Vital Stats

Engine:
5.0L V8
Power:
429 HP / 376 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,500 LBS (est.)
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
16.7 CU-FT
MPG:
15 City / 23 HWY
Base Price:
$61,920
As Tested Price:
$68,920
A Lesson In How To Out-Lexus The LS



I think that the new BMW 4 Series is an attractive coupe. The design is a little bit on the wrong side of "fussy" I'll grant you, and I don't particularly care for the look of the scalloped, black-bordered vents on the fender sides – functional though they may be. But for the most part, I find the coupe to be pretty pleasing to look at.

You all, by and large, do not care for the 4 Series. (For the sake of constructing my intellectual argument, I'm going to make the ridiculous statistical assumption that the 140 or so comments on our 4 Series First Drive provide a representative opinion of our readership as a whole.) In the first 24 hours after we published our review of the car, you felt moved to comment that it was "ugly," "REALLY ugly" and "a disappointment" among other, less reprintable statements of ardor.

So clearly we see things a little differently in terms of styling, but what does any of this have to do with the 2014 Hyundai Equus?


In most segments of the auto industry, there are a lot of practical reasons to buy or not buy a car. The fullsize luxury segment, however, would seem to live outside the realm of practicality insofar as almost all of the functions of these cars can be duplicated by non-premium offerings, and for a lot less money. Fullsize luxury cars sell, or do not, based on how they make a driver feel and the image they convey to the outside world. By necessity, a lot of that is tied up in how they look.

To my eye, each competitor has finer exterior styling than the Equus.

I would struggle to call any of the luxury set that competes with the Equus truly beautiful, though almost all of them convey a sense of gravitas and richness. For the record, Hyundai counts the Lexus LS and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class as the primary competition, and the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Cadillac XTS as the secondary set. In that group, some of the cars are pretty bold, pretty striking, though none of them is lovely. Still, to my eye, each competitor has finer exterior styling than the Equus, whose model-year 2014 refresh leaves it still looking rather anonymous.

The grille of the Equus has been denuded of some of the 2013 model's chrome accents, but it lacks the forceful demeanor I expect of a big, opulent sedan. The rear of the car is a sort of high-waisted, forgettable rectangle, while the profile view's most commendable feature are the new 19-inch turbine-style wheels.

Of course, we've established that you and I, dear reader, don't always see eye to eye on matters of style. It's possible that my 4 Series-loving peepers simply can't suss out the beauty in the Equus that is apparent to others. So be it.



There's a lot less Hyundai and a lot more Equus in the new car's interior.

On the other hand, the changes that Hyundai has wrought with the Equus interior are quite a bit more impressive than the still-bland sheetmetal. The shape of the dash is far more elegant for the new car, with a larger infotainment screen (9.2 inches, up from 8) better integrated into a swathe of nicer wood and metal. The whole center stack is far less plasticky than before, and the new steering wheel boasts controls that look and feel far better integrated than the outgoing items. The all-digital instrument cluster, which changes its background color based on the selected drive mode, is nice to look at, too. In short: There's a lot less Hyundai and a lot more Equus in the new car's interior treatment.

One area in which Hyundai has actually scaled down the luxury levels for Equus is in the back seat, specifically on the right side, where the "first class" seat of the last model has been eighty-sixed for 2014. Apparently there wasn't as much call for a reclining, massaging rear chair with access to a personal refrigerator as the company had initially envisioned. Just as well, as that setup didn't offer enough legroom when deployed, anyway. On the plus side, both rear passengers still have access to the car's infotainment system via a button-laden central console, and can use the system via twin 9.3-inch monitors that are nestled nicely into the seatbacks. There's also loads of room back there, as you'd expect in a car that's nearly 17-feet long (203.1 inches), with a wheelbase right at 10 feet (119.9 inches).



This 5.0 can seriously hang with the German V8 competition.

The size and weight of the Equus do not translate to a leaden driving experience, as its 5.0-liter, 429-horsepower V8 engine is probably the single most compelling part of this vehicle. The eight-speed automatic transmission allows the big V8 to hum along silently when top-gear highway cruising is the desired mode of transport, yet still kicked down with minimal lag when I asked for some serious acceleration on our route west out of Ann Arbor, MI. The last time I had time in an Equus, it was a 2011 model still powered by the original car's 4.6-liter V8; that motor was adequate, while this 5.0 can seriously hang with the German V8 competition. The Germans are quicker mind you, but not overwhelmingly so. I also really enjoyed the exhaust note of the Equus when I really put my foot down, especially in contrast with the drivetrain's whisper-quiet character most of the time.

