Who'd Buy a $55,000 Hyundai? Surprising AnswersBy Michelle Krebs May 25, 2010
If you were born before 1990, you might remember the "old" Hyundai. That was the company whose first U.S. model, the Hyundai Excel, was barely a step up from a Yugo. The old Hyundai didn't build cars you wanted to drive; it built cars you could afford.
We're all familiar with the "new" Hyundai. That's the company surprising us again and again with refined and attractive new vehicles such as the 2010 Hyundai Genesis and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata -- cars that are not only terrific values but also, arguably, class-leading in design and execution. The new Hyundai makes cars you want and can afford.
Until now. The 2011 Hyundai Equus, recently introduced at the New York Auto Show, breaks new ground by being the first Hyundai you may really want but -- at an estimated $55,000 -- probably can't afford.
And if you can afford to buy one, would you?
We've turned to the enthusiast community on Edmunds.com's Inside Line for some insights.
Edmunds.com's Inside Line readers are split on the car's appearance; what some find "attractive" and "beautiful," others call "gaudy" and even "hideous." The sharpest barbs are aimed at the car's front end, with readers saying, "Why does Hyundai keep screwing up the grilles on their upscale cars" and "looks kind of like a Chrysler Sebring ... NOT a good thing."
Folks are also divided on the interior. One commenter declares "comparing it to a Lexus LS interior is laughable," but another claims, "If they slapped a Lexus badge on it, nobody would think twice about purchasing it." And the ample wood on dash and door panels is called both fantastic and fake.
Less ambivalent are those who have seen the car, who seem to agree it "looks good in person, like a mini S-Class," and is "far more impressive ... than in video or print."
Looks aside, the Equus debut provokes our readers to debate a bigger question: Is Hyundai ready to take on the likes of Lexus, BMW and Mercedes?
Several suggest this "is too much too soon" for Hyundai, asserting the carmaker ought to "give time for the Genesis and Sonata to build up the company image before unveiling this top of the line model" and should wait to "make it a better car than its competitors and surprise the consumers."
One observes, "the Equus might be a terrific car and even a terrific value, but most $50K sedan buyers aren't really value shoppers." Another predicts, "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."
Others argue "the point of this car is ... to prove that [Hyundai] can build a 50K+ car" and "they are not looking at volume but to pamper each customer on a individual level" by offering cutting-edge perks such as having "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."
Still, at least one reader opines "Audi, BMW, Lexus, Infiniti & Mercedes have nothing to worry about here. It would be like Rolex worrying about a $20,000 Casio watch -- not in the same league." Another points out, "Since we all know this car will depreciate at least somewhat faster (if not much faster) than an LS460, the Equus purchased new could actually cost more to own than the LS."
On the other hand, some believe that, in the wake of the recent recession, this car offers buyers a chance to "have your cake and eat it too." One reader reports, "I have owned a Lexus LS and Mercedes S550, and I feel why spend the extra money for one of them when you can get a Hyundai Genesis or better yet Equus for so much less." Another says, "I can do without the Taj Mahal showrooms and private breakfast bars @ Lexus, thank you."
Interestingly, the comments about the car grow more positive as the thread continues. One sums things up this way: "Given what Hyundai has done in the last 5 years, I wouldn't bet against them. They might not be BMW or Mercedes, but Lexus should be worried." Another says, "This seems more Lexus LS than VW Phaeton" -- perhaps the highest praise Hyundai could ask for.
In the end, as one notes, "The mere fact that there are this many comments ... proves that the Equus is already causing a stir."
And that's the word on the street. - Mark Holthoff, Edmunds.com manager, Customer Support
Photos by Hyundai
1 - The 2011 Hyundai Equus goes on sale in the fall, starting at $55,700.
2 - Comparisons on the interiors of the 2011 Hyundai Equus and the Lexus LS are mixed.
3 - The sharpest criticism of the 2011 Hyundai Equus is for its face.