Earlier this week Hyundai announced that it would launch the company’s Korean market Equus flagship right here in the U.S. And to help promote the car, Hyundai decided to show-off a few examples of its top-tier luxury sedan at one of the world’s most high-profile automotive events: the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
While in town to cover the concours, Hyundai invited AutoGuide along for a ride to experience some of what the Equus is all about. Test drives aren’t allowed as the cars on display are Korean prototype models (complete with Korean navigation systems and gauges in km/h) so we had to settle for being chauffeured around, which one could argue, is really the best way to experience the Equus.
Designed to compete with the world’s best, the Equus is based on the Genesis Sedan platform but is a good deal larger.
At 74.8-inches wide, it’s thicker than an S-Class or Lexus LS. The wheelbase is relatively short for this type of vehicle at 119.9-inches and with an overall length of 203.1-inches (just slightly longer than the long wheelbase LS460), don’t expect it to handle like a BMW 750i. Then again, that’s not what vehicles like this were meant for.
Inside is where the real treats are, with every imaginable luxury available. Yes, we’re talking about massaging and reclining rear seats, seat-back mounted flip up tables, LCD screen DVD players and even a fridge. The Equus also gets heated and cooled seats and privacy shades for the back and side-rear windows. One feature we particularly liked was that the side window shades pop up by pulling on the power window switch a second time – which reduces the overall number of buttons and switches in the cabin. In fact, we were surprised by the limited number of cabin-cluttering switches. Another notable feature is the fact that the front passenger seat can be adjusted from an armrest console in the rear – presumably for the comfort and convenience of executive types riding in the back.
The interior materials are definitely high quality, although not quite what you might find in a Lexus LS. Then again, the interior of the BMW 750 isn’t quite what you’d find in a Lexus either. The excessive amount of wood trim certainly isn’t one of our favorite parts, but the genuine Suede headliner is.
Equus drivers will be able to appreciate high-tech features like a back-up camera (and front-facing camera), a blind spot monitoring system, active cruise control, a 528-watt 17-speaker Lexicon audio system and an adjustable air-ride suspension. Hyundai marketing boss Joel Ewanick said that by the time the Equus makes its way to the U.S. the suspension will receive a few tweaks. Normally this means “softening,” but Ewanick surprised us by saying that it will actually be made slightly stiffer than what is offered in Korea.
Under the hood the 2011 Equus gets the same 4.6-liter V8 found in the top-level Genesis Sedan. Making 375hp it should deliver a 0-60 mph time of just over six seconds, with a quarter mile time in the low 14s.
That’s definitely off the pace of both the German and Japanese competition, but you can be sure the Equus won’t cost like a German or Japanese luxury sedan either. Official pricing won’t be released for a while yet, but with the Lexus LS starting at $63,000, you can be sure the Equus will come in under that. A sub-$60,000 price tag isn’t out of the question.
When asked about the possibility of the U.S. Equus being offered with the (rumored) 5.0-liter V8, Hyundai PR boss Jim Trainor said that the focus for now is going to be on the 4.6.
Set to hit the market as a 2011 model, the Equus will go on sale in late 2010. Look for an official debut next April at the 2010 New York Auto Show.
So with the future of the Equus in the U.S seemingly set, there are a few remaining question marks. For starters, the name. Hyundai says it is considering a name change and we wouldn’t be surprised to see one.
Another question you might have is: what about that hood ornament? Sorry to say, the brand-focused marketing folks have decided to axe the ostentatious winged creature (or whatever it is) in favor of a flush-mounted symbol. Those interested will, however, be able to get the hood ornament as a dealer installed option.
The final question for both Hyundai and the Equus is: how will it be received? Quite well, we think.
Trainor says the company has humble goals of just a few thousand units and with changing perceptions about the brand (thanks to the Genesis sedan and coupe) the Equus now offers Hyundai the chance to leapfrog established luxury brands, like Acura.
GALLERY: 2011 Hyundai Equus