Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why I'm not driving an Equus today...

Spent an hour and a half at Ed Voyles Hyundai yesterday morning, checking out the Hyundai Equus (granite gray Ultimate) that they had. When I had first reserved a vehicle, the color was listed as dark gray; it's a very light gray, almost a silver gray, which wasn't what I wanted. But it wasn't the color that led me to determine that this wasn't the car for me.

First off, I wasn't allowed to drive it. Since they had only this one for sale and had not gotten a demo car yet, I could only sit in the parking lot and test out various aspects of the vehicle. I've never bought a car that I wasn't allowed to drive at all prior to purchase, so that was off-putting, to say the least. Perhaps if I had insisted, I would have been able to drive the car, but I definitely go the feeling that it would have taken some pushiness on my part to get that car moving off the lot, and I didn't feel like being pushy... wasn't really sure that I should have to, either. It goes against the customer-oriented luxury nature of the vehicle.

I did get to test out the driver's seat, passenger seat, and rear luxury seat. The driver's seat was fine (although a headrest angle adjustment would be nice... all it has now is a headrest elevation control), although the massage feature was less soothing than aggravating--almost as bad as having someone slowly pressing on the seat from behind. Didn't do anything for me.

The passenger seat does have height adjustment as well as angle adjustment and forward/backward movement (there was some rumor out there that the height was fixed), but it does not have lumbar adjustment or leg support adjustment.

The rear "luxury seat" is, to be kind, an absolute disaster. Unless you earn your living pointing at the sky and saying "zee plane, boss, zee plane!" or questing for the one ring to rule them all, then this seat is entirely too cramped to be of any comfort with the legrest elevated. I tried pushing myself as far back into the seat as possible, but even with the front seat moved forward to its maximum, I either had to bend my feet sideways or press them against the back of the front passenger's seat and leave dusty footprints. Even then, it wasn't at all comfortable. The features are nice, but the seat simply doesn't work in the space allotted for it unless you're about 5'2" or less.

The iPod control is improved but I'd only give it a B-. You can connect an iPod, then say "iPod" and "random songs" to randomize on the fly. However, if you change input to anything else (XM, FM, etc.) and come back, you have to randomize again. The DIS displays an iPod symbol and the track number on the center of the dash when you're in iPod mode--not the title, mind you, but the track number, which tells you nothing. And as is the case with the Genesis, if you leave the iPod display (to go to map, for instance) and come back, it no longer shows you the artist/album/song info about the current track playing--you have to go through a cumbersome system of finding the playlist once again, then looking at the screen for the track number and maneuvering your way to that track. Since I was randomizing an 800 song playlist when I was testing it, I found that the track being played was 534, and it would have taken way too long to maneuver my way through that many tracks.

The bass seems stronger and punchier than on the 2009 Genesis--but conversely, the treble seems a little more subdued, giving it almost a Bose-like sound quality (and I'm aware that Bose isn't well respected by a lot of audiophiles, but I"m not saying that as a negative--I don't mind the Bose sound in the Acura RL, for instance--but I didn't feel that this system had the full resonance of the Lexicon in my 2009 Genesis). Surround separation and processing was superb except for one little glitch. I have an Acura TL demo disc that begins with a Doobie Brothers Song--first in two-channel sound, then in 5.1 surround DVD-A sound. That disc plays fine in the Acura, plays fine in the 2009 Genesis, plays fine in the 2011 Genesis they had loaned me at one point... but on the Equus, it would NOT play the stereo track. It went dead silent on that track, even though the timer was counting down. Once it got to the 5.1 version, the sound came right back on. Led me to wonder if I might have similar problems with other discs.

No A2DP streaming bluetooth audio--an odd omission that underscores the general impression that the audio, NAV, and DIS tech is years old. It contradicts the contemporary, cutting-edge luxury attitude that Hyundai seems to be trying to convey with its iPad owner's manual and other touches.

The doors definitely do not have auto-closing feature, as I had been warned would likely be the case. That's a shame; they actually had to remove this feature for the American market, since it's included in the Korean version of the car.

