First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Equus

It's no BMW
The chassis features some fresh technology for Hyundai. Adaptive air springs allow the driver to select a firmer, sportier setting or stay with the standard, comfort-oriented suspension stiffness. All four corners use a multilink suspension setup and 19-inch wheels are standard. Whatever the setting though, the Equus' chassis feels neither as composed nor as comfortable as those from the competitors. Around a small handling course and Hyundai's Namyang, South Korea, R&D center, the Equus exhibited an extreme propensity to understeer. It's here -- in aggressive driving maneuvers -- where you'll really notice a difference between the Hyundai and the comparable BMW or Benz. The front-wheel-drive Sonata 2.0T that we drove just prior was far more neutral and agile. Weight, of course, plays a factor in that, but the Equus is no heavier than an S550, which handles much more gracefully. If nothing else, we wish the throttle would be a more helpful tool for controlling the Equus' yaw.

The steering is also troubling, with artificial and lagging power assist from the electrically driven hydraulic pump. When spun quickly, the steering wheel floats freely with constant, pinky-effort assist levels. Once you've got the wheel pointed in the chosen direction, though, the effort curve catches up, allowing the driver to feel the faux resistance as it's ramped up.

Still no style, still a great value
Much like the Genesis, the Equus lacks character and charisma in its exterior styling. Bland and derivative, the design doesn't deliver the prestige that a vehicle in this class deserves. The inside, though, delivers on the luxury. Hyundai will sell the Equus in both five- and four-passenger variants. We only had time in the four-seater, but the experience was enough to convince us that this will be the Equus to buy. Passengers in the rear of the top-trim Equus Ultimate are treated to heated and cooled thrones with full power adjustment. The rear passenger-side seat even has a La-Z-Boy-like footrest, though it's unusable for taller people. There are audio and climate controls, along with a rotary dial for navigating the entertainment screen between the front seats. A refrigerated cooler in the armrest keeps beverages chilled.

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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