Everything today is marketed as luxurious, from bathroom soap to real estate. While it is possible for a precious bar of soap with some exotic scent to seem more luxurious, one has a harder time buying the line with other items, such as “luxurious” third-floor walk-ups.
By LARRY PRINTZ
You might also have a problem with cars.
After all, the components once reserved for luxury cars, leather seats, high-end electronics, and power accessories, are now available on the smallest compact and sub-compact cars. So, what do you get when you plunk down $60,170 for a Hyundai Equus?
For starters, size. The Equus is longer than most other cars. In fact, it’s longer than the Lexus LS 460, but not as long as a Mercedes-Benz S550, two cars that Hyundai cites as competition despite significantly higher price tags.
Walk around the car and you’ll find conservative styling that looks more expensive than most other vehicles, even if it’s hard to identify exactly which brand the car is.
Next, you’ll find that the Equus is stuffed with features, such as the 17-speaker 608-watt Lexicon brand audio system, electronically controlled air suspension, and a stability management system that warns you if you’re about to collide with something. Its cruise control system maintains a preset distance, while the high-intensity discharge headlights brighten the path ahead.
Other niceties include a front and rear parking assistance system with rearview camera, premium leather seating, a microfiber suede headliner, driver seat massage, heated and cooled front seats, wood and heated leather steering wheel, and numerous other items that do their best to sell this car’s luxury credentials.
And its roomy cabin, expansive leg room and comfortable seating will further sway you.
Once you turn the key and the 429-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 springs to life, you’ll be convinced. The engine has plenty of power, allowing for strong acceleration, although overall mileage, rated by the EPA at 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, came in at just 18 mpg in mixed driving despite the new eight-speed automatic transmission.
So far, the Equus checks all of the right boxes, and given its price, seems to be a bargain against its Asian and European rivals.
But here is where things fall apart.
Consider that luxury apartment. It may have granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, even a central vacuum system. But if you have to walk up three flights to get to it, the term luxury seems a bit misplaced.
Similarly, the Equus’s lengthy equipment list, handsome looks and potent V-8 signal its intentions. But its platform returns a soft ride with lots of body motions over bumps. It’s so soft, passengers comment. It can be quelled somewhat by the enabling the sport mode, but then, the ride is not firm enough to make this car a true sporting machine.
Like other pricey Hyundais, the car’s suspension falls short of the feeling this car intends to impart.
Also, the test car, a base Signature model, had too much road and tire noise. And its switchgear lacks the polished sensation one would expect; it feels as if it’s shared with lesser Hyundais. And while the Equus has a remarkable amount of equipment — Ultimate models get reclining rear seats — you don’t get a blind-spot monitor.
For Hyundai, the Equus is a remarkable achievement, a car that can credibly compete against the finest cars in the world. But for the automotive connoisseur, some details hold it back from being able to compete on something other than price.
But considering how far Hyundai has come in the past couple of decades, the Equus won’t bear that stigma for long.
2013 HYUNDAI EQUUS:
—Engine: 5.0-liter DOHC V-8
—Wheelbase: 119.9 inches
—Length: 203.1 inches
—Weight: 4,605 pounds
—Cargo space: 16.7 cubic feet
—EPA rating (city/highway): 15/23 mpg
—Fuel consumption: 18 mpg
—Fuel type: Premium
—Base price, base model: $59,250
—Base price, test model: $59,250
—As tested, including destination charge: $60,170