High End Hyundai Unveiled in New York

The first cars made by Hyundai were affordable, practical vehicles. The company’s first model, the Excel, was a subcompact akin to the Yugo. They were simple, not highly desirable, but affordable cars.

The “new” Hyundai builds cars that are stylish and refined, like the 2010 Hyundai Genesis and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata. These cars are definitely desirable in both design and execution and are also a great value to the consumer.

At the New York Auto Show recently, Hyundai unveiled its newest model, the 2011 Hyundai Equus, which is a car that is definitely desirable. However, at a cost of around $55,000, it will not be affordable for many consumers. The question that comes to mind is: Would you buy one if you could afford it?

Car enthusiasts on Edmunds.com’s Inside Line have differing opinions on the exterior of the Equus, and describe it in a range from “gaudy” and “hideous” all the way to “attractive” and “beautiful.” The biggest problem seems to be with the front grille, which some say looks a bit like the Chrysler Sebring. One respondent called this similarity “NOT a good thing.”

The opinions of the interior of the Equus are also divided, ranging from “fantastic” to “fake looking” when describing the wood on the panels and dash. Some compare the Equus’ interior to the Lexus LS. Others believe the comparison is laughable.

Those who have actually seen the car in person seem to agree that it is attractive, making comments such as “looks good in person, like a mini S-Class” and “far more impressive…than in video or print.”

Back to the question, though, is the Hyundai Equus capable of competing with similar models from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes?

Opinions vary. Some say it is too early for Hyundai to compete in the high end market. One person remarked, “The Equus might be a terrific car and even a terrific value, but most $50K sedan buyers aren’t really value shoppers.” Another said, “This is going to be Hyundai’s version of the VW Phaeton—nobody went to VW for their $60K V12 sedan, and nobody goes to Hyundai for their $50K+ V8.”

On the other hand, some have an opinion similar to this one: “the point of the car is…to prove that (Hyundai) can build a $50K+ car…they are not looking at volume, but to pamper each customer on an individual level” with benefits of ownership such as “most maintenance…scheduled via the (included) iPad owner’s manual, with a valet bringing out a Genesis to drive while the Equus is being worked on.”

If nothing else, the Equus is causing a stir. Some believe that the high end car is nowhere near competing with other high-end models simply because of the brand. Others think Lexus should perhaps be a bit worried, considering the advances the Hyundai brand has made in recent years.

Only time will tell if buyers are ready to consider a new luxury model from an automaker with humble beginnings.

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