Hyundai Equus was love at first sight, but for a long-term relationship, it’s no BMW

Warren Brown
Columnist October 21, 2011

Distance helps. The problem is living with decisions you make close-up and near-term.

That is why I try to avoid becoming the victim of my own enthusiasm in reviewing a given car or truck.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

What looks like a great piece of work today can turn out to be an ode to mediocrity tomorrow — or certainly not as good as originally assumed.

Consider the 2012 Hyundai Equus Signature sedan.

With me, it was love at first sight. I could not believe that Hyundai, a South Korean automobile manufacturer that entered the U.S. market in 1986 peddling motorized dross, could have made such a beautiful car.

From the sweep of its bold chrome grille to the sassiness of its well-turned rear end, it was a captivating sample of all that is good in luxury automobiles. It drew a crowd everywhere I parked it. Several store clerks in Northern Virginia left their checkout counters to take a look.

Had I been in need of an ego massage during the week I drove the Equus, I would have had more than my share. And had I written a review of the car right then and there, it would have been unadulterated raves.

But time and experience intervened. My original inclination to rank the Equus on par, or even above, the BMW 5-Series disappeared with a long drive in a 2012 BMW 550i.

The Equus is a fine car, a superb, well-crafted, rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan. But it’s nobody’s BMW, although it does have a bigger V-8 engine (5-liter Equus displacement vs. 4.4 liters for the BMW 550i) and a bit more horsepower (429 for the Equus vs. 400 for the BMW 550i).

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to understand the appeal of the Equus. The car clearly offers more for a base price nearly $3,000 less — a rounded $59,000 for the Equus Signature sedan compared with $62,000 for the BMW 550i.

But there is a consistency of feel in the BMW 550i unmatched by the Equus, even with the latter car’s standard electronic air suspension and continuously damping shocks — a combination that makes the Equus feel as if it’s floating on air while it’s actually rolling over rocks.

When you are rolling over rocks in the BMW 550i, you know you are rolling over rocks, which is strangely comforting. You have a good idea of what the car is doing, and the car is confirming your idea. I like that. Most drivers appreciate that, I think.

None of which is to say that the Equus is in any way disappointing. It’s a marvelous car, perhaps one of the best full-size luxury values available.

But a BMW is a BMW. You don’t have to explain why you paid $60,000 for a BMW. If you want a BMW, you don’t want an Equus.

It’s just that simple. From a distance, I can see that.

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