The 2017 Genesis G90: A Substantial Sedan

If you want to launch an all-new luxury brand, then you’d better do it with a car that can make a difference. Enter Genesis and the G90.

Consider this, Erwin Raphael suggests. When you think of the creation of luxury brands during the past several years, there was a flurry in the mid-to-late 1980s—with Acura in 1986 and both Infiniti and Lexus in 1989—then nothing until Tesla emerged in 2004 (and arguably, Tesla really didn’t become a luxury brand until it introduced the Model S in 2012).

Nothing until now.

Because Hyundai has created a luxury brand, Genesis. (And it is interesting to note that Hyundai Motor Company itself is something of a newcomer to the auto world, having been established in 1967; “Luxury is hard to enter,” Raphael says. He knows. He’s the general manager of the Genesis brand in North America. “The substance has to be there.”

And as regards the substance, it is manifest in the 2017 Genesis G90, which is an all-new sedan.

There is also the Genesis G80, but it is a carry-over from when Genesis was part of the lineup with the Sonata, Elantra, etc.

There is substance in the fundamental structure. As in the car having a body that consists of 52 percent advanced high-strength steel (AHSS). And the company, in addition to welding—and know that they’re also using laser welding in the door area where there is extensive use of hot-stamped components to deal with a crash—is deploying more than 650 feet of structural adhesives to put the car together. (While on the subject of lasers, know that they’re using laser brazing where the roof meets the body side rather than using spot welding and a roof ditch molding, as well as on the trunk lid, between the taillights and the chrome trim above the license plate detent.)

Among the competitive set for the G90 is the Mercedes S-Class. And so it is pointed out that the static torsional stiffness for the G90, at 51.8 kgf.m2/rad, is 6 percent better than the S-Class (48.9 kgf.m2/rad), with no weight penalty.

(The other competitive vehicles include the Lexus LS460, the BMW 7-Series, Cadillac CT6, and Audi A8.)

There is substance in the styling.

Peter Schreyer, president and chief design officer of the Hyundai Motor Group, and his team have been creating cars for the past several years with an unmistakable presence.

“In creating the design signature of Genesis brand cars, we set out to display confidence and originality, creating highly desirable products that present new charm through innovative styling and proportions,” Schreyer says.

To make sure that they have a consistency in their signature, they’ve established the Prestige Design Division and put Luc Donckerwolke in charge of it. Donckerwolke (who also serves as the head of the Hyundai Motor Design Center) has a resume that includes Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini.

(Speaking of Lamborghini, the global head of Genesis is Manfred Fitzgerald, who, up until December 2015, was director of Brand and Design at Lamborghini. He’d been with Lambo for 12 years.

(Underlining the seriousness with which they’re going up against the top global premium brands, where performance is as much a characteristic as comfort and technology, they’ve named Albert Biermann the head of Genesis Performance. Before joining Hyundai in late 2014 as head of Vehicle Test & High Performance Development, Biermann had been vice president Engineering BMW M Automobiles and BMW Individual at BMW M GmbH.

(Know that Genesis is being positioned as a global brand, not just one centric to this hemisphere.)

But to the styling of the G90. As a luxury car, it has rear-wheel drive proportions. The hood is long. The overhangs are short. In the front, there are LED headlights and DRLs flanking what is the wide crest grille that is a signature of the brand. The lower fascia opening has chrome accents, and the chrome is picked up in other areas of the sedan, such as the DLO surround and on the decklid and lower rear fascia.

The theme for the car was “Athletic Elegance.”

A goal was to make the car appear planted, which isn’t entirely difficult given that it is 204.9 inches long, 75.4 inches wide and 58.9 inches high. (By way of comparison, the aforementioned S-Class is 206.5 inches long, 74.8 inches wide and 58.7 inches high.)

(And while on the subject of the G90 vs. the S-Class, the passenger volume of the G90 is 113.2-ft3, and the Mercedes is 109.4-ft3.)

The interior design of the G90 is one that is more traditional than ultra-modern, with the use of Nappa leather, wood trim, stainless steel speaker covers for the Lexicon audio system and analogue clock mounted in the center of the dash—although this is no throwback, as the vehicle boasts a 12.3-inch, high-definition screen just above the timepiece.

