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December 15, 2013

Hyundai Equus gives top-line luxury a twist

As hard as I try – and I’ve been trying hard for a few years at least – I can’t figure out Hyundai.

Last week the company sent me its big and stately, 2014 Equus sedan to evaluate. At more than $60,000, with a large and powerful V8 engine, with a plush and airy cabin surrounded by an elegant, smooth, yet muscularly shaped body, and with an overflow of advanced electronic features that seem to do just about everything, the Hyundai Equus is as pampering and appealing as any luxury car I’ve driven.

I rate its design, construction, content and comfort equal to those qualities in large, showy models from the bona fide luxury-car brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.

But the Equus is from Hyundai, which isn’t a luxury-car brand. That’s the part that’s so hard to figure.

Hyundai has grown to become a respected and popular car maker. It sells a number a standout models. Some of them have made noteworthy contributions to the car community as a whole, all within the last few years.

For example, the Hyundai Sonata excited the mid-size sedan market and shook bigger-name competitors out of a design drought. The Santa Fe brought distinctive style to family-sized crossover wagons, with a crisply wedged, athletically poised body that seats seven people in an elongated version, or five in its normal trim. The Elantra and Veloster gave dash and sassy attitude to smaller, personally sized autos.

Hyundai is a solid and respected brand. It continues to grow in presence and influence. But for all of its assets, Hyundai is not a luxury-car label. Therefore to see the Hyundai name attached to an unabashed, top-flight luxury sedan like the Equus is very unusual.

But that’s Hyundai.

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