As pragmatic as buying a car can be, once you reach a certain level of vehicle, things like emotion and brand recognition become more and more part of the equation. Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz always come to the fore when large luxury sedans are discussed, but Genesis still wants to be part of the conversation, and the 2023 G90 has some impressively compelling reasons to skip allegiances and go Korean.
Genesis wants the G90 to stand out, and it’s definitely more open than your average S-Class or 7 Series. The automaker’s signature two-row light design is even more intense here than on the G80 or GV80. The rail-thin headlights wrap around the wheel arches, continue over the fenders, and reappear in the taillights. The G90’s lighting looks good in daylight, but it is really it makes a statement at night when the full width of the rear is illuminated.
The lights are just one part of what makes the G90 so fascinating. The long clamshell hood provides clean, uninterrupted lines up front, and the sedan seems crazier as my eyes move back, with bold styling on the rear fenders, just above the extremely thick C-pillars, giving me Rolls-Royce Phantom vibes. The roofline takes a long time to taper before curving back up and bearing a certain familiar resemblance to the shape of the G80 fastback. And in a clever visual symmetry, the exhaust outlets share the same ridge shape as the front grille.
But the G90’s exterior doesn’t hold a candle to what’s inside. A quick pull on the retractable door handle reveals an impressive combination of classic and modern elements. Slipping into the S-Class can be overwhelming with its honking portrait display and wild styling. The G90, by comparison, takes a more traditional and comfortable approach to luxury with an emphasis on clean horizontal lines and plush materials. The unique metal inserts look and feel great, but my favorite part might be the section above the A/C vents that rises and straddles and frames the driver’s digital gauge display, which I really haven’t seen before. The 3D design of the two-spoke steering wheel is certainly another big attraction.
There’s room for three adults in the back seat, but the G90 is at its best when the middle seat is folded down and transformed into a massive center console. From there, I can fiddle with the infotainment system on the built-in display, in addition to changing the seat massage settings and opening or closing the sunshades. There are also two door buttons on the console that allow me to close the door without having to reach. For the clean-minded, the center armrest cubby houses UV-C lights that activate to disinfect any device I leave there.
I spend my first hour with the 2023 G90 in the back seat. This gives me a chance to really stretch out – with the front passenger seat pushed all the way forward, there’s an impressive amount of real estate for the back row, but even without the front seats moved, there’s still plenty of room. The ride is extremely smooth, this fully loaded tester’s air suspension soaking up every inch of bad road between Miami and Key Largo, returning nothing but sea-level composure. It’s a great car for those who want to be driven, perhaps even more so than the S-Class, which demands thousands of dollars above its already high MSRP to add similar capabilities.
The G90 is also worth driving. The brake pedal can be a little touchy, but every other control offers the right amount of directness, a sense of speed on your feet without jerking so much as to disturb those inside. Part of that fleet-of-foot feel comes from the standard rear-wheel steering, which makes navigating the city a breeze.
My tester features a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that includes a 48-volt electric boost to fill the torque gaps, delivering a solid 409 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. The standard 8-speed automatic transmission is buttery smooth, with almost imperceptible shifts in either direction. This engine is offered in the higher of the two G90 trims, with the base trim getting rid of the electric supercharger, though still making a respectable 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft.
The stop-start system is smooth when you release the brake and leave the stopwatch. But if the system kicks the engine back to life while the car is still stationary, it’s definitely obvious. Efficiency isn’t too shabby for a vehicle of this size, with the higher-powered model coming in at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway according to the EPA. The lower, non-supercharged trim does a little better at 18 city and 26 highway.
The move to touchscreens generally means physical buttons fall by the wayside or disappear altogether, but not on the 2023 Genesis G90. The right dash exists for everything from heated seats to climate controls and an infotainment system that offers an old-school approach to interior design and usability. In typical Genesis style, these buttons feel great, with expensive knurling on the knobs and a nice hearty press feel on the rest. The rotary gear selector also looks nice to the touch and even has haptic feedback when shifting into reverse. There really isn’t a piece of the G90 that feels cheap or makes a different phone.
It should come as no surprise that the G90 also has excellent cabin engineering. The Genesis infotainment system sits on a standard 12.3-inch main touchscreen. The display is responsive and easy on the eyes, with a configurable home screen that makes it easy to jump between different corners of the system by swiping and tapping. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are five USB-C ports (three front, two rear). My tester also came standard with a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround sound system that offers impressive fidelity at all volumes, and its clever Virtual Venues feature really makes it sound like you’re listening to your favorite jams in a proper concert hall. , reverb and so on.
While the G90 has a great key, the Genesis makes it so you don’t have to carry it if you don’t want to. The G90 may not have biometric access like the GV60, but it still lets you pair your iOS or Android phone with the car. Using a combination of ultra-wideband, near-field communication and Bluetooth low-energy technologies, your phone can act as a key that unlocks door handles when you arrive and locks everything when your phone is out of range. It can work with the phone’s built-in biometrics (such as Face ID) for security, but it can also work completely passively. It’s easy to set up through the Genesis app and keys can be shared with multiple users.
Despite all the standard equipment listed above (there are no option packages; what you see is what you get), the G90 still represents an impressive bargain over its competitors. The base 2023 G90 will set you back $89,495, with the top trim coming in at $99,795 (including destination). Luxo-barges from BMW and Mercedes require six figures to get in the door, and that’s it before optional equipment that is standard on the Genesis. The Lexus LS and Audi A8 are both closer to the G90’s base price, but neither feels completely factory-baked thanks to a healthy addition of standard Genesis equipment.
It’s not easy to match a decades-old brand, but with a combination of impressive standard equipment and an even more impressive ride, the 2023 G90 should make these longtime luxury giants nervous. Genesis is still a growing automaker, and its standalone dealer presence isn’t nearly as well established as others, so while it still has more mountains to climb than its competitors, those who reach the top will find it worth the effort.
Editor’s note: Travel expenses related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the automotive industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET Cars staff are our own, and we do not accept paid editorial content.