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2023 Genesis G90 First Drive Review: More Compelling Than Ever

Genesis' flagship sedan packs some impressive tech and feels fantastic on the road.

2023 Genesis G90
The G90 has some true presence in person.
Genesis

As pragmatic as car-buying can be, once you reach a certain echelon of vehicle, things like emotion and brand recognition become an increasingly large part of the equation. Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz will always come to the forefront when discussing large luxury sedans, but Genesis still wants to be a part of that conversation, and the 2023 G90 has some impressively compelling reasons to skip the stalwarts and go Korean.

Genesis wants the G90 to stand out, and it's definitely more outspoken than your average S-Class or 7 Series. The automaker's signature two-line light design is even more intense here than in the G80 or GV80. Rail-thin headlights wrap around to the wheel arches, continuing across the fenders and reappearing in the taillights. The G90's lighting looks good in daylight, but it really makes a statement at night, when the full width of the rear end is illuminated.

The lights are just one part of what makes the G90 so fascinating. The long clamshell hood provides clean, unbroken lines up front, and the sedan seems to get crazier as my eyes move rearward, with strong styling on the rear fenders, just above extremely thick C-pillars that gives me Rolls-Royce Phantom vibes. The roofline takes a long time to taper down before it curves back up, bearing some familial resemblance to the G80's fastback shape. And in a clever bit of visual symmetry, the tailpipe outlets are in the same crest shape as the grille up front.

But the G90's exterior doesn't hold a candle to what's inside. A quick tug of the pop-out door handle reveals an impressive mix of classic and modern elements. Sliding into an S-Class can be overwhelming with its honkin' portrait screen 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 inlays look and feel great, but my favorite part might be the portion above the climate vents, which rises up to straddle and frame the driver's digital gauge display, something I truly haven't seen before. The 3D design of the two-spoke steering wheel is another big highlight, for sure.

The rear seat has room for three adults, but the G90 is at its finest when that middle seat is folded down and converted to a massive center console. From there, I can fiddle with the infotainment system on the embedded display, in addition to changing my seat massage settings and opening or closing the sunshades. The console also houses two door buttons that allow me to close the doors without having to reach. For the clean freaks out there, the center armrest cubby houses UV-C lights that activate to sanitize whatever device I leave in there.

Second-row life is great in the G90, even without those excellent headrest pillows.

Genesis

I spend my first hour with the 2023 G90 in the back seat. That gives me the chance to really stretch out -- with the front passenger seat moved all the way forward, there's an impressive amount of real estate for the back row, but even without any front seats moving, there's still tons of space. The ride is extremely smooth, with this fully loaded tester's air suspension eating up every inch of bad road between Miami and Key Largo and returning nothing but nautical-grade serenity. It's a great car for those who wish to be driven, perhaps even more so than the S-Class, which requires thousands of dollars above its already lofty manufacturer suggested retail price to add similar capabilities.

The G90 is rewarding to drive, too. The brake pedal can be a little touchy, but every other control offers the right amount of directness, feeling swift on its feet without being so twitchy as to disturb those inside. Part of that fleet-of-foot feeling comes from standard rear-wheel steering, which makes urban navigation an absolute breeze.

I am obsessed with the G90's two-spoke steering wheel. The raised elements on either side give it a very unique look.

Genesis

My tester packs a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that includes a 48-volt electric supercharger that works to fill torque gaps, putting out a solid 409 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. The standard 8-speed automatic transmission is buttery smooth, with barely perceptible shifts in either direction. That engine is offered on the higher of the G90's two trims, with the base trim ditching the electric supercharger, although its output is still a respectable 375 hp and 391 lb-ft.

The stop-start system is smooth when lifting off the brake to leave a stoplight. 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-output model coming in at an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. The lower, non-supercharged trim does a little better at 18 city and 26 highway.

Fuel economy may not matter as much to owners of $90,000 cars, but the G90's V6 is still sufficiently thrifty.

Genesis

The move to touchscreens generally means physical buttons fall by the wayside or disappear entirely, but not in the 2023 Genesis G90. Proper switchgear exists for everything, from seat heaters to climate controls and the infotainment system, offering an older-school approach to interior design and usability. In typical Genesis fashion, these buttons feel great, with expensive knurling on knobs and a nice hearty press feel on the rest. The rotary shift dial both looks and feels nice, and it even has haptic feedback when shifting into Reverse. There truly is no piece of the G90 that feels cheap or otherwise phoned in.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the G90 also features some excellent cabin tech. Genesis' infotainment system resides 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 bounce between different corners of the system with a swipe and a tap. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as are five USB-C ports (three for the front, two for the rear). My tester also comes standard with a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system that offers impressive fidelity at all volumes, and its clever Virtual Venues feature really does make it sound like you're listening to your favorite jams in a proper concert hall, reverb and all.

Genesis has some of the best cabin tech of any automaker.

Genesis

While the G90 has a cool key, Genesis makes it so that you don't need to carry it around if you don't want to. The G90 may not have the biometric access that the GV60 does, but it will still let you pair your iOS or Android phone to the car. Using a combination of ultra-wideband, near-field communication and low-energy Bluetooth technologies, your phone can act as a key, extending the door handles upon arrival and locking everything up when the phone moves out of range. It can work with the phone's built-in biometrics (like Face ID) to ensure 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 of the aforementioned standard equipment (there are no option packages; what you see is what you get), the G90 still represents an impressive bargain over its competitors. A base 2023 G90 will set you back $89,495, with the higher trim coming in at $99,795 (including destination). The luxo-barges from BMW and Mercedes require six figures just to get a foot in the door, and that's before optioning the equipment that's standard on the Genesis. The Lexus LS and Audi A8 are both closer to the G90's base price, but neither feels as fully baked from the factory, thanks to Genesis' healthy complement of standard equipment.

Going up against decades of brand recognition isn't easy, but thanks to a combination of impressive standard equipment and an even more impressive ride, the 2023 G90 should be making those longtime luxury greats nervous. Genesis is still a growing automaker, and its standalone dealer presence is nowhere near as well established as the others, so while there are still more mountains to climb than with its competitors, those who reach the top will find it worth the effort.


Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET Cars' staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.