What's noticeable from the Equus, mostly, is the relaxed feel. It's probably too relaxed for American buyers, Ewanick says. One of the important tasks in the next year is to tailor the sedan's ride and handling to match its competition. "It's going to be more in that S-Class and LS area in terms of ride quality and handling," Ewanick says, "and discerning owners in that segment know exactly what that means."
Hyundai's already taken extensive measures for noise and harshness control, to give the Equus the kind of isolation that the Lexus makes a brand hallmark. Adhesives and body welds together give it structural strength, and lots of sound deadening gave the prototype we rode in a very well-hushed ride.
Other details under discussion include the interior features. The excellent Lexicon audio system from the Genesis will be fitted to the Equus, along with an updated navigation system. The hood ornament--a stylized bird--will be replaced by an emblem, but dealers will be able to install the ornament for customers who want it. Wood trim will be standard, along with a plush suede headliner. And in the roomy back seats--plenty of room for six-footers to cross leg over knee--will get fold-down wooden trays, and either a single or dual LCD screens.
There's some talk over the long-wheelbase model, and whether it will eventually be offered in the U.S., along with the larger 5.0-liter Tau V-8. It's not being confirmed by Hyundai now; neither is four-wheel drive, which is "not now" in the product plan.
The year-long march of the Equus to the media, dealers and potential customers has a point. Hyundai still is deciding issues some of those important product points--but it's also evaluating the name. "We kind of favor Equus," Ewanick explains, "we think it's a cool name, [but we're] still looking at alternates." Hyundai could, in fact, badge the car as "Equus by Hyundai" to distance it somewhat from the other vehicles in showrooms.
As a halo car, the Equus dealer experience will get upgrades. There won't be a separate brand for the Equus anytime soon--that idea is not dead within Hyundai, but not happening now, Ewanick says--but special training for dealers and service people is part of the plan. Hyundai is investigating whether it wants customers to come into showrooms at all--reps could pick up and deliver cars for service, under one scenario.
While it hashes out the details, Hyundai will show the Equus at future auto shows. When it reaches dealers at the end of summer 2010, it will join a new 2010 Hyundai Tucson already on the way, and will precede the new 2011 Hyundai Sonata and Sonata Hybrid to showrooms. Hyundai will be "conservative" on pricing, which may mean a proportional step up from the most expensive Genesis sedans, somewhere around or above $50,000. Only 100 to 200 dealers will be allowed to sell the car, and Hyundai only expects to sell 1000 to 2000 cars annually while it feels its way around the luxury end of the market.
At that price, the Equus could prove as compelling as the Genesis has been to near-luxury shoppers. The Genesis has brought Hyundai new customers while other pure luxury brands are losing share, and the low-volume Equus should do the same, Ewanick concludes. "These cars will lock in that market share gain and take us to the next level."
Stay tuned for more from the 2009 Los Angeles auto show--and until then, see more photos at our 2011 Hyundai Equus page.
2010 Hyundai EquusEnlarge Photo