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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    First Drive: 2014 Hyundai Equus

    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    July 18, 2013

    Hyundai is building a competitor to the Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class?

    That was my first thought when the Korean automaker announced their luxury flagship, the Equus was coming to the U.S. a few years ago. I was wondering if Hyundai was bitting off a bit more than they could chew. Going after the stalwarts of the luxury flagship was not an easy task, just ask the Volkswagen Phaeton.

    However the Equus has turned out to be more of a Lexus LS than Volkswagen Phaeton. Sales of the model last year are seven percent of the total luxury flagship market and is stealing customers away from the likes of Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Why? Hyundai focused on its major strength on offering a whole lot car of for the money with the Equus, a formula employed by both Lexus and Volkswagen with different results. With a base price of $61,900, the Equus undercuts many of its competitors by an average of around $15,000.


    Now entering its third year in the U.S. marketplace, Hyundai is doing a mid-cycle refresh to keep the Equus fresh in light of new and refreshed models on the marketplace. How does it fare? I recently found out this past week at Hyundai's Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan as Hyundai invited us to take a first drive in the 2014 Equus.

    The 2014 Equus mostly looks the same as the model that was introduced back in 2011; a conservative, yet handsome luxury sedan. The most obvious change in the design is up front where Hyundai designers changed the grille and bumper, added a set of fog lamps, and dropped the chrome accents on the bumper. The other change of note is a set of nineteen-inch turbine wheels that add a touch of class.


    The Equus' interior also saw a number of changes for 2014. Starting up front, the 2014 Equus gets a redesigned dashboard and center stack that gives off a more premium feel. There is a larger 9.2 inch screen for the infotainment system and new seven-inch screen in the instrument cluster. Equus Ultimate models get a 12.3 TFT screen in the instrument cluster, a heads-up display system, and a haptic feedback dial on the steering wheel.


    Moving to the back seat, Hyundai dropped the reclining back seat with the footrest and is just offering reclining for both back seats. There is also a new rear console that folds down and provides controls for the rear climate control and audio system. Seated in the back, I found myself being very comfortable and having more than enough head and legroom, even with the seat reclined. Those looking for more backseat luxuries should look at the Equus Ultimate, since it adds dual 9.2 inch screens and power door closure.

    Taking off from the technical center to begin the drive, I found the Equus to be very spritely. Leaving a stoplight, the Equus moves with authority like any luxury car should. Making a pass or merging onto a freeway was no sweat. This is thanks to the Equus' 5.0L Tau V8 with 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque.


    An eight-speed transmission is paired with V8 and sends the power to the rear wheels. The eight-speed is very smooth and seamless, what you expect in a big sedan. The shift logic worked brilliantly. Whether I buried my foot into the throttle or lightly touched it, the transmission went about its way with no sweat.

    The ride is up to par in the luxury flagship class. A revised air suspension system and bushings help make you and your passengers feel like you're driving on glass. Also, the Equus is eerily quiet at speed. Those who are hoping for a sporty drive with those revisions will be disappointed. The Equus leans when cornered and the steering really isn't set up for it. If handling is at the top of your priorities, you should be looking at the Germans.


    As for safety, the Equus has the usual assortment of features; nine airbags, stability control, traction control, brake assist, lane departure warning, and pre-collision warning. The Equus also comes with blind-spot warning with rear-cross traffic alert as standard equipment. Hyundai says the Equus is the only car in its class with this feature standard.

    Also standard in the Equus only is Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start. The system uses radar to monitor what is in front and bring it to a full stop if it detects the vehicle in front is coming to a stop. Once the vehicle is moving, the system will accelerate the Equus back to its set speed. I can attest this system works very well as the Equus was able to stop to start back up with no problems at all.

    The price? Much lower than you think. $61,920 will get you into the base Equus Signature and $68,920 for the upper level Equus Ultimate. Those prices include three years of no-cost maintenance with someone picking up the Equus and leaving you with a loaner till your vehicle is done, and three years of Hyundai's BlueLink Assurance Connected Care.

    At first, you might have laughed at the notion of a Hyundai luxury vehicle. But after driving the 2014 Equus, I can say it's the real deal. While it might not be most distinctive nor the sportiest luxury sedan, Hyundai nailed the basics; smooth ride, powerful engine, number of luxury appointments and features, and value for money. The big question remains: Will the Equus take a place in history along side the Lexus LS by moving the barometer of what a flagship luxury sedan can be or will it suffer the same fate as the Volkswagen Phaeton; a capable entry into the marketplace but ignored due to it not having the brand equity needed to command the premium price?

