2011 Hyundai Equus
To a number of Americans, the term ‘Equus’ refers to a genus of animals. To an entirely different group of Americans, Equus is a play, written by Peter Shaffer, in which a young Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter himself) appeared in the nude. So when Hyundai announced that they were bringing their very exclusive luxury sedan, the Equus, to America after over 10 years of solid sales in Korea, we’re guessing they’re planning on marketing it to a slightly more exclusive group of buyers. Not that it’s out of reach pricewise, though. Hyundai estimates that the 2,000-3,000 units they hope to sell will only set buyers back about $60,000. That includes leather massaging seats, a 17-speaker surround-sound Lexicon audio system, Alcantara headliner, refrigerator between the rear seats and the latest in automotive safety systems. Shall we go on? Because we could. The Equus has enough in its standard items list – there aren’t any options, just two trims – to make Lexus execs quiver in their loafers. Because of the small amount of estimated sales, the Equus buying experience will be a unique one, with a pick up and drop off valet service to help you redeem your 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and an included iPad that allows you to view your manual and schedule servicing. Well, it’s certain then: Hyundai’s Equus does what the S-Class
do for a lot less cash.
What's to Like
The Lexicon audio system is truly state of the art, and if the screen were slightly bigger, we know where we’d be watching the latest movie releases. In fact, all of the technology goodies are beautifully integrated into the well-appointed and spacious interior. Pricing is a huge win for Hyundai, as is the VIP valet service treatment.
What's Not to Like
Hyundai’s uphill battle to improve its reputation in the U.S. became a lot easier with the introduction of the Genesis, but going a step beyond that in pricing is still a risk. Performance is a notch below the German competition. Aspects of the exterior styling aren’t strong, especially the front-end. Also, it’s hard to ignore the blatant S-Class and Lexus LS influences.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Luxury cars of this caliber must be smooth enough to safeguard the interior from disturbances by potholes and gravel roads while the occupants conduct international business deals. Yet it must also be powerful enough to elicit movement from a 4500-pound machine. The Equus’ adaptive air suspension with a special damping system evens out the worst road conditions. Surprisingly, there’s still a decent amount of communication in the drivetrain for the driver. The pedals deliver quick acceleration from the brawny V-8 and smooth braking when it comes time to stop. Power seems quick to present itself, though gear shifts on the six-speed automatic aren’t quick enough to keep up with the power the engine puts out and we could do with more torque. The steering is the only major quibble to be found in the car – it’s vague and overly electronic, traits hindered further by the awkward wheel shape. But be sure, the Equus isn’t really about that, and the seats have enough leather and bolstering to ensure you ride off to your next business meeting in total comfort.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Equus is powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 engine that churns out 385 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque. It’s coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with a Shiftronic manual mode that allows you to move through gears yourself. A sport mode button situated next to the shifter tightens up steering and stiffens the ride to provide a more dynamic drive. It doesn’t turn the Equus into a sports car, but backseat passengers won’t be tossed around during spirited driving quite as much. The Equus isn’t available in all-wheel drive, but Hyundai has said it might be an option in the future.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
With only two trim levels and zero options, the standard features list for the Equus runs deep. It’s no surprise that this car’s most exciting extras are to enhance comfort and convenience. Integrated Bluetooth connectivity, three rear power sunshades, heated steering wheel and massaging driver's seat are just a few of the luxuries available. Opting for the Ultimate trim reduces the number of seats in the rear from three to two and adds a massage system and leg rest for the passenger side rear seat, a rear console-located refrigerator and another eight-inch LCD screen.
Key Technology Evaluation
Standard on the Equus is an eight-inch dash-mounted screen that is used to view all vehicle settings and information, including navigation, through a well-thought out interface. The 608-watt Lexicon surround-sound audio system with 17 speakers and USB and auxiliary input jacks is an absolute marvel in in-car sound technology. You’ll be able to control it from the rear seats should you choose the Ultimate trim. Forward and rearview cameras make parking a breeze. Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage There is only so much economy you can eke out of a 4500-pound luxury sedan, and the Equus doesn’t shock with its 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway numbers. Those are on par with most of the competition, though some of the newer models, like the 2011 Audi A8, return slightly better efficiency numbers.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Upscale finishes can be found in the elegant details of the instrument panel and center stack, and the Alcantara suede headliner is a nice touch. Technology is also intelligently integrated into the cabin. The large car is spacious enough to accommodate any size occupant, and though the Ultimate’s leg rest doesn’t work for people over 5’5”, taller riders can comfortably rest their feet on the forward-folded passenger seat.
Hyundai has adopted a simple design, with few distinguishing lines save for some aggressive hood cutouts. The front-end loses the hood emblem found on the Korean version, and a flat badge replaces it – to a lesser effect. At 203 inches in length, the Equus is lengthy enough to be compared with the long wheelbase Lexus LS and takes on some of its exterior styling as well.
Market Segment and Pricing
Two trim levels, Signature and Ultimate, will be priced around $60,000 – full details on pricing haven’t been released yet. As is Hyundai’s way, this undercuts the competition considerably. The Lexus LS460 L, Audi A8
and Mercedes-Benz S550 start at $70,925, $90,000 (est.) and $91,600 respectively, and all have multiple options and packages that can add thousands more to the MSRP.
What We Think
As far as full-size luxury sedans go, Hyundai’s reputation isn’t established enough to steal sales away from the competition (hence, the 2,000-3,000-unit estimate). However, the Equus certainly has the goods to go toe-to-toe with the Lexus LS. The company has done its homework too, avoiding the immoderate price tag that was the Phaeton’s downfall, and providing every thinkable luxury within the cabin. Despite its status in other countries, Americans are still gun-shy about the up-and-coming marque, and it will take some early adopters willing to pay $60,000 for a Hyundai to get this car rolling out of dealerships.