Entries in Mercedes-Benz S-Class (3)
There is no need to rehash the evolution of Hyundai in the American market in the last eight years, that has been done to death. In that time, Hyundai has built a reputation for quality products that provide excellent value. Where Hyundai has really shined, is in providing high levels of content compared to it’s competition at the same price or less.
When Hyundai decided to bring the Equus to the U.S. a few years ago, many said that Hyundai had gone to far, no one would buy a top end luxury car from the brand, they should focus on what they were good at doing, high value cars for mainstream America.
If there was one car in the Equus’ sights it was the Lexus LS series, the original usurper in the top end luxury segment, Hyundai looked at that playbook, and looked to repeat the success. While the Equus did not take off like the original LS, that was partially due to supply constraints and conservative sales estimate from Hyundai corporate. While the Equus was good when compared against the LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class it felt about half to three quarters of a generation behind those two in the quality of materials and some overall refinement.
Come the 2014 mid-cycle refresh and most of the issues have been addressed. There is an upgrade to the quality of materials throughout, though there are one or two striking misses, the aircraft style map lights in the rear being a noticeable one.
The styling has been tweaked, a nice clean up in removing some chrome trim from the front and rear bumpers along with the tail light lenses, gives the Equus a more refined look, the new 19” turbine style wheels look very striking as well. Hyundai have also changed out the headlamps and taillights to LED’s as well.
Inside there is an all new dash, instrument panel and center stack. In Ultimate trim there is a control dial on the steering wheel for the infotainment system’s 9.2” display that provides haptic feedback.
The infotainment system is an up to date system with a 64 gig SSD drive, with 30 gigs reserved for music, videos and photos. The Nav system has “Junction View” giving you a graphical representation of Interstate interchanges and which lane and route to take. Also down in the Nav system menus, there is the ability to see how far a rest stops are down the road.
In the instrument cluster there is a 7” display between the speedometer and tachometer, for additional information, including turn by turn directions from the Nav system. The Equus also is, in Ultimate trim, equipped with a Heads Up Display. If you’ve never driven with a modern HUD unit, it is something that is very nice to have. The HUD unit will display speed, turn by turn directions and blind spot warnings.
If you choose to ride in the back, this is an “Executive Luxury Sedan” after all, there are dual 9.2” displays, power door closure, and four way power lumbar adjustments to the rear seats.
Out on the road the Equus drives well, it feels like a large solid car. There are two drive modes for the suspension, “Normal” and “Sport”. Most people will not move out of the Normal setting and that’s fine, the ride and handling are compliant, and there is no float to the ride. Change to Sport and things firm up, the steering has a little more weight and feel to it, but the change in settings does not transform the Equus into a “Sport Sedan”.
Power for the Equus is the excellent 5.0 liter Tau V8 engine producing 429 horsepower, matched up to an 8 speed automatic transmission. While one would not call the Equus fast, the power is more than adequate, you never feel as if you are laking for power. You can get up to speed quickly, on a two lane road you have plenty of torque to get you around slower cars and safely back into your lane. Merging on to highways is not a problem at at all. Best of all, unlike some other cars in this class the Equus does not require Premium Fuel.
The Equus comes in two trim levels, Signature and Ultimate. Pricing for the two models is $61,920 for the Signature and $68,920 for the Ultimate, that is $1,750 more than the outgoing model. Compared to others in the category the Equus is $11,000 less than the Lexus LS, $33,000 less than the BMW 7 Series and $37,000 less than the Mercedes S-Class.
While many might think that people who would buy a Lexus, Mercedes, Audi or BMW would not be interested in the Equus, according to Hyundai America CEO John Krafcik, they have had a significant amount of conquest business from those other brands.
While at the end of the day the Equus might not be quite as good as the Lexus LS, it’s 95-98% as good and at a much better price point. The interior and ride quality are on par with the outgoing Mercedes S-Class, at a huge savings, without some of the service headaches that come from owning a German car.
The Equus is a player in the market and shouldn’t be discounted, we saw 20+ years ago how the German luxury makers dismissed Lexus, and we saw how well that worked out. Given what Hyundai is doing with their mainstream products, the Equus shouldn’t be dismissed either.
If you were to rank all of the cars the Toyota builds and list them in order of “drivers car” the Toyota Avalon may rank at or near the bottom of that list. To most people, the Toyota Avalon was always the Buick Roadmaster that you would no longer built, a car for your grandparents.
With the 2013 model Avalon, Toyota's looking to change the demographic for the Avalon buyers, as of now the average age of a Toyota Avalon buyer is 64, Toyota is looking to drop that to the mid-50s. How they are going to do that is by completely changing the nature of the car. In fact, as the title of this article suggests, the Japanese have come to America to build a German sedan.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon is the first car that Akio Toyoda oversaw from start to finish. When you drive this car, you will field his fingerprints all over it, in that his emphasis was to make Toyota's cars that people would enjoy driving. The Avalon was designed in California, engineered in Michigan, and will be built in Kentucky, and when it goes on sale, it will have the highest US content of any vehicles sold in North America.
There will be two versions of the Toyota Avalon available, a V-6, and a hybrid version. There will be several modes in which you can drive in both cars. In the V-6 model you have ego, normal, and sports, while in the hybrid version you get those 3 plus an EV mode.
The V-6 model will definitely slant much more towards the “drivers car” then the hybrid. The V-6 will have 268 hp and 248 foot-pounds of torque, and can do a 0 to 60 run in 6.7 seconds. In eco-and normal modes the car feels very composed, switched into sport mode the steering firms up very nicely, the ride is just a bit more firm, and if you didn't know, you'd think you were in a German performance sedan, and that's no joke.
The hybrid version of the Avalon is geared much more towards comfort. It still handles well, steers well, but in driving them back to back, the differences are noticeable. The hybrid Avalon, while maybe not having the driving dynamics of its V-6 version, is still very composed, and does not feel like some boulevard cruiser.
There are some very interesting design dynamics going on with the new Avalon. It seems to borrow from quite a number of cars. In the front it has a trapezoidal grille reminiscent of some current Ford products, taken from certain angles in the rear, or the side, you can see design elements from the Mercedes-Benz S class, the Jaguar XJ, and even the Audi A7. All that amalgamation comes out very well and while some people may not care for the nose of the car, there can be few complaints about the design of the rest of the car, save the need for a larger wheel and tire package.
The interior gets a massive upgrade on the new Avalon from the previous model. Again with the German sedan theme, if you were familiar with the interiors of current Audi products, there are many similarities with the new Avalon. The use of materials textures and colors really make the interior standout, and give it a very high-quality feel. The stitching on the leather of the–Israel hand stitching. There are a select number of people in the factory in Kentucky who hand stitch these together on machines, there is no automation, and the attention to detail is obvious. The use of contrasting and complementary colors and materials again gives the car a very upscale look, in addition to a center stack that draws inspiration from modern midcentury design.
Many modern cars that have a swoopy rear end styling to give the illusion of a coupe, sacrifice rear seat head and leg room in the name of style. This is not the case with the Avalon. Toyota have done a nice job of creating space for rear seat passengers so that even those well over 6 foot will have plenty of room. Toyota feel so strongly about this design, that they are pursuing the livery market with the Toyota Avalon.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon is a major change in direction from its past models. No longer a Boulevard cruiser for the retirement community, the Toyota Avalon is now an upscale luxury sedan ready to challenge the Germans, but with the quality, dependability, and reliability that you would expect from a Toyota.
Please have a look at the full gallery of pictures from the shoot.