Remember when the flagship luxury car segment used to be solely defined by the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series, and the Audi A8? Granted, there were also entries like the Jaguar XJ, Maserati Quattroporte, as well as the Lexus LS, but each of these entries only offered a small slice of the broader all round package that is demanded by elite buyers.
The past few years have seen an explosion of choices with these familiar names being joined by new entries such as the Volvo S90, Lincoln Continental, Cadillac CT6, and the subject of this installment of Marketplace Comparisons, the 2017 Genesis G90 Ultimate.
The G90 not only has to navigate its way through this fierce sea of competition, but it also has the unenviable task of bearing the burden of the burgeoning Genesis luxury sub-brand on its shoulders. Can it really be a jack of all trades? Or does it come up a bit short?
2017 Genesis G90 vs 2017 Mercedes Benz S450
We might as well start things off with a grudge match that sees the G90 take on the undisputed benchmark of the segment, the 2017 Mercedes Benz S450. Once defined by having a V8 as the base engine, the 2017 S450 reflects Mercede’s recent efforts at improving overall efficiency across its entire lineup.
In this case, that means adopting a 362 horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 engine which falls behind the 365 horsepower 3.3 liter V6 in the base G90. Ultimate grade models like our tester feature a 5.0 liter V8 that’s good for 420 horsepower, and it delivers strong yet eerily quiet acceleration throughout the rev band. While this may seem a bit of a mismatch at first glance, it all starts to makes sense once you begin to factor in the overall price difference between the two.
The base S450 starts at a heart churning $89,900, while our tester rang in at a much more bargain friendly $70,650 fully equipped, the equivalent of a tactical missile strike in this segment. The S-Class does have a biturbo V8, but you’ll have to shell out $102,900 for the privilege, and miss out on rear-wheel drive as well.
The S-Class makes up some ground in its interior, with the swanky German offering more posh and flair than the Korean upstart. However, wheras the S-Class is a wonderland of complex electronic gimmickry and acres of leather and wood, the G90 goes for a more subdued approach to its pampering.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, with the G90 still offering a warm environment filled with upscale luxury touches. These include heated and cooled Nappa leather seats, tri-zone climate control, push button start, as well as a 17 speaker Lexicon surround sound system.
However, the star of the show is the rear seating area which makes the G90 a compelling pocket limousine in Ultimate trim. Lucky passengers are treated to acres of rear leg room as well as a separate control center that allows them to control the radio, and move the passenger seat forward and aft.
Look for this feature to be especially popular with those that like to torment their mother in law, especially since sacrificing their comfort allows you to fully enjoy the power reclining rear seat when sitting on the passenger side of the car.
2017 Genesis G90 vs 2018 Cadillac CT6
Wheras the S-Class is the rolling embodiment of the best that the German automakers have to offer, the 2017 Cadillac CT6 is a textbook example of the new breed of flagship sedan that has expanded this segment over the past few years.
Designed to finally give Cadillac a legit contender in this regard, the CT6 features a rear wheel drive based platform, as well as exterior styling that pushes the envelope of Cadillac’s “Art & Science” theme. However, the G90 wins the battle in aesthetics, with the car featuring a much more aggressive front fascia, as well as an equally crisp side profile. In fact, the G90’s styling and its elegant Caspian Black paintwork helped the G90 earn the unique distinction of being affectionately called “The Mafia Car” during its stay with us by passersby.
In contrast, the rear fascia of the CT6 is just a bit too plain for our tastes, while the front fascia can look outright cluttered from some angles, but we will give points to the headlights which look stylish and elegant.
The CT6 makes up ground in performance hardware with the big Caddy offering three engines versus the G90 and its duo of engines. A four cylinder is the base engine, and allows base CT6 models to produce a healthy 265 horsepower while also getting 22 mpg at the same time.
Meanwhile two V6 engines are also offered, but neither of them can be had in rear wheel drive, and both fall shy of the G90 with the twin-turbocharged 3.0 liter producing 404 horsepower (a tad shy of the G90’s 420 horsepower 5.0 liter V8,) while the 3.6 liter V6’s 335 horsepower also gives up ground to the G90’s 3.3 liter V6.
The lone area where the two are evenly matched is in the transmission department, with both cars wielding eight speed automatic transmissions. While it will ultimately depend on which driving experience you prefer, the lack of a V8 does hinder the CT6 slightly, and V8 powered G90s like our tester could be a compelling piece of pie for budget minded luxury buyers looking for more displacement in their drive.
The interior match up this time around is a bit more even. Both cars do suffer from some cheap plastics in select areas, and the infotainment systems here are not the sharpest units in the toolbox. That said, we give a slight nod to the CT6 in this regard. Despite the considerable headaches that are produced by the CUE system, the CT6 manages to stand out in key areas when properly equipped. For example, the rear seats in both cars can be heated and cooled, as well as adjusted via satellite controls.
However the Cadillac adds a massage function, as well as a panoramic sunroof, two key features that the G90 lacks. The Cadillac also features an optional 34 speaker Bose Panaray sound system, but we actually prefer the sound quality in the G90’s 17-speaker unit, especially its unique ability to shift between an audience perspective, as well as hearing sound as if you were on the stage itself.
Pricing between the two sees the CT6 boast a lower base price of $53,795 for the 2.0 liter model with the base G90 starting at a higher $68,100.
This initial advantage for the Cadillac erodes away in higher trims with the G90 closing the gap all the way up to the $70,650 sticker wielded by our Ultimate rear-wheel drive example (all-wheel drive starts at a slightly higher $72,200.) In contrast, the CT6 can climb all the way up to just over $91,000 when fully equipped, and that might be too much of a financial pinch for eager buyers.
This high price tag also places the CT6 in an awkward position when compared against rivals such as the fore-mentioned S-Class as well as the Volvo S90 and the Audi A8.
Overall the 2017 Genesis G90 has the tools to appeal to a wide range of buyers. While it will take more than the G90 (and to a lesser extent the G80 sedan) to bring Genesis to the forefront of buyer consideration, the G90 does show a glimpse of what the Genesis ownership experience is about, especially with a price tag that’s arguably one of the best values in the segment.
We look forward to seeing more from Genesis over the next several years, especially the long awaited SUV and crossover models that aim to take advantage of the high demand currently engulfing both segments.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.