by Frank A. Aukofer

The late Jack Benny, one of the greatest comedians of all time, would have loved the 2017 Genesis G90 sedan, the flagship of a new automobile brand.

An essential component of Benny’s shtick was that of a wealthy tightwad, a penny pincher without peer. In perhaps his most famous bit, a robber attempts to hold him up, saying “Your money or your life.

Benny doesn’t say a word. He gets a quizzical look on his face and simply stands there, thinking it over. It is one of the great comic moments in history.

The Genesis G90 embodies his persona. It radiates wealth and quality, at a price that would entice Benny or even Ebenezer Scrooge.

Yet it needs to win acceptance from luxury buyers. It is the new designer brand from Hyundai of South Korea, which started out poorly in the mid-1980s.

Genesis G90
Genesis G90

In the last decade, however, it has overcome doubts by delivering, along with its sister company Kia, popular priced cars of unexpected high quality that challenge industry leaders like Toyota and Honda. It even ventured into near-luxury and luxury territory with models like the Genesis sedan and coupe, and the flagship Equus.

Now the company has elevated the Genesis name to an all-new luxury brand that eventually will offer at least a half dozen new models. It is similar to what Toyota did with Lexus, Nissan with Infiniti and Honda with Acura.

Volkswagen did not fare as well with its Phaeton, which retained its VW identity and flopped in the U.S. because of poor sales. Mazda also once considered its own luxury brand but backed away from the Amati.

Genesis G90
Genesis G90

Genesis starts with two models: The G80, a revamped version of the existing Hyundai Genesis sedan. Most important is the Genesis G90, which resembles the previous Equus but is all-new with no shared parts. It competes with top luxury cars like the S-Class Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac CT6, BMW 7-Series, Lincoln Continental, Lexus LS and Audi A8.

Therein lies the rub. Dave Zuchowski, the genial and accessible president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, is a realist who understands that it will take time to pry luxury buyers away from their fealty to the Mercedes three-pointed star and the BMW blue and white propeller.

The luxury car phenomenon is that any newcomer must develop a reputation for great performance and quality to win customers who often are clueless about the product but entranced by the cachet.

Zuchowski says he figures it could take five years of sustained effort to insinuate the new Genesis brand into the consciousness of those buyers. One way will be to appeal to the bargain hunter in all of us. Even rich people sometimes shop at Walmart. Prices were delayed until after the national introduction, but the new 3.3T G90’s all-wheel drive price of $71,550 was thousands of dollars less than some competitors.

Another way is to deliver a superior product. The G90 is a superb road machine with sharp handling, abundant power and five-star comfort.

Genesis G90
Genesis G90

It comes come fully equipped, with no need to pore over lists of expensive options. Standard enhancements include genuine ash and walnut wood trim, soft Nappa leather and enough sound insulation to rival an anechoic chamber. There are two versions, each available with standard rear-wheel drive or full time all-wheel drive.

A hallmark of the new brand is the way it will treat customers. Need service? It’s included at no extra charge. Hate going to the dealership? An associate will drive a loaner car to your home, pick up your new G90 and return it when it’s been serviced, washed and massaged.

Driven at the world introduction in Canada’s British Columbia province was the G90 3.3T Premium with all-wheel drive. It is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that delivers 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. Power gets to the pavement through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. Also available will be the Genesis 5.0L with a 420-hp, 5.0-liter V8 that makes 383 lb-ft of torque.

As with other vehicles from Hyundai, the Genesis comes with a full warranty for five years or 60,000 miles, as well as a powertrain warranty for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

Sure, there’s no rear seat entertainment system. And so far it doesn’t drive or park itself. But the new G90 is classy, comfortable and composed enough to satisfy extravagant showoffs as well as skinflints.

Genesis G90
Genesis G90

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Genesis G90 AWD 3.3T Premium four-door sedan.
  • Engine:3-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 365 hp, 376 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 113/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,784 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $71,550.
  • Estimated price as tested: $71.550.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) Genesis