Equus also offers up a lovely straight-line ride, especially when the three-mode air suspension is set to Normal (Sport and Snow being the other two). Here high-speed stability is first rate, and swales in the asphalt, grooved sections of highway, Michigan-spec potholes and other surface-based annoyances don't really register inside of the cabin. I dabbled with Sport mode in just a few bendy sections that I drove over, but the change in tuning was subtle enough, and the road mild enough, that the Equus didn't feel transformed into a sporting sedan. I expect that when we have the car for a longer test, we'll have time to detail the at-limit handling of the big sedan a bit better, but my inkling is that this reworked Equus is still at its best when doing 80 miles per hour on the freeway, not tackling switchbacks.

I know for certain that the speed-sensing, electro-hydraulic steering rack won't ply many drivers into taking the back way home. As I mentioned, the car offered plenty of straight-line stability, and the steering doesn't feel overly light when pointed more or less dead ahead, but it also doesn't hint at road feel when the tires load up, either. I'm quite sure that driver feedback is way down the list of core competencies that Hyundai has for the Equus, but it's fair to point out that it didn't surprise me for being vastly improved, either.



Even the decked-out Equus Ultimate model feels like a crazy bargain.

It's fantastic that Hyundai has refined the Equus to this point, creating a car that goes, stops and turns in a fashion that is at least competitive with a vastly more expensive set of established marques. The driving experience is supposed to go hand-in-hand with a phenomenal standard feature set to make the sedan a banging value in the class. To whit, here are just a few of the features that are included in the lowest-price Equus Signature: tri-mode air suspension, 19-inch alloys, Xenon headlamps with loads of LED exterior lighting, four heated (cooled up front) seats that are power adjustable, suede-effect headliner, smart cruise control, power rear sunshade, 17-speaker(!) Lexicon audio, navigation, rearview camera with front/rear parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, three-zone temperature control, etc., etc., etc... That's an awful lot of kit for a car that costs $61,920 with delivery and destination charges paid.

The next model up, the Equus Ultimate, runs $8k more, with notable feature adds like a head-up display and the cool 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, dual-screen rear entertainment, power-closing doors and a few odds and ends.

In all honesty, even the decked-out Equus feels like a crazy bargain in a segment whose floor (with two notable exceptions, below) is otherwise right around the $72k Lexus asks for the basic LS460.



Hyundai is especially keen to make the LS comparison, and I can see why. In addition to the Korean company clearly gunning for the budget-to-luxury sales model that has been perfected in Toyota's creation of the Lexus brand, LS buyers are basically the prime targets for Equus conquest sales. Frankly, both cars are dipping into a pool of buyers who are trying to make a 'smart' decision about spending luxury car money, and who probably find Cadillac too domestic (or generally lacking in relevant products until very recently) and European cars too snobbish and/or unreliable.

There are two mid-class competitors, at least, that throw a wrench in the works for Equus.

And, of course, this new Equus is completely geared to make a strong paper argument vis-à-vis the LS460. The Hyundai has more power, more room and costs much less while offering more features. A quick run through the LS online configurator tells me that I've got to spend over $78,000 to get a car equipped roughly to match the Equus Signature – a $16,000 advantage to Hyundai.

Do that same math with the relevant Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz products and you'll find that tens of thousands of additional dollars separate the Germans from the stretched Korean. Suffice it to say, despite Hyundai adding $1,750 to the bottom line of both Equus trims after this facelift, the car is still cheap for what you're getting.

Almost. As I alluded to above, there are two mid-class competitors, at least, that throw a wrench in the works for Equus. Both driven by their front wheels, the new Acura RLX and Cadillac XTS offer just about everything the Equus does, save for some legroom in the back section, for mid-$50k to low $60k money. Smaller and front-wheel drive, to be sure (though the XTS can be had with AWD and the all-wheel-drive hybrid RLX is on its way), but doesn't the same practical buyer take a level-headed view of power delivery and a few inches when thousands of dollars are on the line?



