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Korean Kingpin: Introducing the All-New 2011 Hyundai Equus

Paul Meyers

It’s amazing how some things can seemingly materialize overnight and take an entire industry by storm. Extraordinary anomalies like Facebook, the iPad, and reality television all fall into this category, and—whether you have noticed it or not—Korean automaker, Hyundai appears to be on the fast track to this sort of meteoric rise. It was only a few years ago that the Hyundai Genesis put bigger Japanese brands like Infiniti, Acura, and even Lexus on notice, offering a similar product for a noticeably smaller price tag. The recession could not have come at a better time for Hyundai.

Now it’s 2011 and the economy is in recovery, but Hyundai is not settling back into its former position at the lowest end of the totem pole. This is a brand that dreams big—albeit, at a small price—and the all-new Hyundai Equus is the poster child.

Priced just below $60,000, the Equus is nearing the price of  of flagship sedans like the Lexus LS 460, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class—all of which cost $10,000 to $20,000 more in their most basic forms. And yes, with cheaper leather materials, plastic switchgear, and a slightly disconnected steering feel, the Equus does still feel a bit rough around the edges; but it would be safe to say that this car is a less expensive alternative to German luxury and styling.

The exterior boasts a handsome design that is unabashedly similar to the S-Class and LED headlamps taken straight from the Audi style guide. Those with a keener eye will notice that only a single Hyundai badge exists on the car’s body panels, which is atypical for a major automotive brand. Open the door, and illuminated floor mats welcome the driver and passengers into a cabin with a wood and leather-wrapped dash, a 7.1 surround-sound audio system, and 12-way adjustable (heated and cooled) seats with a massage function. This car almost feels as if it was designed to come with a chauffeur.

Those who prefer to drive, however, will be happy to know that for 2012 the Equus will come standard with a 5-liter V-8 engine that produces 429 hp and 376 ft lbs of torque. That is a significant boost over the current 355 hp V-8 that exists in the 2011 model. Although the car does not handle like a BMW, the Equus does give Lexus some fierce competition. The car is comfortable and smooth, with a faint aura of a true luxury automobile.

Although most of the car’s design language feels like it was stripped and stolen straight from the signature styles of other manufacturers, Hyundai makes the Equus ownership experience unique by offering a few unprecedented luxuries. The most impressive of these is the purchasing process. Anyone interested in owning an Equus simply makes an appointment (with a local dealer) to have the car delivered to his or her residence for a test-drive. If, after the drive, the prospective owner would like to order the car, the assigned salesman—the one who delivered the car—simply goes through the configuration process on the Equus’ iPad. And yes, each Equus comes standard with an iPad that is preloaded with the owner’s manual. The only downside: making sure that it is charged when you need it.

All things considered, a Hyundai may not be a good alternative for those looking to buy a Mercedes-Benz or an Audi, but for those who do not need brand names to define value, the Equus is worth every penny. (www.hyundai.com)

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