We head to Korea to drive Genesis’ luxury BMW 7 Series rival
While that still means it’s unlikely to make it to the UK – the cost of right-hand drive conversion likely to undermine any potential for profits – it does mean that it would battle for sales in Germany and Switzerland.
It’s certainly selling well in its home market of Korea; while Genesis doesn’t break down its sales numbers by model or region, it has admitted that the bulk of its sales in its seven years of existence to date, which will top a million cars later this year, are made in its home market; during a recent trip there this week the G90 was a regular sight on the roads.
That trip also provided a chance to spend many hours in the back of a G90 – where most owners will spend their time, as they are usually chauffeured around.
What strikes you first is just how much space there is back there, whether you are in the standard model or the gargantuan long wheelbase one, which adds a further 19cm to the car’s length and provides Rolls-Royce rivalling levels of legroom.
The materials, fit and finish are all top notch too. From the deep pile carpet on the floor through to massage seats and plump head cushions, the first impressions are very much on par with those of enjoying an S-Class, the current and long-time market leader, for the first time.
It really is that comfortable, and the experience is backed up by some superb technology, from the high-definition screen arrangements to the ultra-impressive 23-speaker stereo set-up, created in conjunction with Bang & Olufsen. Its performance is extraordinary and as good an expression of intent as you could wish for.
The G90 has plenty of shove, too, power provided by a 375bhp 3.5-litre petrol turbo, boosted to 409bhp when accompanied by the 48V supercharger system on the long wheelbase model. Along with its eight-speed auto ’box it is smooth and reasonably refined in normal use, it also provides prodigious acceleration when needed. You should expect sub 20mpg, however. Rear-wheel steering, meanwhile, helps manoeuvrability if you are dropped off in a tight spot, and stability, if you are weaving between lanes on the motorway.
So far, so good. But where the cracks show is with familiarity; where the G90 is strong, often the S-Class (and rivals) is sublime. The established class leader is a more complete package, the fact it has been refined over generations most evident in terms of its noise isolation, especially from the rear wheels, nearest to where the passenger sits, and ride comfort. On a Korean set up and on Korean roads (which, frankly, look much like ours) there were too many intrusions from lumps and bumps that a German luxury car would have batted off without breaking a sweat.
Maybe you can be forgiving of that given the price, which ranges from about £62,000 to £115,000 depending on spec. That seriously undercuts German rivals, although – given what will likely be viewed among ultra-wealthy or privileged buyers as a commensurate deficit – it also raises the risk of it being beloved by upmarket taxi firms more than the upper classes.
Genesis will make a final decision on whether to sell the G90 in Europe based on the cost of modifications required to suit the roads and customer tastes versus potential profits from sales and the marketing boost from pitching a rival against the flagship models from the German brands that have traditionally dominated the segment.
Given it has invested in a bespoke platform for the car any extra volume would presumably be welcome, but if it is to be a brand builder and staple of the market then the company’s bosses will need to take the challenge seriously.
Genesis has produced several decent cars already, including the near-sublime GV60 electric SUV. The G90 is a worthy flagship for that line-up. But in this sector of the market the level of competition is something else again.
That it has produced a credible challenger so early in its existence is to Genesis’s immense credit but, for now, the G90s capabilities are as much a reminder of the gap to the opposition that still needs to be spanned as they are of just how credible the brand has become in such a short space of time.