2011 Hyundai Equus Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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Hyundai's all-new flagship sedan, the 2011 Equus, made its North American debut at last year's New York International Auto Show. Hyundai's intent with this new luxury sedan is to compete on a global plane with other premium marques in the segment on all levels - design, performance capability, amenity content, advanced technologies and ownership experience.

Visually, the Equus displays a kind of understated elegance with some styling cues that are on par with those of other competitive Asian, British and German luxury sedans. It is a showcase of tasteful elements that blend harmoniously, delivering a pleasing and appealing overall form that satisfies the senses in an emotional way. Hyundai calls their new design aesthetic "Fluidic Sculpture." Equus styling, penned at Hyundai's Design Center in Irvine, California, conveys dynamic strength with an intelligent perspective on luxury.

The large luxury craft comes in both a four and five passenger layout, with two distinct trim levels - the base Signature Equus (five passenger) and the Equus equipped with the Ultimate Package (four passenger). Both models are essentially long wheelbase vehicles, with an extra long wheelbase version on sale in Korea. Available in Korea since 1999, the 2011 second generation Equus, which was developed through a joint effort with Mitsubishi, is set to go on sale on our shores in November.

Power for the Equus will be supplied by a 4.6-litre, 32-valve V8. The engine delivers 385 horsepower at 6,500 rpm along with 333 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm when fueled with premium grade petrol - the power ratings decline somewhat when using regular grade fuel. The V8 engine mates to a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with "SHIFTRONIC" manual shift mode. Fuel efficiency ratings are expected to be 14.7 L/100km city and 9.8 L/100km highway. An all-wheel drive version is scheduled to be added in the future.

The Equus is underpinned with an electronically controlled air suspension system with Continuous Damping Control, along with height adjustable and driver-selectable Sport mode. Up front is a multi-link setup with a 29mm stabilizer bar, while the rear features a multi-link setup as well, with an 18mm stabilizer bar. Both Equus models roll on Continental ContiSportContact staggered rubber mounted on 9-spoke chrome alloy wheels.

Equus will only be available in four exterior colors: Black Noir Pearl, White Satin Pearl, Granite Gray, and Platinum Metallic; with only three interior color combinations: Jet Black with Walnut trim, Cashmere with Birch Burl trim, and Saddle with Walnut accents. There are only six possible combinations, which simplifies ordering.

The standard equipment and feature inventory list for the Signature Equus is most impressive, with virtually everything one could possibly want in a luxury sedan, including a 608-watt Lexicon 7.1 discrete surround sound audio system with 17 speakers; navigation system; Lane Departure Warning system; Smart Cruise Control; electronic parking brake with auto hold; nine standard airbags; and a host of traction, stability and braking electronic aids.

The Ultimate Equus adds first-class style rear seats with leg support, heating and cooling, and massage system; rear seat entertainment system with 20cm monitor; a thermoelectric rear console refrigerator; rear seat illuminated vanity mirrors; "Forward View" cornering camera; and power trunk lid operation.

A bonus feature for every Equus buyer is an iPad loaded with the owner's manual and an application that allows scheduling service without a phone call. Another plus is Hyundai's Valet Service Program that includes vehicle pickup and delivery with a service loan vehicle provided. Prospective buyers may schedule an at-home "Your Time, Your Place" vehicle demonstration from a Hyundai dealer.

The Hyundai Equus is a remarkable luxury sedan with sporty attributes. It is visually appealing, in a way that is difficult to describe - some observers felt that some of its design cues resembled those of a Mercedes-Benz S550, while others likened styling elements to a Lexus LS 460L.  Neither comparison is a bad thing, as the Equus comes across as stylishly elegant in its own right. Other members of the Equus' competitive set include the Audi A8L, BMW's 750Li and Cadillac's STS.

Equus is not only appealing in the looks department, but in the performance and creature comfort categories as well. The 4.6-litre V8 cranks out more than enough horsepower and torque to please even the most discriminating driving enthusiast, while providing comfortable accommodations in a safe and secure environment. The speed sensitive, electro-hydraulic power steering delivers crisp handling characteristics, and the ride quality is compliant without sacrificing stability.

The six-speed automatic transmission allows for silky smooth gear changes. The only downside for myself and several others was the manual gate placement, which is positioned to the right - too far to the right to be exact. When reaching intuitively for the shift lever to effect gear changes, it wasn't where one would expect it to be, but rather off to the right and back somewhat. Not a major issue certainly, as one owning the car would soon become accustomed to its position.

Pressing the Sport button enhanced the driving experience even more, altering shift points, damping characteristics and throttle response, and moving the Equus into more of a Sport Luxury sedan category. Gauges and instrumentation are well placed for optimum user-friendliness, and driver seating is infinitely adjustable, allowing for the ideal driving position.

In the final analysis, other luxury sedan manufacturers should probably be more than a little nervous, given the attributes of the new Hyundai Equus. Pricing has not yet been officially set for North America, but expect prices between $60,000 and $80,000 depending on trim levels.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Luxury Sedan, Hyundai, 2011, $50,000 - $74,999, Equus,

Organizations: Hyundai

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