Hyundai's luxury gamble

At the 2010 New York auto show, Hyundai launches the Equus luxury sedan.

Hyundai Equus
The Equus is likely to change the perception of Hyundai as an economy brand. Sarah Tew/CNET

NEW YORK--For better or worse, Hyundai made its name on affordable cars. That theme hasn't changed much, even with the release of the company's largest premium luxury sedan, the Equus, at the New York auto show. While Equus competes with cars such as the Lexus LS 460, Mercedes-Benz S-class, and Audi A8, it comes in at a significantly lower price, with a base below $60,000.

Seeing an Equus on the road, you might not even realize it is a Hyundai, as the company's slanted H logo only appears discretely on the trunk of the car. Most of the badging, including on the front of the car, bears the Equus name and logo.

Based on a stretched version of the Genesis platform, the Equus' rear wheels are powered by a 4.6-liter V-8. This engine produces 385 horsepower, which Hyundai boasts is more than that of the LS 460 and S550. However, torque, at 333 pound-feet, is substantially less than its competitors, a potential fault as torque is what makes a luxury car move forward with little seeming effort.

However, Hyundai opted for a ZF six-speed automatic, which should give the car smooth and efficient power transmission to the wheels. Helping create a luxury driving experience is an air suspension that actively adjusts to driving style and road conditions. It includes a sport setting for better cornering.

To compete in the luxury market, Equus gets a variety of driver aid electronics. Adaptive cruise control slows the car down when traffic ahead slows, and lane departure warning alerts drowsy drivers during lane drift. A camera in the front of the car watches cross traffic, useful when pulling out of garages.

We expect to see the usual raft of cabin tech, such as navigation, Bluetooth phone support, and iPod integration, features all available on lesser Hyundais. In addition, Hyundai details the Equus' Lexicon audio system as having a 608-watt 13-channel amplifier and 17 speakers, producing 7.1 surround sound.

But what clearly makes the Equus a luxury competitor is the availability of a driver massage seat.

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

 

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