Hyundai feels it’s ready for the big-time luxury sedan market with its new Equus. It’s designed to compete with the world’s top luxury sedans BMW to Mercedes-Benz to Lexus.
Equus prices are $58,000 for the Signature model and $64,500 for the higher line Ultimate model. That puts it considerably below European and Japanese rivals. But resale value is a question mark.
In these hard economic times, Hyundai feels that “modern premium” customers are willing to bypass products with established upscale names to get more value, no matter if it involves watches or cars.
The Equus comes as a slickly styled, luxurious, equipment-loaded rear-drive V-8 model. It leapfrog’s Hyundai’s successful Genesis rear-drive sedan, which has been out two years and costs in high $30,000 range. In fact, the Equus is based on a stretched Genesis platform.
“If the Genesis had stumbled, we would have had second thoughts about offering the Equus. The Genesis showed people will pay up to $40,000 for a Hyundai,” John Krafcik, head of Hundai Motor America, said at a media preview of the Equus in Palo Alto, Calif.
Hyundai has experienced tremendous sales success in America during the last 10 years and hopes the Equus will further help it shake its old bland economy car image. Hyundai has lots of vehicles in operation and feels that many owners of these vehicles are looking to move up.
Only about 3,000 Equus models initially will be annually sold by only 250 U.S. Hyundai dealers with high customer-satisfaction ratings.
One unique thing the Equus has is a Valet Service program. It allows pickup and delivering an Equus that needs dealer attention, with a service loan vehicle supplied while the Equus is being serviced. Hyundai can afford the program because of the limited number of available Equus models.
The car is handsome, with strong body sculpting. It looks much like other top premium sedans, but sportier. The body has an unusually low 0.37 drag coefficient for less wind noise and better fuel economy.
The luxurious interior is quite roomy, with high-quality materials. There’s everything from a push-button engine start to a superiro Lexicon surround-sound system with 17 speakers as well as heated and cooled front seats. And there are 60/40 power reclining and heated rear seats.
The Ultimate version adds items including 50/50 split power reclining and cooled rear seats, thermoelectric rear console refrigerator, power trunk lid and rear-seat entertainment system with an 8-inch monitor.
A front console-mounted Driver Information System controller that handles lots of functions initially can be difficult to operate while driving.
Unlike some rivals, Hyundai plans no long-wheelbase version of the Equus because it feels extra rear seat room isn’t needed.
The Equus has a smooth, quiet 4.6-liter dual-overhead-camshaft, 32–valve V-8 with continuously variable valve timing and a variable induction system. It develops 385 horsepower on premium fuel and 378 horsepower with regular fuel. The 0-60 mph time is 5.7 seconds.
City fuel economy is not impressive, an estimated 16 mpg, while the highway estimate is 24 mpg.
The engine works with a responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a manual sport mode.
A long drive on twisting California mountain roads showed steering to be precise. Ride and handling are good, thanks partly to an electronically controlled air suspension with continuous damping control. There are driver-selectable damping calibrations — Normal and Sport. Strong brakes are controlled by an easily modulated pedal.
If a driver gets tired, lane-departure and front-collision warning systems help keep them out of trouble.
High-strength steel and crash-durable adhesives create a rigid body structure that gives the Equus a solid feel. Advanced materials reduce noise and vibration.
Helping ensure safe handling and stopping are an electronic stability control system with traction control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and cornering brake control.
Safety items include nine standard air bags, including a drive knee and rear seat-mounted bags.
With the Equus, Hyundai continues its strategy of offering “more for less.” In most respects, the Equus is a bargain.
Dan Jedlicka is the former car reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times. To read more of his automotive content, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.