While the development team benchmarked the previously named luxury vehicles, for the interior they also benchmarked another company that isn’t ordinarily part of the mix: Ekornes, a Norwegian manufacturer. Ekornes produces the “Stressless” recliners. One of the features of the inside of the G90 is a driver’s seat that can be adjusted in 22 ways. Another atypical aspect of the driver’s and front passenger’s seats is that they have been provided the Aktion Gesunder Rücken seal of approval—it is given to products that contribute to back health. Comfort is essential for luxury vehicles.)

There is substance under that long hood, but in a way that might not be expected.

Yes, there is a V8 engine. It’s a Tau 5.0-liter, direct injected engine that produces 420 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.

Big sedans have big V8 engines, right?
 

Well remember, this is a new luxury car brand. And with it comes an all-new engine for the G90, the Lambda 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V6. It provides 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm. It, too, is direct-injected. And it, like the V8, has an electric thermostat and mid-position-lock continuously variable valve timing, both of which contribute to improved responsiveness and fuel efficiency.

(An interesting aspect to the fuel economy. The 3.3-liter, in rear-wheel-drive configuration, is rated at 17/24/20 mpg, city/highway/combined. The 5.0-liter with the same setup is rated at 16/24/19 mpg. Not a whole lot of difference.)

Both engines are fitted to an eight-speed automatic transmission that has been tailored for this application. Compared to an existing Hyundai eight-speed, by doing such things as reducing the nominal diameter of the torque converter and reducing the size of the case, the mass of the transmission was reduced by 17 pounds. In addition to which, they’ve optimized the pressure from the oil pump and added spiral grooves to the clutch friction material, so they’ve achieved a 2.8 percent improvement in transfer efficiency.

There is a drive mode selector that alters the transmission mapping, throttle responsiveness, suspension setup, steering and stability control, depending on the selection (e.g., there are profound differences between “Eco” and “Sport”).

The G90 is available with an all-wheel-drive system that it developed with Magna (magna.com), H-TRAC. This features an electronic transfer case with active torque control that not only can transfer torque from front to rear as required, but has a dual mode, meaning that if the “Sport” driving mode is selected rather than the default “Normal,” the torque distribution is different, based on the conditions (e.g., when cornering in Sport, as much as 90 percent of the torque will go to the rear wheels, as compared with 70 percent in Normal).

The G90 has an adaptive control suspension from Sachs (zf.com); it features what’s called “Dynamic Stability Damping Control,” which means that there is independent damping control in both the rebound and compression strokes of the suspension travel. The setup includes a high-vacuum, die-cast aluminum shock absorber housing and a diamond-shaped strut bar, both of which are engineered to improve the ride and handling.

The steering is handled by a rack-mounted electric motor-driven system. There is a variable gear ratio on the track with the gear pitch being wider at both ends. This contributes to both precise steering at high speeds and stability and agility at low and medium speeds.

Then, of course, the suite of sensors that contribute to the substance of safety, safety systems that are offered as standard. These include the now-familiar lane keeping assist and smart cruise control as well as a multiview camera and front and rear parking sensors. One new approach is “smart” blind spot detection (SBSD). While “regular” blind spot systems indicate with a warning light whether there is a vehicle in one’s blind spot, the Genesis system goes further. In addition to the illumination, there is an audible warning and there are vibrations put into the haptic steering wheel. If the driver continues to try to make a lane change despite those warnings, the system applies the front left or right brake so as to steer the vehicle away from a possible collision.

There is also the G80 in the current Genesis lineup. It is the Genesis sedan that had been on offer from Hyundai, with the G90 being a new vehicle. Those two check the boxes off for mid-size (G80) and large luxury sedans. The plans call for an additional four vehicles by 2021, the G70, a near-luxury sedan, and three as-yet-unnamed vehicles: a near-luxury sports coupe, a midsize luxury SUV and a near-luxury SUV.

Which brings us back to establishing a new luxury brand. According to David Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, “It is easier to say who has been successful at doing this than saying who’s been unsuccessful. Lexus is the lone example of being successful.” He adds, “They will openly say they invested a billion dollars and ten years before they made a penny off Lexus. We’ve spent a lot of time studying Lexus.”

Zuchowski knows that Genesis isn’t going to get Lexus success with a proverbial flip of a switch. They’re in it for the long haul.

“We can’t do this on the cheap. And we can’t do this overnight.”

But they will do this with vehicles of substance. Like the G90.