I'm not trying to be glib, or go for cheap shots about a former value-branded car company trying to build a singing-dancing luxury sedan. As an object, the Equus is both impressively loaded and nice to spend time with. But I'm not convinced that loads of buyers are lining up to drop luxury car money on sedans with no pedigree, no matter how significantly they undercut the competition. What's more, even if I'm wrong, this weird large-luxury-quasi-value segment is now expanding if you consider the Caddy and Acura to be part of the mix, which I do.

Looks matter in this vanity class of cars. So does brand perception.

Right now, Hyundai's own reporting backs up the fact that premium buyers are shopping traditional luxury brands in far larger numbers. My Equus briefing at the Hyundai Technical Center included a slide that showed 7 Series, A8, LS, Porsche Panamera and XJ (yes, even the Jaguar) all outselling the Equus by a hefty margin last year. The company was trying to point out how its 800-unit sales improvement from 2011 to 2012 was actually a mark of good progress in a flat market for the segment, but the reality is that it shows just how big the mountain is for Equus to climb.

And, as ever, the pitch of that climb to the top is especially steep for cars that aren't that pretty.

The larger point is that looks matter in this vanity class of cars. So does brand perception. Hyundai has been attempting to build a case for its Equus that doesn't rely on the same force of history that propels doctors, lawyers and merchant chiefs to buy Benz and Bimmer models year after year. The company is selling the Equus as a practical solution for large-lux buyers. The trouble is the segment seems to dictate answering an impractical question, namely: What can I drive that will impress people and make me feel good about myself? Surely a $60,000-Equus is a more sensible answer to that question than a $80k+ German super limo, but it still hovers in the unquiet space between the cheaper newbie front-drivers and the default Lexus LS that long ago achieved what the Equus is striving for.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 208 Comments
      knightrider_6
      • 1 Year Ago
      Don't worry. if you can't afford it, you can get something cheaper like 5-Series or E class. They don't have the same luxurious feel, features or performance as Equus but they will get you from point A to B.
      THJ
      • 1 Year Ago
      I just don't get why people are bashing on this vehicle so much. I'm currently in Seoul for holiday to visit my parents and friends since I haven't been here for more than 2 years, so I guess it was about a time for me to pay them a visit lol. Anyway, that's not the point. My point is that I see truckloads of Equus rolling around here in Seoul and the vehicle seems just fine. Hyundai likes to charge more to Korean consumers than American consumers for some reason so if you choose fully loaded VS/VL500 trim level here which matches the Ultimate trim level in American market, it easily gets above $90,000 and even above $100k but people are still buying this car left and right. With that money, you can easily afford Audi A8 or Lexus LS460 with optional AWD here but people are buying Equus instead. It's worth noting that Hyundai is still managing to move around 900~1200 Equus per month in Korean market despite the falling demand and profitability of home market for Hyundai-Kia due to more and more people are choosing imports over domestic which can clearly be evidenced in rather impressive 34% sales increase of VW-Audi Korea on first half of 2013 compared to 2012, BMW Korea's record sales figure during 2012-13 financial year and heck, even Apple is selling more iPhones than LG or Pantech's Android smartphones. Average South Korean consumers are no longer choosing products based on patriotism that they were notoriously famous for in the past. There's gotta be a reason why Equus is out-selling all of its German competitors in Korean market where good old patriotism is no longer applicable. I spent some time reading comments on this article and I've realised most of people who criticise Equus are mainly concerned about the "Hyundai" badge. I honestly have no idea about average American consumers' perception towards badge on the hood but to me, brand image is simply too trivial for me to even consider when I'm in the market for a new car. I drive Citroen DS3 which is a very sensible car to drive around stupendously narrow roads of London and so far I haven't met anyone there making fun of me why didn't I get a mini which seems to have a better brand recognition =_=.
      Rob
      • 1 Year Ago
      I miss how engine bays use to be a work of art. A sort of wow factor to show the heart of what makes a vehicle move. Now they just cover the whole engine in plastic. Shame...
        Marvin McConoughey
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rob
        Concur. Engines were simpler and looked more elegant in the past. Now, the design and engineering is more elegant--actually a thing of mechanical art-but the hoses and pipes clog up the under-hood space. the best I've seen is our Subaru Legacy with the plastic engine cover off. And even it looks blah. The worst I know of is the BMW V8 with the engine cover off.
