There seems to be some impression that the best cars have rock-firm suspensions sure to shatter your vertebrae. Yes, a firm suspension provides exceptional cornering ability, but what works best on the racetrack isn’t always what works best in the real world, where clogged arteries and crumbling highways, not glass-smooth race track, are a fact of life.
That’s what makes the 2021 Genesis G90 so welcome. In an era where most Americans have become truck drivers in a mistaken belief that they need a glorified station wagon with all-wheel drive, the Genesis is a reassuring nod to tradition — a full-size luxury sedan that’s comfortable, quiet and capable, and possessing a unique air equal to its station. It’s a remarkable feat for a car with a lineage that at one time mimicked the world’s priciest cars rather than forged its own identity.
Its distinctiveness is apparent from the moment your gaze falls upon the car. Its handsome lines are formal and sophisticated, with a distinctive shield grille and a dual horizontal lighting theme that distinguishes the car’s exterior appearance. Its overall demeanor is that of a responsible adult, a welcome relief from the childish excesses that plague modern car design. In fact, its modern, fresh appearance is so distinctive that it elicited a remarkable number of unsolicited inquiries from strangers — more so than many sports cars I’ve driven.
Many asked if it was a Bentley. No, really. They did.
Not bad for a car that competes with the finest luxury sedans in its class, while undercutting them by at least $12,000-$22,000. Giving up price means giving up cachet; the Genesis brand lacks the status of Germany’s finest. But Genesis yields little in delivering a true luxury car experience. The creature comforts are all here, from power rear sunshades, soft-closing doors, and four-seat individual climate controls, to rear-seat audio controls, and soft, expansive leather-covered seats that are far comfier than any German sedan.
And the cabin is quiet, very quiet.
Better yet, its infotainment system’s simple design makes it ridiculously easy to use, either by touching the screen or using the controller on the center console. That said, the controller felt cheap, too cheap for a car costing this much. It was the only off note in an otherwise impressively opulent cabin. Android Auto, Apple Car Play and Qi wireless charging are standard.
The G90’s mechanical package hasn’t changed much — and that’s not a bad thing. The standard engine is a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 rated at 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, although a 5.0-liter V-8, rated at 420 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, is available. Both engines mate to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.
The test vehicle employed the base engine, which delivered more than enough power for the cut and thrust of daily driving. The driveline delivers most of its power down low, and torque lag is notable in its absence. The transmission smoothly delivers unobtrusive shifts while making the most of the available power. As you’d expect, the steering is accurate but light, possessing lots of assist, yet it’s still communicative enough to let you know what’s going on underfoot. The suspension negates the worst that neglected roadways can dish out, and body lean is evident during corners, but not excessive. Body motions are well controlled. This is an easy car to drive smoothly, one that delivers an indulgently zen-like experience. It’s a modern-day version of the confident, comfortable and indulgent full-size luxury cars that American automakers once delivered but no longer do.
And you’ll find the seats to be wide, relaxing and supportive, with a 22-way power driver’s seat. Rear-seat passengers can move the front passenger seat forward to increase legroom. There are even individual rear seat audio controls. Nice.
Thoughtfully, the G90 comes with a long list of standard driver-assistance safety systems including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic, and lane-keeping assistance.
In another era, you might have called the G90 a Brougham, a label that most likely makes Genesis executives wince. Yet for anyone who misses the sublime serenity that those cars once delivered — a quiet, comfortable ride; a sumptuous, spacious interior; confident performance; abundant convenience features; and handsome styling that will stand the test of time — this is the car you’ve been craving.
And while Genesis might be the new kid on the luxury block, its best instincts will thrill traditionalists.
2021 Genesis G90
Base price: $72,950
Engine: 3.3-liter turbocharged V6
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 17/25 mpg
Fuel required: Premium
Length/Width/Height: 204.9/75.4/58.9 inches
Ground clearance: 5.1 inches
Cargo capacity: 15.7 cubic feet
Curb weight: 4,663 pounds