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Hello: The lease is just about up on my BMW 7-series and I've been reading about the Hyundai Equus. There is no doubt that the Equus would reduce the monthly nut, but is that reason enough to try one? I often ferry clients around and no one minds riding in the back of a big Bimmer. But a Hyundai? However, if the Equus is as good or better than the 7, maybe I can impress my friends and clients by being smart enough to have found the new, new thing. Right now, I'm leaning toward another Bimmer, but I seek your wise counsel. - William in Toronto

Cato: Here's the question for William: Is the Equus a South Korean version of the Volkswagen Phaeton from Germany?

Is Hyundai reaching too far by launching a big, luxury sedan - just as the VW brand proved to be too mainstream to justify the Phaeton, good as it was. I mean, the Phaeton was a flop.

Vaughan: The scientific way to settle this is to refer to the renowned Vaughan SAPI Score (Snob Appeal and Poser Index). I developed this foolproof test while watching Cato conspicuously slurp expensive bottled water while snapping his fingers to signal some poor PR man to bring around the limo. On the SAPI Score, it's the Bimmer hands down, Willie.

Cato: As usual, you're trading in cutesy comments while Bill very earnestly seeks "wise counsel," not wisecracks.

Now Bill, from a purely dollars and cents viewpoint, the Equus is the obvious choice.

The cheapest Equus, a rear-drive luxury boat with a 385-horsepower V-8, starts at $62,999. The starter 7 in Canada? All-wheel-drive and the base price for the 750i is $108,600. The 750i does have a 400-hp V-8, though. And no one would debate the BMW brand is far more powerful than the Hyundai brand.

Another question, Bill: is the 750i worth $46,000 more than the Equus?

Vaughan: Cato, we're supposed to provide answer, not questions.

Here goes: I never fail to be impressed by Hyundai's relentless progress toward the top of the automotive tables. I was very skeptical about the Hyundai Genesis when it was launched as a Lexus-Mercedes-BMW alternative - until I drove it.

Now Cato, of course, will say otherwise (see SAPI Score above) but in a blindfold test (perhaps not the best way to drive a car) I'd bet 99 per cent of people couldn't tell the difference.

I've ridden in the Equus and it sure feels like a 7-series to me.

However, it does not look like a 7-series. The Bimmer has Bavarian Class all over it. The Equus has Korean Chrome all over it. See, the SAPI Score never lies.

Cato: The problem, my SAPI friend, is that you're comparing the Equus to the wrong car, period.

Hyundai has always had a complex about beating Toyota, not BMW. The Equus is not a BMW-fighter, but a Lexus LS 460 rival ($83,100 for the base rear-drive version). Hardware-, software- and design-wise, these two match up well. But again, the Lexus brand is very strong.

Vaughan: Granted. Technically the Equus is right up there, although I much prefer the Bimmer's eight-speed tranny over the Equus' six-speed.

Cato: The LS 460 has an eight-speed and it's mated to a 380-hp V-8. And Lexus vehicles are sold out of ritzy Lexus showrooms.

Vaughan: Interesting point. The crafty Hyundai people are covering up the fact they don't have gloriously expensive BMW- and Lexus-like showrooms with no showrooms at all.

If you want an Equus, just call 'em up and a devoted servant-for-life will show up at your home or office. Same thing for servicing.

Cato: Hyundai is being smart here. The Equus would look odd in a showroom next to a $9,995 Hyundai Accent.

Vaughan: Willie, at this moment, BMW is the No. 1 premium brand in the world. If you're trying to impress clients, then go with the one proven to impress the most. That's the 7-Series.

Cato: Bill, go up the middle here and buy the LS 460. Strong brand, bullet-proof quality and $25,000 less than the 750i.

Vaughan: Willie, if you do go with the "new, new thing" rationale and buy an Equus, just make sure you've got your storyline worked out in advance; because every time you put someone in that back seat you're going to have to explain just how clever you were in making the unconventional choice.

If you want to do that, then go ahead and pocket the saved money. But you're going to have to explain why you bought an Equus. No one has to explain why they bought a Bimmer.


2011 Hyundai Equus Signature

2011 BMW 750i xDrive

2011 Lexus LS 460 base

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Height (mm)





4.6-litre V-8

4.4-litre V-8

4.6-litre V-8

Output (horsepower/torque)

385/333 lb-ft

400/450 lb-ft

380/376 lb-ft

Drive system

rear-wheel drive

all-wheel drive

rear-wheel drive


six-speed automatic

six-speed automatic

eight-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

14.7 city/9.8 highway

15.4 city/10.0 highway

12.9 city/8.2 highway

Base price (MSRP)




Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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