But it does shine a bright light on the notion of value, a characteristic of the all-new 2011 Hyundai Equus. Though final pricing hasn't been announced, Hyundai reps suggest that the Equus will ring up $10,000-$20,000 below its competitors, while, as we discovered, delivering comparable performance, amenities and appeal. That bleak picture is now starting to take on a little color.
The 2011 Hyundai Equus will go on sale through select dealerships starting November 1st.
Photos courtesy of Hyundai
#10. Hyundai reports prices will start between $55,000 and $70,000.
#9. A few special features create the ultimate Equus experience.
Quite a bit, actually.
The Ultimate takes off from where the Signature stopped, adding a wide-angle front-mounted camera, a power trunk lid, and a rear entertainment system centered on an eight-inch screen. But what really sets the Ultimate apart is its rear-seat configuration. Replacing the standard bench are heated and ventilated buckets, a console with multiple controls and a small cooler, and a powered footrest for the passenger-side occupant.
#8. Behind the scenes are a familiar engine and an all-new suspension system.
Working in concert with the Equus's powertrain is an electronic air suspension system with continuous damping control, a feature not available on any other Hyundai model. Drivers can select either Normal or Sport mode.
#7. From behind the wheel, the 2011 Hyundai Equus feels smaller than it is.
Under the skin is a modified Genesis chassis, though the air suspension system is all Equus. In Normal mode, we enjoyed a smooth and quiet ride on good roads, but on rough pavement Hyundai's luxurious sedan transmitted too much jounce and felt stiffer than expected. Tap the Sport button next to the shift knob and the steering becomes more responsive and the suspension firmer. When subjected to tight corners at impressive speeds, the 2011 Equus responded with plenty of grip and little body motion.
Reaching those speeds was the job of the 4.6-liter V-8, which, in Normal mode, was silky smooth around town and refined when tapped for passing power. We did have to drop the pedal quite a bit to elicit a downshift from the transmission, but we were never left wanting for more ponies. A pop into Sport mode promises quicker response from the gearbox and the throttle, giving the Equus a more sporting feel.
#6. Like any true luxury sedan, the 2011 Equus delivers a generous serving of comfort.
Move to the second row and you'll find a bench seat in Signature models. Hyundai has provided plenty of foot, leg and head room, as well as supportive cushions and a useful fold-down center armrest. The Equus Ultimate swaps in two inviting buckets and a center console in lieu of the bench. Foot and leg room are not quite as generous as in the Signature model, but, on the plus side, the Ultimate's rear chairs can be heated and cooled.
#5. The Equus Ultimate's rear seat is a great idea...for a longer car.
Using buttons on the rear center console, the front passenger seat is tilted and slid forward, providing room for the footrest to rise. That all works as intended. Unfortunately, a lack of space between the front and rear seats means even passengers of average height will find their feet resting on the backside of the front bucket, rendering the footrest essentially useless and marring a leather seatback in the process. That's not the experience buyers are looking for when dropping big bucks on a new luxury sedan.
#4. With a few exceptions, controls are logical and intuitive.
Just when we were starting to feel as though we were smarter than the Equus, we found the Climate button, located just below the center screen. Tap it and you'll see a display of current settings on the center screen, suggesting to us that the climate control system was integrated with the central dial. Not so. That screen is for reference only.
#3. Interior materials are top-notch, for the most part.
Hyundai's new flagship is dressed to the nines, with Alcantara suede on the headliner and pillars, genuine wood and alloy accents applied throughout the cabin, and leather that's been treated to give it a soft look and feel. Those hides, by the way, are used everywhere, from the door panels and armrests to the seatbacks and dashboard. No pleather here. That upscale treatment continues with the leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed steering wheel, but the front climate control dials could be upgraded with rubber or better plastic.
#2. Though the Equus is all-new for 2011, changes and updates are already on the horizon.
We're also told that development of a blind-spot warning system, a feature gaining in popularity, wasn't completed in time for the 2011 Equus's debut, but will be available soon. All-wheel-drive and other body styles are expected to debut when the Equus is revamped in five years or so.
#1. A worthy luxury car from a non-luxury brand. We've heard this story before.
We're betting the 2011 Hyundai Equus will enjoy a different fate. This new flagship delivers the performance, creature comforts and refinement necessary to compete in the big-ticket sedan class, but more importantly, pricing will likely give the Equus a considerable advantage in terms of value. Like every Hyundai, it's backed by a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. On top of that, Hyundai has developed a unique sales and service approach for the 2011 Equus, bringing the test drive to you and promising pick up and delivery whenever maintenance is required (for the first five years or 60,000 miles).
Despite all this, the Hyundai badge will likely remain a stumbling block. Smart shoppers will look past it.