2011 Hyundai Equus Introduction

The Equus is Hyundai's first foray into the large luxury car market segment and it is effectively an all-new model in a very competitive environment. Equus aspires to compete with the Lexus LS 460, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and BMW 7 Series.

As well as being an insouciant gesture to the world's premium car manufacturers that it intends to play in every important segment, this model signals Hyundai's unshakable confidence in its own ability to engineer and build world class vehicles. And it might have been easy to discount the threat this company poses to established players were it not for the impressive recent introductions of the Sonata midsize sedan and Genesis near-luxury sedan and coupe.

Now, after driving the new Hyundai Equus, we can confirm that it is comparable in many ways to the key players in the upscale market. Still, after just an introductory drive in Northern California we are not about to proclaim it the best car in class. Considering the stratospheric panache permeating the luxury-car industry, that would have been an unbelievable achievement.

And yet, with its stylish, European-flavored exterior design, a roomy, comfortable interior clad in tasteful textures, mechanical attributes at the leading edge of automotive technology, and tactile and esthetic qualities good enough for the most discerning customers, the new Hyundai clearly has the goods to play in this league.

At the very least, we'd say the Equus is a fantastic vehicle to move into from a lower segment. We don't see potential Mercedes or BMW buyers considering the Hyundai brand, particularly when their aspirations are linked to social status. But with a base price of less than $60,000, the Equus offers all the performance, refinement and amenities this class of car offers at considerably less money than the entrenched opposition.

That on its own is worth consideration. Add intensive engineering, tasteful design and intelligent use of supplier's technology, and you have a car worth owning in its own right. While it might be tempting for some to discount this car as a luxury wannabe with derivative styling and a copycat format, our experience inside the car tells us that Hyundai has closed in on the concept of fine car-making in a way that confirms there is no going back.

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