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2012 Hyundai Equus : Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 Luxury Car Buyer's Guide

2012 Hyundai Equus Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 Luxury Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks

Audi A6

Infiniti M

BMW 5 Series

Jaguar XF

Chrysler 300

Hyundai Equus

We were reading some of the geek speak while sizing up Hyundai's 2012 Equus premium sedan, introduced in the U.S. a year ago, and one of them came up with an interesting idea. It was to make the easier-to-pronounce Genesis the brand name for Hyundai's new line of luxury autos and build from there.

After all, Hyundai now is where premium Lexus and Infiniti were a couple of decades ago when those became break away brands from Toyota and Nissan respectively. We think it's an interesting idea because the 2012 Hyundai Equus is the toniest, costliest, most upscale vehicle the Korean automaker has ever introduced to American buyers. And we think they got it right in the process, since Equus is built on a formula of eloquent simplicity that delivers far beyond its eye catching good looks.

The point's been made that people buy luxury autos for the  exclusivity that goes with the name. The earlier, upmarket and beautifully executed Hyundai Genesis sedan has had a couple of years to set the stage for the Equus. And while elegant names can be the ultimate prestige halo for everything from handbags to hotels, using that as the only reason to consider buying a car could shortchange a good idea. The Equus, on its own merit, has just about knocked the socks off the competition in style, amenities, cruising performance and the ability to pamper.

Overall the Equus design is supple and graceful, with the kinds of styling and touches typically found on high end luxury automobiles, from the fine lined waterfall grill and taut headlamps to the subtle shaping of its side panels. On first glance, a "What is it?" question begs to be asked. It looks so right, so exclusive, but you can't exactly pinpoint what it is at first glance.

Let's note here the Equus isn't cheap. Any auto with a $65,750 starting price for its premium (Ultimate) model, is moving towards the stratospheric luxury car level. The base Signature trim is a more affordable $58,750. But the Equus also contains some amenities not found on comparably priced luxury autos. And during its inaugural year, just ended, Hyundai even included an Apple iPad in the deal. It contained the vehicle's owner's manual and could interact with the dealership for the total maintenance coverage included in the five-year, 60,000-mile basic warranty.

Inside it's evident this four- or five-seater is a top-of-the line auto. Besides the expected supple leather, real wood trim and full-spectrum navigation system, the list of standard luxury features goes on for pages. There are heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, and driver's seat massage -- definite "ahhh" factors. Active headrests offer more comfort while driving. And the Lexicon premium audio with 17 speakers just rocks. Technology reigns with electronically controlled air suspension, front and rear parking assist, windshield wiper deicer and auto leveling front lighting. Smart cruise control, blind spot and pre-collision warnings weigh in on the safety side.

For those who want it all or are limousine inclined, choosing the Ultimate edition adds such amenities as cooled, reclining rear seats, rear console refrigerator (limiting seating to four), rear seat illuminated vanity mirrors and rear side window powered sunshades. Keeping score? We are.

The rear-drive Equus is powered by a gutsier standard 492-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC sport mode. That engine was added this year to replace the original 4.6-liter V-8. Its ride is tweaked for pampering, comfort driving (like the Lexus models it has in its sights). Fuel economy ratings are 15 city and 23 highway miles per gallon.

The 2012 Equus is light years removed from the original Hyundai autos that began gracing American shores in 1986, when the name was synonymous with "small" and "cheap." And sure, the Equus might have some selling to do now to be treated with the same awe as those well respected  Teutonic or Asian luxury brands.

But Hyundai has a track record for gaining ground each time it has moved up market -- despite the doubters -- and proved its critics wrong every time. If it keeps offering the kind of luxury as there is in the Equus and continues to maintain its level of excellence, we think there will be a lot of very happy Equus owners around.

Visit the Hyundai website, click here.