      muspod
      • 1 Year Ago
      You got a job? You got 99 bucks?! You can drive this!
      EBradleys
      • 1 Year Ago
      We are a professional couple in our late 30′s/early 40′s who just purchased an XTS AWD Platinum. While shopping, we never considered the Equus at all. We can explain away purchasing a Cadillac but giving the "home team" a shot and being a little "different," maybe even "eccentric." Hyundai - not a chance. No matter how nice it is, how it compares to the competition, how it has a certain "bang for the buck" status, it is still a Hyundai and there's no way in hell that anyone can keep a straight face and pay over $60k for it. No matter how you shake it, and as sad/offensive/prejudicial as it is, you have a Hyundai on the way up the ladder, not when you get close to the top.
        The Wasp
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EBradleys
        The XTS is a fine car but I hope you read all the internet comments about it and realize that there is also a large group of internet know-it-alls who rip on the XTS for having a V6 and being primarily FWD. Who are you trying to please, yourself or someone else?
        Tone
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EBradleys
        Cadillac doesn\'t need you to \"explain away\" your purchase. It\'s doing pretty good these days. And I\'d give a finger to have one of those new CTS sedans right now...
      scion_tc
      • 1 Year Ago
      Honestly, I'd rather have a Toyota Avalon than this.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @scion_tc
        [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
      Jamie Elmhirst
      • 1 Year Ago
      Vehicles in this segment are all ego purchases and no one EVER stroked their ego by buying a Hyundai. All this nonsense talk about marketing it as an "intelligent" purchase is poppycock. There are very few dumb people in this income category and you won't appeal to them by mocking the things they like. You will appeal to people who can't afford one. This thing is nothing more than a Phaeton is waiting.
        Jason
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jamie Elmhirst
        People said the same thing about the LS400 in 1990.
          sp33dklz
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jason
          Actually, no they didn't. People loved the LS400 and it got fantastic reviews.
          Jason
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jason
          Does this read like a bad review to you?
          Helix
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jason
          The LS400 is widely regarded as one of the best cars of its decade. Is the Equus? Also Toyota was viewed much better back then than Hyundai is. Toyota was known for high quality stuff in a decade where "made in Japan" was actually a huge image boost.
          Jamie Elmhirst
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jason
          And if it had been a Toyota LS400 they would have been correct.
        Dmitriy Markelov
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jamie Elmhirst
        I've got a 2011 Genesis Coupe and a 2007 BMW 530i and I prefer driving the Hyundai. The Equus is already outselling the Phaeton and this is prior to the redesign.
          Wally SirFatty
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dmitriy Markelov
          First, I doubt you have either. Probably a 1985 Hyundai Excel. Even so, if you prefer the Genesis, then you're a complete fool. Go home, you're drunk.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dmitriy Markelov
          [blocked]
        Jamie Elmhirst
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jamie Elmhirst
        I see the Hyundai corporate gnomes came out in full force and turned everyone's up-voted critical comments into down-votes. Bravo Hyundai, that'll change market perception!
        A P
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jamie Elmhirst
        At least it will be a reliable Phaeton.....the Phaeton was probably the least reliable car EVER sold in that price range. Audis still stink it up as well.
      Helix
      • 1 Year Ago
      This doesn't "out-Lexus" the LS at all. It's just a cheap knockoff.
        slap
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Helix
        It reminds me when Lexus first came out - they looked like cheap Mercedes knockoffs.
          Helix
          • 1 Year Ago
          @slap
          No the LS was not merely a cheap knockoff, it was revolutionary and actually delayed the S-class and caused MB cost overruns. This thing is nothing like that.
      dude
      • 1 Year Ago
      LOL 70k for a Hyundai... the RL and 5series are way better than this POS
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dude
        [blocked]
          11fiveoh
          • 1 Year Ago
          Lol, down rated? My local bmw stealership has 25 5 series on the lot, most expensive one is 72k. Idiots.
        Stang70Fastback
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dude
        Ignorance at its best.
      RocketRed
      • 1 Year Ago
