Around the block in the ambitious Hyundai Equus

We’ve been impressed by Hyundai’s recent efforts to move its marque into luxury territory, so when the Korean company’s most ambitious upcoming product pulled up in front of our office, the entire staff spilled out onto Liberty Street to take a look. Parked just down the road was a Hyundai Equus, the large luxury sedan set to go on sale here next summer with a price below $60,000. As the range of Hyundai’s lineup continues to stretch further up-market and spread farther from its budget roots, we’re curious to see how Americans will receive the Equus.

The car that arrived at our office this morning was a production model from Korea, where the Equus has been on sale for a few months. Hyundai had brought the car by our office for a sneak preview of its most expensive car. Aside from a few badges and content availability, this Equus was the car we’ll see in dealerships next year (although it may arrive under a different name).

We took turns ogling the Equus from the curb and playing with all of the controls inside the cabin. Anyone who’s been in a Genesis sedan will recognize the Equus cockpit, with the familiar steering wheel, shifter, and rotary navigation controller. The big change comes from the back seat. Longer than a Genesis sedan by roughly seven inches, the Equus provides more legroom and plush thrones for rear seat passengers. The split bench seat was both heated and cooled for outboard passengers and provided power adjustment. From the controls in the flip-down armrest, passengers could control the audio system, sunshades, and even the front passenger’s seat. In Korea, Hyundai also offers an option for massaging rear bucket seats with a center refrigerator. That package may or may not make its way to the U.S.

With assistant editor David Zenlea at the wheel, three editors piled into the passenger seats for a short spin around Ann Arbor. It’s no surprise that the car feels very similar to the Genesis. The Equus rides on the same basic underpinnings and is powered by the same 4.6-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Our 10-mile drive didn’t give us much time to evaluate the finer points of suspension tuning and chassis rigidity, but we can confidently say that the Equus stands to carry on the Genesis’ mission of providing impressive luxury for thousands of dollars less than the competition.

While standing around the Equus, we also squeezed a genuine opinion from a potential buyer. The Hyundai had been parked next to a BMW 7 Series and as the owner returned to his car, he took note of the Equus. His curiosity piqued, he asked to sit in the lux Hyundai. In addition to the 7 Series, our guest critic owns an S Class, Lexus RX400h, and Porsche 911 Turbo. He took his turns sitting in both the rear and driver’s seats and expressed that he was quite impressed with the car. So we asked him the obvious question: “Would you ever trade in your BMW for a Hyundai?” He thought about it, explained his passion for driving, emphasized how much he valued the driver’s experience, and then settled on an answer. Yes, he might purchase a luxury Hyundai, but he probably wouldn’t drive it. “Maybe for my wife,” he said.