After years of being immersed in cars, we here in Top Gear can identify almost any car on the road on sight. We can also identify cars in magazines and movies. It's not a prerequisite for being in the team, but it helps.
Now, look at the handsome car below, can you guess what it is?
If you thought it was a Lexus LS, you and I would have guessed the same answer, and we would both be wrong. The car in question is a Hyundai Equus, and this long-wheelbase version is imaginatively called the Equus Limousine. (In case its luxurious length isn't obvious to you, the word 'limousine' can be seen on its wide b-pillar.)
It's not surprising that Hyundai built this £80,000 (P6.272 million; double that amount to factor in our humongous taxes) luxury barge to compete with the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. We saw this coming when we saw the Genesis sedan in the metal. There's little question about their technical expertise and capability to build a car like this at this point.
We have no doubt that its 5-liter V8 engine generates 395hp, the most powerful engine ever to sport a Hyundai badge. We believe the Koreans when they say the rear seats have powered footrests, relax posture control, and massage functions, making them more comfortable than a 747's first class seat.
What we have trouble believing is how dull and uninspired it looks. It's troubling that a car this expensive doesn't have a look of its own. Buying luxury cars isn't just about engineering and features, it's about the brand--buyers pay a premium for the brand identity. An essential part of brand identity is the distinct looks and design cues that separate the old school looks of a Jaguar XJ from the stately stance of a Mercedes S-Class.
When your car picks you up in Greenbelt 5, people should be able to know what car you'll be settling in to without seeing the badge. That's what brand identity is, and if you look at the luxury cars they all have their own particular character. If you arrive in a car that looks like a Lexus (which already has understated design language to begin with), why not just get a Lexus? At least you'll be assured or proven brand cachet and Toyota reliability.
The Equus is no doubt an awesome car, but it's playing with the big boys now. It can't afford to just follow the leaders, especially crucial areas such as looks and design. For now it is only sold in Korea, but if they want to compete in this level, they have to step up their game.