2011 Hyundai Equus

RALEIGH, N.C. — Perhaps Hyundai's biggest mistake with its all-new 2011 luxury sedan is the name. The car is indeed worthy of comparison to the Lexus LS 460 and the S-Class Mercedes. The Equus is nothing short of astounding considering it is Hyundai's first foray into the premium-luxury segment.

But it's the name. Not Equus. That sounds OK. It's Hyundai. Perhaps the Koreans should have formed a new brand, like Toyota did with Lexus; Honda did with Acura and Nissan did with Infiniti. Just go back a few years to the Volkswagen Phaeton, a luxury sedan not unlike the new Hyundai. Despite its near unanimous rave reviews, it lasted only three years in the U.S. Volkswagen found it difficult to sell a luxury sedan that could cost up to $90,000 with a big VW emblem on the front.

Get past the name, and you will be rewarded with a true luxury car from every aspect for a mere $59,000. And it may have the most standard equipment of any car in the world under $150,000. When we say options aren't necessary, we really mean, options aren't necessary.

The Equus is as quiet as a Lexus LS, and as comfortable as a Mercedes S-Class. It offers a fashionable cabin, and comes with the latest safety and convenience technology on the market.

Where it slips a bit is with its powertrain. There's absolutely nothing wrong with its 385-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic. It's just that most of the aforementioned luxury competition come with more powerful engines and seven-and-eight speed transmissions.

Hyundai will take care of that "problem" with the 2012 edition, which is slated to get the company's new 5.0-liter 429-horsepower V-8 mated to an eight-speed shifter.

For now, we can live quite well with either of the two trim levels, Signature ($58,900 including destination charge) or Ultimate ($65,400); far more reasonable than the Phaeton in any trim. Standard equipment includes adjustable air suspension, heated and cooled front seats with driver massage, dual-zone climate control, a Lexicon 17-speaker 680-watt surround sound system, rear audio and climate controls, navigation, lane-departure warning system, and rearview camera.

If you can come to grips with a Korean car company producing a premium level vehicle you’ll find yourself behind the wheel of a really fine car. Plus the Equus comes with an iPad that includes the owner's manual; how cool is that!

— Jim Meachen