2011 Hyundai Equus Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 26, 2011

The 2011 Hyundai Equus sets a high-water mark for the Korean brand, and rings like a warning shot to the folks over at Lexus.

The 2011 Hyundai Equus is picking a fight with the best executive-class sedans in the world, but can it really topple the Lexus LS, BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class from their lofty perches?

The answer depends largely on how much the recession has ravaged your 401(k). If you're drooling over a German, but aching badly for some sort of fiscal relief, the Equus delivers a knockout blow to those car prejudices and gives you the cover you need to buy a Hyundai instead.

The math is simple. Hyundai's new Equus carries the same number of people, spits out nearly identical fuel-economy numbers, and hustles itself along about as swiftly as the comparable versions of these time-honored sedans. What it doesn't do is maul your Quicken account quite as badly, since its base price of $58,000 is what you'd pay in most instances, for the mid-size sedans from those brands. BMW's 7-Series starts from $82,500 for a competitively powered 750i; the Mercedes-Benz S550 soars even higher at $91,600.

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The Equus can't deliver the kind of prestige--yet--that those badges confer on their drivers. In truth, the big Hyundai's handling is off the high-water mark set by the BMW and Benz, though it's a better handling car than the Lexus LS. It wears a mishmash of styling cues from all continents, too. But the Equus' interior gives up nothing on luxuriant leather and wood trim, or on tech-centric features, down to the airline-style reclining right rear seat and its built-in, robotic Shiatsu specialist. The service plan for the big sedan is defining: the free Apple iPad included with each sedan allows owners to schedule appointments for technicians to come to them, not the other way around. It's a white-glove twist that neatly avoids the question of whether Hyundai showrooms are luxe enough yet for that task. And there's a 429-horsepower, eight-speed powertrain in the offing that might convince you, if you're not already sold on this keen value proposition.

We've driven the 2011 Equus a few times, and with each experience, the Equus made more and more sense--particularly when it's held up against the Lexus LS, the most vulnerable of those worthy competitors, or even the beloved Infiniti M56. The Equus outpoints Toyota on its own game, in an irony that can't be lost on the Japanese brand. In 1989 Lexus up-ended the luxury battle of the titans; now Hyundai's set to do the same. Whatever your current notion of Hyundai may be, the Equus is an entirely credible beast that brings ultra-luxury amenities down to the semi-well-heeled masses.

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