Kids in Beverly Hills live a little differently. We're passing by the high school and the line of cars is something you'd see in a music video. They're all black. They're all enormous and they all cost more than a few years' tuition at a private school. There are SUVs, sedans, some full-size coupes and even a couple of towncars. The kids whose parents have last-gen German sedans and sub-lux Japanese cars walk a block north to hitch a ride. American cars? Only if it's an Escalade. And only if there's a driver.
But slotted between a sedan a dictator drives and an SUV a movie star drives is a 2011 Hyundai Equus. We don't stick around to see the kid hop into the reclining backseat (creepy), but that a Hyundai has made it to the front line of a high school in Beverly Hills is monumental.
It's as big a step, and equally as unlikely as Hyundai selling a $59,000 car. But there it was, and here we are with something like 17 feet and $58,900 worth of high-end luxury Hyundai in our long-term fleet for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles.
What We Got
There are no options on the Hyundai Equus, just two trim levels. You can get the Equus Signature, which we have. It seats five and has more standard features than, well, almost anything. Included are: 19-inch wheels, adjustable air suspension, lane departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, a windshield wiper de-icer, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, 10-way power driver seats (with massage), eight-way power passenger seat, a tilt-and-telescoping wheel, leather, Alcantara headliner, 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seats, power rear window shades, navigation, Bluetooth, a 17-speaker Lexicon surround sound system with iPod, satellite radio and six-DVD changer. Oh, and an Apple iPad in lieu of an owner's manual. Because, why not? For your $58,900 (with a $900 destination fee) an iPad seems like a nice trinket.
The other Equus, known as the Ultimate, only seats four, as it has a pair of reclining buckets with heating/cooling/massaging and a center console full refrigerator. The Ultimate also includes a rear-seat entertainment system, power trunk lid and forward-view cornering camera. That one runs $65,400.
Both of these are powered by a 4.6-liter, 385-horsepower (378 with regular fuel) V8 making 333 pound-feet of torque (324 with regular fuel) hooked to a six-speed ZF-built automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual controls. The EPA rates this setup at 16 city/24 highway mpg and 19 mpg combined.
Our 2011 Hyundai Equus Signature is dressed in Black Noir Pearl paint with a cashmere interior and, as you already know, carries a sticker price of $58,900. We didn't pay that, though, as the manufacturer provided the car to us for 12 months.
Why We Got It
Scary as it seems to pay nearly $60,000 for a Hyundai, the strategy of average car companies going big is nothing new. Thing is, most of the time the carmaker will spend a few hundred million dollars developing, promoting and branding an offshoot sub-brand to differentiate the new expensive stuff from the old average guy stuff. It offers something aspirational, something special above and beyond the benefits afforded simply by the toy they've just bought.
Hyundai took the road less traveled here and instead of developing the next Acura, Infiniti or Lexus, simply built a fairly expensive luxury car under the Hyundai banner. Though it should be noted that the message was not lost on Hyundai; with all but the center trunk badge, a unique Equus badge has replaced the H logo on Hyundai's most expensive and ambitious project to date.
We're used to Hyundai scooping up market share in the compact and midsize segments, it's even stealing chunks of crossovers and, well, help us all if the company figures out how to make a minivan.
But skipping steps and running headlong into full-size luxury? Certainly the savings — a 2011 Mercedes S400 hybrid starts at $91,000 while the Lexus LS 460 starts closer at $66,230 — will sway some buyers; they didn't get rich for nothing.
But will it sway us? Will it ride like a luxury car? Will it get valets running as if it were a luxury car? Will it get those failed starlets prepping our coffee all wide-eyed and hopeful like a luxury car would?
We've got 20,000 miles and 12 months with the 2011 Hyundai Equus to figure out. First stop: Starbucks...
Current Odometer: 1,668
Best Fuel Economy: 22.5
Worst Fuel Economy: 13.5
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 18.4
This vehicle was provided to Edmunds for the purpose of this evaluation.