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    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.

    gallery_10485_672_615315.jpg

    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.

    gallery_10485_672_1322732.jpg

    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.

    gallery_10485_672_1224017.jpg

    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.

    gallery_10485_672_1127121.jpg

    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.

    gallery_10485_672_474623.jpg

    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 william.maley@cheersandgears.com 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"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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    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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      Nissan worked on making the 2017 Pathfinder look a bit more SUV-like. The front end gets a new hood and bumper to make it look somewhat wider. Around back, the tailgate and taillights have been reshaped. Here is the thing, you’ll have to look closely to spot the changes. If you were to park a 2016 and 2017 Pathfinder next to each other and ask someone to point out the differences, the only thing they would likely spot is the new grille. The Pathfinder’s interior hasn’t changed much and that isn’t a bad thing. Materials used in the Platinum are for the most part very good for the class. There is plenty of soft-touch materials on the door panels and console.  But Nissan loses some points for the materials used for the dashboard and the surround for center stack. It might look like something soft. But it is hard when pressed. This would be ok if it was the SL and lower trims, not in the top Platinum trim. The center stack is very easy to understand thanks to a simple layout and the use of buttons and knobs. Glad to see Nissan has added their latest version of NissanConnect to the Pathfinder. I really liked this system when I drove the Murano and Maxima last year with a modern interface and being very easy to use. Second-row seating is towards the top of the class with a large amount of head and legroom. Also, the second-row seat is very flexible. The seat can tip forward to allow for easy access to the third row. If you’re wondering, the third row is best reserved for small kids. The 3.5L V6 has been tweaked to produce 284 horsepower (up 24) and 259 pound-feet of torque (up 19). The improvements in power do make a big difference. Compared to the last Pathfinder I drove back in 2013, the updated V6 feels a bit more energetic to get up to speed. Although, the V6 does sound somewhat unrefined when you step on it. Nissan made some changes to the chassis to improve body control and ride. Such changes include revised spring rates, stiffer shocks, and improved steering system. The changes make the Pathfinder feel more stable on stable on the road, especially in corners. At the event, Nissan announced pricing for the 2017 Pathfinder. The base S two-wheel drive begins at $30,890 and climbs to $44,460 for the Platinum 4WD. (Prices include a $900 destination charge) Nissan has made some noticeable improvements for the Pathfinder. But even with these improvements, I can’t think of a reason of why I would pick the Pathfinder over the Kia Sorento, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9. The Pathfinder is good, but competitors at the moment do it better. 2017 Nissan Armada
      There isn’t really much difference between the new Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX80 aside from different front ends. Both are very polarizing in terms of their overall looks, but I would say the Armada is slightly more tasteful. The interior is a huge improvement over the old Armada. A new dashboard, noticeable improvements in terms of materials, and bits of style strewed about make for a pleasant experience. Yes, there are a fair amount of interior bits from the QX80 in the Armada’s interior, but it doesn’t feel out of place. Most Armadas will feature seating for eight people. The Platinum which was the model I drove features seating for seven (captain chairs in the second row). Sitting in the second row is quite comfortable with a large amount of head and legroom. The Platinum’s second row also features a removable center console that adds more storage. The third-row seat is best left for small kids. Adults will complain that they don’t have any legroom. The standard equipment list is quite generous with all models featuring push-button start, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and navigation.  Speaking about the navigation, I think Nissan made a massive oversight. Unlike the Pathfinder which boasts the latest generation of Nissan Connect, the Armada features a system from the late-oughts. The graphics look quite dated and it doesn’t feature any of Nissan’s latest technologies such as the NissanConnect telematic services. Power comes from a new 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V8 has more than enough grunt to leave a stop light in decent time and makes a passing a breeze. It doesn’t hurt the V8 has a nice growl during acceleration. The automatic seems quite smart with shift points and gear changes are very smooth. One item we’ll be looking at closely whenever we get in an Armada for testing is fuel economy. The Armada Platinum AWD is rated at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. The last Armada we drove in 2014 only got an average of 12 mpg. The ride is very pleasant with bumps being smothered. This is impressive when you consider the Platinum is riding on 20-inch wheels. Nissan also worked on the Armada very quiet. On the freeway, barely any wind noise came in. Some road noise made its way inside, but that is likely due to the large wheels. Somewhat surprising is how the Armada felt in the corners. There was little body roll which is impressive for a seven-seat SUV. Not so impressive is the steering; it feels quite light when turning and there isn’t any feel.  The Armada starts at $45,395 for the base SV 2WD and climbs to $60,985 for the Platinum AWD Think of the 2017 Nissan Armada as an Infiniti QX80 with a significant price cut. There are a lot of improvements for this SUV that might make it an interesting alternative to the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon and Ford Expedition. 2017 Nissan Titan
      Finally! Nissan has brought out the half-ton Titan. There isn’t any difference in terms of looks between the standard Titan and the Titan XD. The only real difference comes in size: Titan is about 14.7 inches shorter in terms of overall length and its wheelbase is about a foot shorter. Still looks like an older F-150 to me in the front. Everywhere else, the Titan does have some unique touches such black and silver wheels for the Pro-4X, and a large chrome bar on the tailgate of the top Platinum Reserve. The Titan will be offered in regular and king (Nissan-speak for extended) cabs. Sadly, Nissan didn’t have a regular cab Titan to look at in person. The interior might not be anything special in terms of looks, but build and material quality are excellent. Dash layout is a bit button-heavy, but most controls are arranged in a logical fashion. All Titans feature a touchscreen infotainment system, either 5 or 7-inches. The trucks available for us to drive came with a larger 7-inch screen. I’m not a fan of the NissanConnect system used in the Titan and Titan XD for a number of reasons: the interface is looking somewhat old despite being one of the newer systems on the market and having issues with devices plugged in via USB. One area that the Titan shares with the XD is comfort. The front bucket seats provide excellent levels of comfort and support. The backseat is quite spacious with plenty of head and legroom for most passengers.  A storage bin under the back seats provides a handy space for storing tool and other random bits. A clever trick that the bins offer is the ability for the lid to flip out and provide a flat surface for carrying large items in the back. Powering the Titan for the time-being is a 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A V6 is coming, but Nissan isn’t talking details about it at the moment. The V8 moves the Titan with authority, although it takes a moment for the throttle to realize that your foot is on the gas before anything happens. Provides a nice growl during acceleration and doesn’t show any signs of harshness. The seven-speed automatic provides smooth gear changes, although it does take its sweet time to downshift in certain maneuvers such as passing. During the short drive loop, the Titan provided a smooth and relaxing ride. One area that Nissan might want to do some more work is in noise isolation. I found a fair amount of road noise coming into the cabin. Handling is quite surprising for a truck. The Titan felt planted around corners and showed no sign of body roll. Steering is where the Titan really shined as it felt connected to the road and had the right amount of heft. This is due to Nissan using a rack-and-pinion setup, not a recirculating ball steering system in the XD. Pricing for the Titan starts at $35,975 for the base S 2WD Crew to $56,595 for the Platinum Reserve 4WD. Prices for the crew cabs are on the high side and that is making us wonder how much the regular and king cabs will start at. Nissan is making progress with the 2017 Titan in a number of key areas. But we have to wonder if the slow rollout that Nissan is doing with the Titan is actually hurting them. Consider that when other truck manufacturers launch a pickup, they have a number of cab and bed variants ready to go, along with a range of engines. The Titan only has one cab, bed, and engine at the moment. The regular cab goes on sale this fall, but the King Cab and V6 aren’t due till later. This could put Nissan and the Titan in a difficult spot. Author's Note: Cheers & Gears would like to thank Nissan for inviting us to this first drive event. 
    • By William Maley
      The Hyundai Santa Cruz has been a source of wonder - will they put into production or not? For the longest time, Hyundai's U.S. office say they wanted to do it, but it was the home office that had to make the final call. It seems we have a final decision.
       
