Hyundai is becoming a harbinger of doom for other car brands. The Elantra’s elbowed the Civic aside as one of the most frequently-recommended compact cars. The Sonata’s near the top of the family-sedan ranks, and with the Genesis, Hyundai aped Lexus’ first steps by introducing a luxury sedan at an eye-popping price, and fitting it with the luxury stuff you’d find in any upmarket near-luxury vehicle.
Now the Hyundai Equus is trying to tackle an even more exclusive group of sedans. Riding on the same wheelbase and sporting the same powertrain as the Genesis, the Equus is plushly outfitted and more formally styled—all the better to throw down the gauntlet to the likes of the Lexus LS, Infiniti M and Lincoln MKS.
After a brief drive in U.S.-spec cars in Korea, we’re able to draw some early conclusions about the Equus. At a base price of around $55,000, the Equus presents an intriguing alternative to the Lexus or the Lincoln, but performance isn’t quite as sharp, nor is it intended to be as sporting, as that of the Infiniti M or the German trio of top-line four-doors: S-Class, 7-Series and A8. Its V-8 throbs with horsepower, but handling’s less confident than any BMW, maybe even less than the sedate Lexus LS.
Interior room and luxury features at a value price are the killer app with the Equus, which rides more softly and looks a bit more formal than anything in the competitive field. There are no paddle shifters or a sport package—but the back seat’s a pleasure palace, with available ventilated, reclining bucket seats that flank an 8-inch LCD screen and DVD player, and an available refrigerated compartment.
The Equus also comes with one more killer app: ultimate customer service. Hyundai dealers will come to owners to service the car, fetching it rather than having them drop it off. They’ll also deliver the new Equus with an Apple iPad that contains the owner’s manual, and an application to set up service appointments. It’s a plan that outflanks the coddling you’d receive from any mainstream luxury brand—and like its standard audio system, which it shares with the legendary British marque, Hyundai’s marketing plan has a little Rolls-Royce in it.