First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Equus

The 2008 introduction of the Genesis sedan has been the exclamation point to Hyundai's rapid ascension from bargain brand to mainstream automaker. The premium, rear-wheel-drive entry showed the Koreans had the confidence and desire to take on more prestigious and more established brands by going head-to-head with the likes of the Lexus GS460 and the Mercedes-Benz E550. Hyundai isn't slowing down, though. The company is continuing its ambitious march forward with the bigger, pricier, and more luxurious 2011 Hyundai Equus, set to arrive in August.

A familiar engine bay with room for growth
The philosophy and the competitive targets of the Equus aren't far from those of the Genesis. They're simply one size larger. Rather than aiming for an E-class or 5-series, think BMW 7-series, Mercedes-Benz S-class, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, and Lexus LS460. At its launch later this summer, the Equus will utilize the same 4.6-liter V-8 found under the hood of the Genesis. It produces 385 hp and 333 lb-ft of torque on premium gas. Filling the Equus with regular fuel drops the output by 7 hp and 9 lb-ft. While it's not the most potent engine in the class, Hyundai does have more power than many in the segment. Thrust is hearty from anywhere on the tachometer and Hyundai claims a 6.4-second 0-to-60-mph capability. In more relaxed driving, the engine and transmission are smooth and in sync. While the current V-8 seems plenty adequate, Hyundai will add a more powerful, 5.0-liter V-8 in the middle of 2011 capable of producing 429 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. That new engine will also receive an eight-speed transmission. It's unclear if the 5.0-liter will replace the 4.6-liter, or if Hyundai will offer a choice of engines.

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Looks awful, in my opinion--I'm not a fan of the bland Genesis either, but this looks like a mash-up of an S-class, an Avalon, and a Buick or two. The extra-low rear door handle will be convenient for 4'-8" tall great-grandmas.Also, come on, Automobile: it should be "The price is competitive on ITS own", not "...on IT'S own".

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