    Disclaimer: Cheers & Gears was invited to a first drive event by Hyundai Motor America and provided the vehicles, breakfast, and lunch for the event.

    Year - 2014

    Make – Hyundai

    Model – Equus

    Engine – 5.0L GDI DOHC D-CVVT Tau V8

    Driveline – Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM – 429 HP (Premium Fuel)/421 HP (Regular Fuel) (@ 6,400 RPM)

    Torque @ RPM – 376 lb-ft (Premium Fuel)/365 lb-ft (Regular Fuel) (@ 5,000 RPM)

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/23/18

    Curb Weight – N/A

    2014 Equus Pricing:

    • Equus Signature - $61,920
    • Equus Ultimate - $68,920

    Includes $920 Destination Charge

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    Great review, interesting placement of the hood lifting struts. Over all I see a take of the BMW body style and the fit and finish based on the photo's looks good.

    Question for you, did they have anyone over 6'2" tall to sit in the back seat as the picture shows the head rest really close to the ceiling and while the foot room looks good, my gut tells me that once 6'6" tall me got set in the front seat, no one tall could sit in the back seat.

    Also does that dial on the rear control panel work like the BMW joystick control or is it really far easier to use as I find the BMW interface to be very confusing and not user friendly with their joystick.

    My other questions is that you say this is no driving machine like the Germans, so is it as soft as the Cadillacs of old float ride or a bit stiffer. Since I have not driven a Lexus in a while I really only have reference to American Float luxury cars like the Town Car or DTS. Where does the ride fit in comparison to these auto's

    Two grammar items that just do not read right to me.

    Taking off from the technical center to begin the drive, I found the Equus to very spritely.

    I believe we are missing "be"

    Making a pass or merging onto a freeway was no sweat.

    This just reads weird in the paragraph, maybe changing to "Passing or merging onto a freeway was no sweat."

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    I like the updated dash and center stack. It gives it more their own look, and less Lexus copy, and the wood doesn't look so cheesy. It is no S-class and never will be, but it is sort of close to the Lexus LS, and for $61,000 that, is the price of a loaded XTS, and you do get 429 hp, rear drive and the 8-speed.

    I think the car has great value for money, although the people at this price point and above aren't shopping value.

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    Since I have not been in a Lexus LS is the ride like a Float ride of America or a bit firmer but clearly as you state in your review not a driving machine of the Germans.

    I truly do not remember what the VW Paeton was like since it was so long ago that I test drove one and found no room for a big person like me.

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    I think the only reason the Phaeton died was because it started at $68K and the Passat ended at about $38K when the Phaeton was discontinued. I actively wondered why VW priced the Phaeton at Audi A8 levels then, when NOBODY would buy a VW at Audi prices. As for the Equus itself, it really looks like a larger and probably better Genesis sedan. The market will almost certainly accept $61K to start since the competition insists on $75K+ these days.

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    for as huge as those wheels are, they look too small for the car.

    Have to agree with you Drew here that especially on the black car these rims look undersized. Better on the silvery white car but still look small and yet it does not look like you can get much bigger unless you run the run flat tires.

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    It'll probably survive and continue to sell here if it does decently in South Korea.

    I"m guessing this will be somewhere between Lexus LS and Phaeton. Hyundai won't kill it because they're persistent, but it won't reach LS level of sales over the long term.

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    Gone are the days when Hyundai made cheap, crummy cars. I'm still amazed their reliability is as good now as most other quality automakers. I do have an issue with the continued shrinking of the windows. Pretty soon, we'll have to look through tiny little slits.

    Darn nice looking car, though.

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    Gone are the days when Hyundai made cheap, crummy cars. I'm still amazed their reliability is as good now as most other quality automakers. I do have an issue with the continued shrinking of the windows. Pretty soon, we'll have to look through tiny little slits.

    Darn nice looking car, though.

    Welcome to Cheers and Gears Robert! :D Look forward to your posts.

    I have to agree with you that the whole slab side small windows for safety is an ugly look and I really do not see that much safety added by having the metal go that high.

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