Test Drive: 2011 Hyundai Equus  car test drives reviews luxury cars hyundai auto articles
2011 Hyundai Equus. Click image to enlarge

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First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Equus

Manufacturer’s web site
Hyundai Canada

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2011 Hyundai Equus

If the idea of a $70,000 Hyundai sounds too odd for words, just remember: there was a time when a high-end Toyota sounded pretty strange as well, until people got used to the idea of Lexus.

That’s pretty much the type of success Hyundai is anticipating with the Equus, its high-end luxury model that’s new here for 2011. The company only expects to sell about 100 of them this year (skater Brian Orser has purchased one), but it could be the beginning of an entirely new direction for a company that’s moved almost all of its models to new heights of refinement in the last little while. In addition to top-line features, the new sedan also comes with an equally new “owner experience” that includes Equus-specific service, a dedicated line to the company’s head office, and even an iPad that holds the owner’s manual. It’s all part of the company’s plan to target such marques as BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, but at a considerably lower price.

Test Drive: 2011 Hyundai Equus  car test drives reviews luxury cars hyundai auto articles
Test Drive: 2011 Hyundai Equus  car test drives reviews luxury cars hyundai auto articles
2011 Hyundai Equus. Click image to enlarge

The Equus – the name is Latin for “horse” – is based on a lengthened platform from the Genesis sedan. It uses that model’s 4.6-litre V8, tuned for the Equus’ heavier weight, producing 385 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Those figures are rated with premium fuel, but the Equus can run comfortably on regular-grade fuel with a power drop to 378 horsepower and 324 lb.-ft. of torque. For next year, the Genesis and Equus will trade in the 4.6-litre for a 5.0-litre V8.

My tester was the five-passenger Equus Signature at $62,999. There’s only one step up, the Equus Ultimate, which seats four and rings in at $69,999. My “base” model, if that term applies, includes such items as heated and cooled seats, driver’s side massage, real wood accents including the heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, climate control with automatic defogging, air suspension, navigation system, power sunshades, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive xenon headlamps, lane departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, power-folding auto-dimming mirrors, and a very impressive stereo system by Lexicon, whose only other automotive client is Rolls-Royce.

The Ultimate moves even closer to its high-end rivals by adding a wide-view front camera, power-operated trunk, rear vanity mirrors, power-operated rear head restraints and cooled storage box. Rear-seat passengers enjoy heated and ventilated seats, eight-inch monitor, power lumbar, and for the right-hand passenger, a seat that folds out like a La-Z-Boy lounger and includes a shiatsu massage function. Only one passenger can enjoy the laid-back position because the right front seat has to be slid forward almost to the dash for the rear seat to unfold.

Some 27 dealers are carrying the Equus, in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. If it needs service, someone comes to your house to pick it up and then deliver it later, giving you a Genesis as a loaner vehicle in the meantime. If you’re serious about buying one but don’t have the time to come by the store, Hyundai will even bring one to you to test-drive.