      “We have made the decision. We have not made the announcement,” said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America to Motor Trend.
       
      That decision is a yes.
       
      Zuchowski said they are busy at work on a production version. The Santa Cruz's design went in for a review earlier this month and they are close to finalizing it. The production model is expected to use the same platform as the Tucson and could use either a gas or diesel engine. Hyundai is working on a new four-cylinder diesel for the Genesis brand in Europe. Zuchowski said the diesel is possible for both the Santa Cruze and Santa Fe.
       
      But can Hyundai succeed with a car-based pickup? Subaru failed with the Baja from mid-2000s, while Honda is giving it another try with the second-generation Ridgeline. Zuchowski believes they can if they execute it and price it right.
       
      Motor Trend says to expect the Santa Cruz in 2018 as a 2019 model.
       
      Source: Motor Trend


      Click here to view the article
    • By William Maley
      The Hyundai Santa Cruz has been a source of wonder - will they put into production or not? For the longest time, Hyundai's U.S. office say they wanted to do it, but it was the home office that had to make the final call. It seems we have a final decision.
       
      “We have made the decision. We have not made the announcement,” said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America to Motor Trend.
       
      That decision is a yes.
       
      Zuchowski said they are busy at work on a production version. The Santa Cruz's design went in for a review earlier this month and they are close to finalizing it. The production model is expected to use the same platform as the Tucson and could use either a gas or diesel engine. Hyundai is working on a new four-cylinder diesel for the Genesis brand in Europe. Zuchowski said the diesel is possible for both the Santa Cruze and Santa Fe.
       
      But can Hyundai succeed with a car-based pickup? Subaru failed with the Baja from mid-2000s, while Honda is giving it another try with the second-generation Ridgeline. Zuchowski believes they can if they execute it and price it right.
       
      Motor Trend says to expect the Santa Cruz in 2018 as a 2019 model.
       
      Source: Motor Trend
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