Nav system looked like the Genesis system--although since I couldn'td drive the car, I didn't get a chance to put it through its paces. I also didn't have time to check out voice commands in the manual to determine it destination entry is any easier. Wish that Hyundai would include that part of the manual in their iPad app--the audio and DIS/NAV system section is totally missing, however. I'd need more time to explore the NAV interface, and that would require being able to drive the car. Right now, the NAV interface in the Genesis is so cumbersome that it's almost unusable.

Front camera had a good field of vision; I could see objects well not only in front, but off to each side. Not sure how useful this would be, since I've never had a driving situation that led me to think, "Boy, I wish I had a little camera mounted on the snout of my car."

Coolbox is very compact; I suspect it would hold a six-pack of canned beverages, but didn't have anything with me to test it out. There are two storage compartments between the two rear seats that seem a bit too high to be comfortably accessible, but they're still nice to have.

The rear DVD has to be moved into position manually--an oddity in a field where most DVD screens automatically raise and lower themselves. All in all, the picture was fair to adequate--but the display on various Acura, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan vehicles I've sampled with rear-seat DVD screens was brighter and more vivid.

Motorized rear sunshades worked nicely, but that's not a feature that means much to me. If it's important to you, you'll be happy.

Fit and finish quality seemed very respectable; at first I thought the paint had an orange-peel look, but that turned out to be the play of light off the heavily-metal-flaked paint finish.

What led me to pass on the Ultimate? Well, not driving it was a big factor. Having to wait for a half an hour to see the car after having made the appointment five days earlier was an inconvenience since I was on a tight schedule, but not a deal-breaker; I do hope that the vehicle prep team can keep to schedule a little better in the future, though, because it's always disappointing to wait a half an hour when you have a specific appointment time.

Ultimately (no pun intended) I just didn't feel that there was $65K+ of car there. Since the stereo system/DIS system is under a 3 year warranty, it would cost from $689 to $1700 to extend that to 5 or 10 years--and with the many problems that DIS has had for Genesis drivers, I wouldn't feel comfortable without that extension. (Woodstock Hyundai threw that in at no charge on my 2009 Genesis.)

The price differential was made even more noticeable by a very low trade-in offer on a 2009 Genesis with 10,500 miles. The car has been garaged continually when not driven and is in impeccable shape, but the offer came in at almost $5000 under Kelly Blue Book trade-in value.

The absence of a Hyundai Circle discount (which was once rumored, but was confirmed by Hyundai as NOT being offered for the Equus after all) left me in a situation where I was going to have to write a check for almost $10K more than I would have hoped. And even at the price I had originally hoped, I just didn't feel that I was going to get my money's worth. I could not have seen myself closing this deal unless the drive-out price after trade-in had been $10k less than what was offered to me, including a warranty on the DIS. That sounds like I'm pipe-dreaming, but bear in mind that if I had been offered Kelly Blue Book trade-in value and had the Hyundai Circle pricing been offered as many of us thought it was going to be, I would have had the car for $10,000 to $11,000 less than what was quoted to me at Ed Voyles.

I haven't cancelled my deposit with Ed Voyles; I've asked them to let me know when they have a Signature edition that I can actually drive, and then I'll see how I feel about it. But right now, The Equus strikes me as a missed opportunity; had Hyundai actually designed a luxury car for the American market rather than shoehorning a Korean car (with Korean-buyer-focused features) into the American market, it could have been a real winner.

(One more piece of advice, Hyundai: you might want to avoid announcing improvements to the Equus and the Genesis even before the current Equus is available. I saw the announcement that the Equus would get a 5.0L V8 and an 8-speed transmission even before the first Equus went on display in November; I saw just last week a report that the 2012 Genesis with the same engine and transmission might be available as early as the first quarter of 2011. It makes your very expensive flagship car seem tired and lackluster out of the gate when buyers are already told that both the Genesis and the Equus will have improved engines and transmissions but no, there will be no Hyundai Circle discount or other incentive to encourage early adopters to buy, drive, promote, and support the line.)  

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