      It's not even in the same world as the M4, design wise, if that's the agenda item here. The dash is a mess. Too many incongrous shapes and themes. The materials surrouding the nav and controls look budget. Combined with the huge wood paneled dash, the car looks like they were going for vintage-speedboat, but got distracted by a giant bin of crummy plastics. Wood steering wheels are ridiculous. Unless it's in a Morgan, or a replica Cobra, it's lame. It's not like wearing suspenders with your seersucker suit; it's more like sock-garters. (Yes it's lame on an S-Klasse too but you can afford an accessorization fail when you are wearing a hand-made suit.) Here, it looks like the car is trying too hard to be ultra-luxury. The exterior has none of the details and elements that say expensive. LEDs don't cut it now (Thanks, Audi for leading everyone down this garden-path.). It looks like the tried to save a buck on molding and stamping with the fascia, which has the same amount of visual interest and refinement as a Camry and far less than other Hyundais. If you pulled up to the valet at the Ritz in this thing, they would not tow it to an alley and burn it. But it would not be parked out front. Let's be honest, while this is a "sensible" luxo-barge, if you are dropping 70K on a big sedan, you want people to notice that you have Nice Things. Even if you are not looking for approval from brand-snobs, you may want people who know about cars to know you have a great car. But with this you get neither. You are not buying it because it has screens in the back seats, which you can get installed in your Sonata at Best Buy. Generally, I don't get the market. If you really want to pinch a penny, but just loves you a big sedan, Toyota makes the Avalon. Which is luxurious and quick and looks plenty good for the Kiwanis club parking lot. You can get an Impala or 300C loaded to the gills. And these will save you a Sonata's-worth of coin over the horse car. I have a hard time thinking that poeple who don't buy U.S. because of cachet-deficiency will get a Hyundai. If you are old enough to be in this market, you are old enough to recall the execrable Hyundais of the 80s and 90s and this brand means nothing to you.
        Chumley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RocketRed
        I like this guy. Harsh but true unfortunately!
      Curtimack
      • 1 Year Ago
      My Father just purchased a deeply discounted 2013 Equus for almost the same as what a new Honda Accord was going for. Seems these are difficult models to move. The car does not have a premium ride in my opinion and has some really useless features, as a example a hold button you can use to keep the car still in traffic without having your foot on the brake, really, why?
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Curtimack
        Your father bought a $60,000 Equus for $30,000? BS. Sounds like you haven't been in many premium vehicles before. Many of them have a hill holding feature, including some inexpensive vehicles now.
          The Wasp
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          There's a dealer asking about $54k for a new 2013 Equus on Ebay. I could believe high $40k maybe, but the Accord price range is hard to believe.
        Dmitriy Markelov
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Curtimack
        So he bought the old one that is not being discussed in this first drive?
          sp33dklz
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dmitriy Markelov
          The concept is the same, older generation or not.
        sp33dklz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Curtimack
        There isn't a luxury car on the market that doesn't lose 30% of it's value the second the front tires leave the dealership.
      Bill
      • 1 Year Ago
      Compared to the XTS and RLX, the Equus is larger and RWD. It has air suspension, a 17 speaker audio system, rear command center and a sophisticated direct injected 5.0L V8 mated to a 8-speed auto. Hyundai will pick up ur car and return it for you for maintenance. I'd pick the Equus. Compared to Lexus and the Germans... If I can save 1/3 the cost for nearly the same quality, I'd do it every time. I do it for me first and what others think second.
        Scooter
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Bill
        Nonsense, I don't even like XTS, but I would take XTS over Equus any day of the week. Any company and toss together leather, big wheels and shiny surfaces but Hyundai doesn't have the prestige or reputation to back it up.
        Jeffrey Miller
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Bill
        Do we know if Hyundai is making a profit off of the Equus and the Genesis? This will say a lot. If they're taking a loss, then I might believe what you're saying about being "nearly the same quality", but if they're profiting off of those cars, then that means they're cutting corners somewhere. I have a Fusion with adaptive cruse, blind spot monitoring, navigation, park assist etc. All are neat technologies, but I don't delude myself into thinking they're as good as those technologies found inside a Lexus or MB. But I also paid 38k, and to equip a GS with those things would cost me 15k more. Obviously the Lexus, though the same size would be a superior car to my fusion, even if the feature content is largely the same.
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