As we move into the next decade, there will be a push for more electronics in our cars. We humans can’t get enough of this thing called constant contact. It doesn’t even have to be with another human; just playing on smartphone apps is enough to lull that endless depression that comes from living in the overstimulation zoo that is modern society. Consumers want technology that can reach out and touch the user — even in the case of the automobile.
We look to our new cars of the 2011 model year and ask, “When will you drive yourself? Aren’t you supposed to be hovering by 2015?” We certainly haven’t reached that point, yet, but in the meanwhile the automakers will satisfy our needs for contact.
Take the Hyundai Equus, it’s the latest entry to the full-size luxury segment and Hyundai knows it simply cannot be just another big cow that gets put to pasture. Hyundai has taken this knowledge and applied it as an all-out barrage in the segment—an almost anything goes. Our experience with the Equus so far has been nothing short of fantastic. And while it does have a Hyundai badge at the rear, every other design cue speaks otherwise.
With the smartkey in your pocket, lightly touch the inside of the door handle; Equus unlocks and prepares for your arrival. With nothing more than the push of a button, your Equus boots with a wonderful chime and a muted engine note — you would swear it didn’t start. The usual steering and seating circus act commences and you’re brought into command position. Look to the high-res display and you can control your music (XM, Aux-in with iPod/iPhone dock, 6-disc CD/DVD), navigation and communication device; all from a single rotating knob situated underneath the shifter. The interface is fast and intuitive—although a bit more speed wouldn’t hurt—but the menu navigation is quick and straight to the point. Lighting, notifications, seatbelt pretensioners, and other options can also be accessed via the click wheel.
The rest of the interior is about convenience and comfort; heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel, driver’s massage, adaptive cruise control, a very good voice-control, auto-dimming mirrors, and an interesting ionizing auto-recirculating HVAC system. When driving behind a smelly vehicle, the HVAC system detects the outdoor air, switches to recirculate and ionizes the air—all without you knowing. And that’s just the front of the cabin.
In the rear of the ‘Ultimate’ Equus, you’ll find another cockpit, this time designed as a sort of recliner for a lucky VIP taking a ride in this car. The rear is the most unique in its class and certainly among others of similar price. Press one button and the front passenger seat moves and folds forward — after all, you only need space for yourself, the driver and your assistant. After the front seat is recessed, the rear passenger seat begins to recline and a footrest appears — yes, like a La-Z-Boy. To the left you’ll find a cool box that works quite well. Above that there is a flap covering a storage area that holds the remote for the rear seat massage.
The massage is great; there are many options to soothe whoever is lucky enough to sit in what we call the VIP seat. You can adjust pressure, location and even an older-school vibration function. The massage is similar to what you’d get from spending time in a Sharper Image.
Slightly forward of the center console is the controls for anything you could need. You can mess with the privacy screens, front passenger seat position, XM channels, and Aux-in music. In addition, you can turn up the entire cabin’s temperature and volume — which can get annoying if there are smartasses in the back. To be sure that you see what you’re controlling and improve rear entertainment quality, there is a neat high-res flip-up screen that rotates out from the front center console.
There isn’t anything quite like being in the back. The gadgetry you command is impressive and almost humorous, but it’s nothing you wouldn’t want. The best seat in the car is definitely the VIP seat. There is more than enough to keep you occupied for long trips to wherever your driver will take you. Not only can the technology keep your mind stimulated and in constant contact, thanks to the VIP your body can get the same treatment, all without any human touch.