2011 Hyundai Equus: The Big Bang Theory

Hyundai Equus
The most profound and innovative inventions to change the scope of how we perceive and interact with consumer products have come from the least suspecting companies. If you desire an intelligent perspective on luxury for example, then countries like Germany, Japan, United Kingdom and Italy come to mind. Well, how about Korea? Hyundai’s all-new flagship, the luxurious 2011 Equus sedan, launches with a full suite of premium amenities and services to elevate the buying and ownership experience. From tailored showroom salons, to at-home test drives, to valet service appointments, the Equus customer experience is designed to exceed expectations from competing luxury brands. Are you ready for some “Korean shock therapy?”

I first experienced the Equus over a year ago at the 2009 Pebble Beach auto show. Though my driving time was short, the vehicle brought out a magnitude of curiosities. Could Hyundai actually be thinking about competing against S-Class, 7 Series, A8 and LS? Yes indeed. The vehicle features a 4.6-liter V8, an air suspension, 19” chrome wheels, first class rear seats, an intuitive multi-media system, and much more. Today is a far cry from the 80s when Hyundai made cars like the Excel, which literally rattled apart. Now the pedigree of its lineup is stellar – included is the sporty and delightful Sonata mid-size family sedan, the Genesis premium sedan that took North American Car of the Year honors in 2009, and an all-new flagship reminiscent of a vehicle with a $100,000 price tag. Slash that price in half and you’ve just witnessed the “Big Bang Theory!”

How is Hyundai able to do it? Well, there’s an array of components helping Hyundai gain momentum, trust, respect and confidence from savvy auto buying consumers. One key formula is what the company’s President and CEO John Krafcik calls the ABC Strategy.

From the bottom up we first start with A for “assurance.” Without assurance customers can’t move on to the product evaluation stage. Hyundai’s assurance translates into a 10 year/100k mile warranty, 5 years roadside assistance, and job loss vehicle return programs. Does anyone ever consider owning a vehicle for ten years? My household keeps vehicle for five years or less and moves on. So imagine the confidence instilled within if you decide to extend your brand loyalty for an additional five years. There will be no worries about a transmission going out or an engine blowing.

B is for Blue Drive, which defines Hyundai’s environmental and social responsibility efforts. Hyundai vehicles already achieve great fuel economy with an industry leading EPA mpg average of 30.9 in 2008, besting Honda, VW and Toyota. Philanthropically, Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels endeavor supports pediatric cancer research. The company contributes $200 for every car they sell and have raised more than $14 million to increase childhood cancer awareness.

C is for Connection and how Hyundai will interact with consumers. It begins with an emotional draw to the brand by way of inspiring designs, vigorous styling and end product to be proud of. Hyundai keeps their customers well informed via social media like FaceBook and Think Tank, an invitation only online community.  Hyundai wants to deliver very specific messages for the Equus. Originally, it was launched in 1999 in Korea as a FWD V8 with a Mitsubishi powertrain. Today’s second generation Equus is a far cry from the original. Rightfully so, the brand is delivering a “modern premium” message. Their prospects will fly Virgin over British Airways, wear Tag Heuer over Rolex and seek news by way of an iPad over traditional print media. Speaking of Apple, an iPad substitutes as the vehicle owner’s manual. Impressive. BMW integrates its manual into iDrive so it’s quite obvious that digital technology is rapidly replacing paper.

Experiencing the vehicle on the roads of Northern California was just as enticing as learning about its storied development. Inside, the Equus does everything exactly as any other luxury touring sedan. It begins with a very intuitive Driver Information System (DIS) operated by a large rotary dial with seven function buttons for audio, navigation and phone. An 8” display screen broadcasts the navigation, HVAC, audio and vehicle information with a crisp and colorful clarity. The iPod interface is very precise and simplistic while destination entries for the map can be inputted on the fly. A leather/wood combo steering wheel is heated and controls all of the mentioned amenities. Alcantara faux suede lines the roof and the front 12-way adjustable seats are heated and cooled.  Lexicon provides an impressive 7.1 discrete surround-sound audio system with 17 speakers and 608-watts. Yes, we’re still talking about a Hyundai.

The Equus’ ride quality is outstanding and the drive performance is prolific. Motoring technology includes a 52/48 rear-wheel drive platform; a 4.6-liter V8 (also used in the Genesis) with 385 horsepower and 333 pound-feet of torque; a Continental supplied (also supplies the staggered tires) air suspension with continuous damping control and with “sport” and “suspension height” settings; a 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC; 19” chrome wheels, and electro-hydraulic power steering. You’ll achieve 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy fuel economy with the Korean big boy. My summation is simple. Its power is competitive within its class, the suspension handles roads made for Porsches without massive body roll, gear shifting is smooth and the steering selection offers the best of both worlds in terms of fuel savings (electric) and natural steering response (hydraulics). Yet, only one wheel design is available and it’s chrome, which doesn’t fit the Equus at all. The “bling” days are over.

To keep customers and dealers from confusing one another, the Equus comes in only two buildable configurations — Signature and Ultimate  — and with only four color options – White Satin Pearl, Granite Grey, Black Noir Pearl, or Platinum Metallic. Hyundai does need to open the color palette since buyers in this category are very fickle.

The Equus is all it’s measured up to be. There are few things to complain about. Its 203.1” overall body length compares to competitors’ long wheelbase models, such as the Lexus LS which it slightly resembles with bigger hips, stronger lines, an array of chrome trim, wide, dual exhaust tips, and a glaring grille. There’s more! Cornering HID headlights with LED turn signals, LED tail lights, a forward-view cornering camera and a power trunk.

Safety features come in bundles. Beginning with a high-strength steel frame, the Equus is instilled with 9 standard airbags (driver’s knee bag included); Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with ABS, EBD, CBC, BAS, TCS; Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) with Electric Stability Control, Electric Parking Brake, Smart Cruise Control, Seatbelt Tensioning System; Lane Departure Warning; and Parking assistance via the display screen. Do you need more shock therapy people?

Specifically with the Ultimate first class seating is at your disposal. Usually when a remote is in hand it’s for the TV or audio system. Well, this time it’s for the 50/50 power split, cooled and reclining chairs which allows you to stretch indulgently. Have you every sat first class on an overseas flight? Exactly! Did I mention they massage too? A cooler chills your drinks while a rear entertainment system keeps you occupied.

What’s magnificent about the opportunity to own an Equus is not only the price point, but Hyundai’s respect and consideration for your time. “Your Time, Your Place” is an at-home vehicle demonstration program which will bring an Equus to your home or job. You never have to set foot in a dealership. If you decide to purchase all of the aforementioned, a valet service comes standard, another awesome programs that will pick up your Equus for service while delivering another Equus or Genesis loaner.

Hyundai wants to sell 2,000 units per year through 250 of its 800 dealers. For premium customers, this will certainly make them feel even more special.

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