Reverse-Halos, Snow, a Desert Rainbow, and a $66,000 Hyundai

There's a Whole Lot of Strange Floating Around in the Nevada Desert

By Matthew Askari | Photos By Matthew Askari | September 17, 2012
2012 Hyundai Equus Front Three Quarters View
There's a whole lot of strange floating around in the Nevada desert. Like, Joshua Trees and curious burros are weird enough, but even more so when whooshing by them sitting in the back of a $66,000 Hyundai with "mode 2" of the back-seat massager on. Other things are surreal; the sun is shining down momentarily on us, but in plain view the dramatic mountain peaks are being blanketed white, flurries courtesy of the floating clouds. But this went down on Monday, rewind to Sunday at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Randomly I hear my name as I'm removing my laptop from its case to go through security. It's an old acquaintance I haven't seen for a while. We greet and when he asks why I'm at the airport, I explain I'm flying out to test drive some cars in Las Vegas. "Oh, cool!" he says enthusiastically. Anything neat? I name the three cars I'll be driving. "Oh sorry," he says, but then quickly amends, "I mean don't mind me I'm a car snob."
Here's the dilemma: These cars, the 2012 Hyundai Equus, 2012 Hyundai Azera, and 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe, in all likelihood encompass more features, amenities, styling, sportiness and comfort than anything this acquaintance has ever driven. It's no secret among us in the industry that no automaker can deliver more car for your buck than Hyundai. And judging by sales, apparently it's no secret to the public, either. But does it translate to pricier segments?

"No plans," he says. "Do we talk about it? Yeah, but we talk about everything." This is Hyundai CEO John Krafcik quelling industry rumors that I ask him about at a casual lunch, we're back to Monday after our drive in the desert. The rumors revolve around the Korean automaker's top-tier products, the Equus and Genesis models to be specific. We reported a couple weeks ago that it was suggested Hyundai was considering creating a separate Genesis brand, to help luxury buyers looking to shell fifty-sixty-some grand on a Hyundai to rest assured that it wasn't on a Hyundai (even though it would be sold in Hyundai dealerships).
"Would we sell a few more of our top models to the brand snobs out there? Sure. But the reverse-halo effect we get for our other models having the Equus and Genesis on the Hyundai badge, is terrific," Hyundai's North American Prophet added. A moment later while gulping down the last bite of my Panini I notice this: a rainbow. We're on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, high ceilings and all windows, and you can see 30 miles clear in every direction. But hovering over the Las Vegas strip, is a rainbow. And here's the thing, at this very moment, there was snow coming down in the mountains to the West, sun to the South, and clouds that parted just enough to the North to allow us a rainbow. A couple of the journalists up there were pointing at it, but I'm not sure everyone saw it; sitting in that lounge, it depends on your perspective. Back to that in a moment, but as we were eating a fine meal, we should have a word from the lunch's commercial sponsor:
The 2012 Hyundai Equus features a 5.0-liter V-8 engine good for 429 horsepower, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It's also loaded with cool features like a cooled-box in back that can store beverages or snacks, luxurious, fully adjustable seats, oh and that massaging feature. Commercial's up. Here's the rub: The Equus we drove was the Ultimate model. At a price of $65,700 more than a few eyeballs will bulge. But the Equus is meant to run with the bulls; BMW 750i; Mercedes-Benz S550; Audi A8. How does it fare? Well, suffice it to say if someone said "take your pick," we'd be speaking Deutsch. But if we had to pony up our own cash, now, we might go the kim chee route. You'd save half, if not tens of thousands over those other marks. Where the Equus can really spar, is with the Japanese. The Lexus LS 460 is a fine automobile, but so too is the Equus. Personally, I'd take the Genesis 5.0 R-spec we drove in December, with the same engine and not light on any of all that fancy luxury stuff either, and even at 46 grand, like any other Hyundai, it's a good value. But back to the Equus. Does it have the refinement, excitement, and prestige of the top German luxury sedans? No. The Japanese? Maybe so. What you make of it, ultimately comes down to how you judge it. It's not as refined and prestigious as the luxury sedans it's chasing. In the end it's a Hyundai, and it's going to give you the value that's inseparable from the brand. If we go dollar for dollar, the conversation changes. Like up on that 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental at that lunch, if you asked any group of journalists what the weather was like at that moment, well, it would depend on their perspective. And that goes for the Equus too.

More Traveling & Events Articles

The open road. It beckons some of us, compels others, and maybe even scares off a few. But for most, one of the great joys of owning a car is enjoying it on a road trip, whether it's blasting down an Interstate, exploring the wilderness, or driving to your favorite annual hoedown. We love road trips, and we love telling you all about them in words and pictures, so come ride along with us as we hit the road and discover what's out there.
2014 Nissan GT-R Mug Run

2014 Nissan GT-R Mug Run

We drive a 2014 Nissan GT-R on an urgent mission to replace a coffee mug.

October 17, 2013

The Pebble Beach Experience: A First-Timer's Look at the World's Most Extravagant Celebration of Cars

The Pebble Beach Experience: A First-Timer's Look...

Pebble Beach weekend is one of the best car events in the world, but...

September 17, 2013

Baja to British Columbia: 1,500 Miles on Interstate 5

Baja to British Columbia: 1,500 Miles on...

We get hit by rocks, visit volcanoes, and perform a burnout or two from...

April 05, 2013