Twenty years ago, Lexus took the luxury car world by storm with bargain-priced vehicles that offered everything the big guys did. Now, Hyundai is looking to repeat that success with the new 2011 Equus, a full-size luxury sedan that will start in the mid-$50,000 range with all the amenities of the segment leaders.
Aimed directly at the Lexus LS 460 Mercedes-Benz S550 and BMW 760LI, the Equus is a luxury sedan of the highest order, according to its spec sheet. Dimensionally, it's actually slightly larger in most cases than the LS 460 or S550 inside and out. Its 385-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 is slightly more powerful than the other two, though it's down on torque with just 333 pound-feet. Despite the big V-8 and 4400-plus pound curb weight, Hyundai still hopes to get 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with a ZF six-speed automatic transmission, right in line with the competition.
The Equus also matches the competition with features. Behind the 19-inch wheels is a five-link independent suspension design on all four corners held down by an air suspension system with "sport" and "comfort" modes. Front and rear cameras aid in parking and low-speed safety while adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings practically drive the car for you.
Luxury customers, of course, are most interested with what's on the inside, and here again the Equus delivers. Offered in four- or five-passenger configurations, the Equus offers heated and cooled front seats and a built-in massager for the driver. Opt for the four-seat configuration and both rear seats get power reclining features and are heated and cooled. For those who prefer to be chauffeured in absolute luxury, the rear passenger side seat also has a power foot rest and massage feature. At both rear-seat passengers' finger tips are controls for multi-zone climate control, power sun shades, an 8-inch video screen between the front seats and even a mini refrigerator in the center console. Non-visual entertainment comes courtesy of a Lexicon 608-watt, 17-speaker stereo with 7.1 surround sound, HD Radio and XM Satellite Radio.
To really bring the deal home, Hyundai is also creating a special suite of services for Equus buyers. Those who come into a dealer with find the Equus and Genesis in a special section of the showroom staffed by dedicated product experts. Or, buyers can have the car and experts come to them at their home or office. The specialists can also pick up and drop off the car for service, leaving behind an Equus or Genesis loaner. Finally, Hyundai has done away with the traditional owner's manual and replaced it with a touchscreen tablet that, should the deal close, will be an Apple iPad. The Wi-Fi enabled tablet will allow the digital owner's manual to be both searchable and interactive and owners will be able to schedule their maintenance through the tablet, and more apps are coming.
When the Equus hits U.S. roads this fall, it will be a strong contender for the established luxury sedans, on paper anyway. With a starting price in the mid-$50,000 range, it handily undercuts all of the competition, but will it be enough to get luxury customers into a Hyundai? If the Genesis is any indication, Hyundai could well have another hit on its hands.
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