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