quarters of overseas sales will go to this engine.

However, the Tau V8 is still the definitive choice for performance and sound quality. While performance advantage over the 3.3T is slim, the V8 snarl under full throttle makes you aware of its classier ingredients, which makes a big difference psychologically. That said, compared to the turbocharged V8s of its German rivals, the Genesis’ V8 is noticeably less potent, and it delivers the same kind of performance without the relaxing manner of its rivals. Likewise, Hyundai’s own 8-speed automatic transmission is generally good, but not good enough to match ZF’s unit.

There is little to note about its ride and handling. The platform is derived from the smaller Genesis G80, so it shares the same all-multi-link suspensions, ZF-Sachs adaptive dampers, standard RWD layout or rear-biased AWD system. Unlike most rivals, there is no air suspension option, so don’t expect the ultimate magic-carpet ride, although on the smooth Korean and Canadian roads where the car was launched it showed satisfying compliance and quietness. However, the latest Korean limousine has managed to avoid the faults of its predecessors. Its body motions are well checked, its electrical steering is weighty and accurate enough and its brake is well modulated. In other words, it no longer favours old drivers or chauffeurs. It is about as interesting to drive as Lexus LS or Cadillac CT6, if lacking the agility and balance of European benchmarks like Jaguar XJ, BMW 7-Series or Mercedes S-class.

The interior is also a huge improvement from the Equus and finally up to world class. Well, its design lacks character again, but the materials and finish are competitive. Every surface is covered with quality stitched leather, wood or metal, and they are put together with high precision. Both front and back seats are spacious and comfortable. They are heated and vented, although lacking massaging option. Rear passengers can be served with reclining seats and an infotainment system with individual screens. There is also a long-wheelbase version on offer for more demanding tycoons. Up front, the instrument has an LCD screen sandwiched between gauges. The center console has a large, 12.3-inch touchscreen like that of Lexus. There is also a head-up display. Compared to the very best of the class, the Genesis loses marks in less significant area – for example, some switches come from cheaper Hyundais. It also lacks the option of a panoramic glass roof or the latest electronic tech like full TFT instrument, gesture control, full automatic parking or a more intelligent autonomous driving system, i.e. things not exactly essential but are increasingly important to distinguish the best from merely good.

However, lacking such sophistication, or a multi-material structure, or rear-wheel steering etc., does keep cost down and enable a more affordable price. It also avoids complicating the development and lets the Korean engineers concentrating on the essentials. As runners say, “to finish first, first you have to finish”. Hyundai has at least managed to finish. Next time, it could take another step forward.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout
Suspension features

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Genesis G90 3.3T AWD
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5205 / 1915 / 1495 mm
3160 mm
V6, 60-degree
3342 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
370 hp
376 lbft
8-speed automatic
All: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 245/45WR19
R: 275/40WR19
2130 kg
150 mph (c)
Genesis G90 5.0 (AWD)
Front-engined, RWD (4WD)
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5205 / 1915 / 1495 mm
3160 mm
V8, 90-degree
5038 cc
DOHC 32 valves, DVVT
425 hp
383 lbft
8-speed automatic
All: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 245/45WR19
R: 275/40WR19
2107 kg (2235 kg)
150 mph (c)
5.3* (5.4 (c))

Performance tested by: *C&D

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