2011 Hyundai Equus: Third Drive

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As you've seen across the High Gear Media empire of automotive Web sites, we've spent some quality time with the 2011 Hyundai Equus. In fact, we've driven it once in what was clearly "not a first drive" and then a few months ago in South Korea.

Now, we've had a shot at the final production Equus. The third time's definitely a charm, since the 2011 Equus has been tweaked to give it better handling, which in turn raises the stakes in the luxury bona-fides lottery.

We'll spare you the details of all that we've covered in TheCarConnection's full review of the Equus--we'll be updating that review with information from this drive--but to touch all the bases, we'll remind you that the Equus is Hyundai's rear-drive luxury sedan that's squarely aimed at the Lexus LS, the 2011 Infiniti M and the Lincoln MKS. At a base price of around $55,000, the Equus is a magnitude less expensive than the Benz S-Classes and BMW 7-Series sedans of the world, but it delivers the kind of luxury you'd automatically pitch in that competitive set--if it weren't for the old cultural biases that elevate German cars, sometimes without good reason, over the hoi-polloi-er brands.

The Equus still doesn't quite have the distinctive, instantly recognizable face that cuts across luxury radar, like the face on the 2011 Jaguar XJ or even the twin-kidney grilles of the BMW. But it's getting there. On longer exposure, the first glance at familiar cues--hints of E-Class and Lexus LS--in the Equus' details mutes itself, and you begin to see the upswept tail and tapered side glass a bit more. Hyundai's gained confidence in styling with the Sonata and the Genesis, and the Equus simply straddles a different point in time, since it's coming to the States essentially midway through its life cycle. The cabin is very much a convincing luxury piece, with similar Lexus cues but delicately applied subtext--like the winged metallic trim that surrounds the dash vents, and echoes the logo on the hood and on the big LCD screen during start-up.

Hyundai's changed the suspension settings noticeably since we last drove prototypes outside of Seoul, and it's entirely for the better. The 4.6-liter, 385-hp V-8 remains a good and faithful companion to hurtle to 60 mph in under 7 seconds, and the Equus lets in just the right kinds of noise and vibration so you're sure it's working underhood. The six-speed shifts willingly, too. It's swift and quick, and the 429-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 coming in spring will no doubt boost the performance score we give to the Equus over on TheCarConnection.

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