Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Expect the Hyundai Equus to start in the mid-$50,000 range when it goes on sale in the U.S. later this year, Hyundai Motor America says, noting the price is tens of thousands of dollars below other fullsize luxury sedans.

The Equus, a nameplate sold by Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. for years in its home market of South Korea, makes its official North American debut today at the 2010 New York auto show.

The new flagship sedan will be the most expensive, well-appointed Hyundai ever sold in the U.S. and will go toe-to-toe with pricier fullsize luxury sedans such as the Lexus LS and BMW 7-Series.

Hyundai says the Equus meets or exceeds certain performance specs of the LS 460, as well as the Mercedes-Benz S550.

For instance, the 378-hp Equus with regular unleaded gasoline is 2 hp away from the LS 460’s 380-hp rating using premium fuel. The 385-hp Equus using premium gas exceeds the S550’s 382 hp.

The Equus’ estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km), overall, matches the LS and bests the S550’s 18 mpg (13.1 L/100 km).

The most notable advantage for the Equus is Hyundai’s tradition of value pricing, with the car beginning between $50,000 and $60,000, compared with starting prices of $65,000 for the ’10 LS and $91,000 for the S550.

The Equus, riding on Hyundai’s rear-wheel-drive platform that underpins the Genesis sedan, is dimensionally similar to both the LS and S550, although the latter is 2.5 ins. (6.4 cm) longer and boasts 42.3 ins. (107 cm) of rear legroom, compared with the Equus’ 38.9 ins. (99 cm).

Hyundai bills the Equus as a good choice for the “busy executive” in the U.S., although it stops short of promoting the car as a chauffeur-driven vehicle, as it does in Korea.

The Equus will offer many technologies, including a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control and an air-suspension system. A forward-view camera to aid maneuvering around blind corners is optional, integrated into the Equus’ grille.

A driver-information system inside the car contains a navigation system, iPod jack, Bluetooth, satellite radio and HD Radio. A Lexicon audio system has 17 speakers making 608 watts of sound.

The Equus is powered by Hyundai’s Tau 4.6L V-8 engine, 2-time winner of a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award, and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission from ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

The Tau, also in the Genesis sedan, makes 333 lb.-ft. (451 Nm) of torque in the Equus using premium gasoline, or 324 lb.-ft. (439 Nm) with regular.

Hyundai pegs the Equus’ 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time under 6.4 seconds.

The car’s 5-link front- and rear-suspension geometry improves steering-wheel control, the auto maker says, and is maximized via continuous damping control.

Chrome 19-in. alloy wheels are standard on the ’11 Equus, and tires boast staggered widths to improve road grip, Hyundai says.

Inside, the Equus has the hallmarks of a large luxury sedan, including leather upholstery, real wood trim and a “French-stitched” instrument panel. An Alcantara suede-like headliner is used.

All seat bottoms and backs are heated and cooled, and the driver’s seat has an optional massage feature. Power reclining seats with footrests are optional for the two rear seats.

Safety features include nine airbags, electronic stability control and electronic active head restraints.

Hyundai describes the Equus’ exterior as “handsome and pleasing to the eye,” calling the taillights bold, shoulders strong and the overall look one of “precision.”

Notable are light-emitting diode rear turn-signal indicators and white LED position lamps, part of an adaptive front-lighting system.

The Equus goes on sale in the U.S. in late summer. As Ward’s first reported, Hyundai plans to sell the car through select dealers who subscribe to a showroom-within-a-showroom plan that sections off the Equus and Genesis from the rest of Hyundai’s lineup.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com