BOSTON — People generally buy big, expensive luxury sedans for one of two reasons. Either they want to show everyone else how they've made it, or they want to reward themselves for how they've made it. Or, both.
Whether you're a lawyer or a doctor or a publishing magnate, plunking down the cash (or, more likely, signing a lease) for a Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series shows that you are (or want to pretend like you are) at the top.
But if you're more concerned about your personal comfort rather than brand cachet and what everyone else at the country club thinks — or you want everyone else at the country club to think you're clever and responsible with your money (showing off is complicated) — you have more choice. Like the 2020 Genesis G90, which is perhaps the best luxury sedan alternative to the Germans available today.
Most importantly, the G90 has presence. It's absolutely massive, with a huge grille up front with a winged Genesis badge atop the hood. I still find the badge a little lacking in panache but it works well on this car, especially at night when an illuminated version of it is beamed onto the ground by the doors.
And the G90 has luxury in spades. Every safety feature is here, including Hyundai's excellent active lane-keeping assist feature that I've praised before. It allows you to take your hands off the wheel for 10-15 seconds at a time (on well-marked roads with good visibility) and the car can maintain your place in the center of the lane and even handle corners for you.
There's also a particularly excellent 360-degree surround view camera so you can see everything going on around the car, which is roughly the size of a medium-size barge. Continuing the gargantuan theme, there's a 12.3-inch center-stack touchscreen that is one of the best-looking I've seen on a car. And, perhaps more importantly, it's fast to respond and easy to navigate. It's basically a reskinned version of Hyundai's infotainment system, which isn't a bad thing but I might have hoped for something a little fancier.
Speaking of fancy, I have to spend a little time talking about the interior. The G90 is a flagship luxury sedan, and the inside is where those cars really shine. The 22-way power driver's seat deserves particular praise, with lovely quilted Nappa leather and a very interesting seating program.
The ergonomic seats in the Genesis are certified by the Aktion Gesunder Rücken — German for "Campaign for Healthier Backs" — an organization of back specialists and medical professionals that gives its seal of approval to back-friendly products after a rigorous evaluation. There's even a mode that will automatically adjust the driver's seat and steering wheel to the most ergonomic position for your height, weight, and inseam length. It was a modest change from my manually-adjusted position — tilted back a bit more and slightly further away than normal — but after an hour or so, I realized it actually was more comfortable, only now I wish I had this feature in every car as I can't quite replicate it exactly. Alas.
The engine is the same 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 as the G70 sports sedan I drove a few months ago, making 365 horsepower sent through an 8-speed automatic to an all-wheel drive system. It's not a head-snapping amount of oomph, but it more than gets the job done. If you're looking to zip along even faster, there's a V8 engine option that's totally unnecessary. But then, most of this car is unnecessary.
That's what flagship luxury sedans are all about. Do you need rear seats that recline and first-class levels of footroom? Not really. What about screens on the back of the seats and three zones of climate control and a CO2 sensor that notices if the cabin doesn't have enough oxygen and will bring in more fresh air to compensate? I guess not, though that CO2 sensor thing sounds pretty cool.
Your diminishing returns on an automobile purchase starts in earnest around $45,000, and by the time you get to the rarefied air of a $75,695 car like the Genesis G90, you're paying for many wildly unnecessary things. But that's the point. Even more the point, that's about $25k less than the competition in this segment and you'd never know it — more importantly, the Jones's down at the country club won't either. At least until they go to buy one.