2014 Hyundai Equus

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Ever buy a generic drug?'14 Equus lead

Most of us have – because we know it’s the same drug as the name-brand drug. Just costs a lot less. If it works the same, who cares about the label?

This is the mindset to have when considering the Hyundai Equus.

It’s a large luxury sedan with standard V-8 power, rear-wheel-drive, and a long list of bells and whistles.

Just not the name brand.

Or the name-brand MSRP.'14 Equus interior

If you can handle that – if you don’t really care about the label but do care very much about what you get – then this car warrants a look-see. Especially if you’ve been looking at the MSRPs of name-branded competitors like the Lexus LS460, which is probably the most directly comparable cross-shop. But it also stacks up very well against the BMW 5 Series – which is smaller outside and much less roomy inside. And the Benz E-Class, which is even smaller on the outside – and even less roomy on the inside.

Can you handle that?

WHAT IT IS

The Equus is Hyundai’s top-of-the-line luxury sedan.

Size-wise, it is bigger than the regular wheelbase Lexus LS460 and falls in between the smaller BMW 5 and Benz E and the slightly larger BMW 7 long-wheelbase and the Benz S-Class sedan.

It costs less than all of them, too.'14 Equus front row detail

Base MSRP is $61,250 for the Signature trim – which comes standard with a 429 hp V-8, adjustable suspension, three-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, power reclining rear seat and a 17 speaker ultra-premium audio system (among the many highlights).

The Ultimate starts at $68,500 and adds a flat screen LCD main gauge cluster with Heads Up Display (HUD), dual rear DVD flat screen entertainment system, surround-view camera system and power close assist for the doors and trunk.

WHAT’S NEW

The Equus gets an exterior and interior refresh, including a new rear seat configuration (three across) for Ultimate trims. Hyundai’s Bluelink telematics system and a cross traffic alert system are now standard equipment in both trims.

WHAT’S GOOD'14 Equus recline 1

Standard V-8 . . . standard almost everything.

Rides like a pillow top mattress.

Magnificent (and no extra-charge) 17 speaker Lexicon audio system.

Long wheelbase interior room – standard wheelbase price tag.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Standard V-8 means frequent fill-ups.

Handles like a pillow-top mattress.

Doesn’t part the crowds like a BMW or Benz.

Probably won’t hold its value like a Lexus.

UNDER THE HOOD'14 Equus engine 1

The Equus is one of just two big luxury sedans in this general price range that still comes standard with a V-8 engine – the other being the Lexus LS460.

It’s interesting to note that the name brand leaders  – BMW and Mercedes – have effectively back-benched V-8s, even in their top-of-the-line models. The BMW 7, for instance, comes standard with a 3 liter in-line six. It has twin turbos, but only produces 315 hp.

This is what you get for $74,000 – the base price of the 740i – at your local BMW store.

Mercedes does include V-8 power as standard equipment  . . .in the S-Class sedan . . . but that one’ll cost you $92,900 to start.

For $61k (and some loose change) Hyundai supplies a 5 liter V-8 and 429 hp. It is – by far – the strongest standard engine as well as the largest standard engine in this price range.'14 Equus GDI

The next-best thing, standard engine-wise, is the Lexus LS460’s 4.6 liter, 386 hp V-8 (downgraded to 360 hp if you order the car with the optional all-wheel-drive system). It gets the smaller (and pricier) LS to 60 much more slowly, too: 6.1 seconds vs. 5.4 for the serenely speedy Hyundai.

History does repeat itself. The Koreans are doing to the Japanese just what the Japanese once did to the Germans!

And they’re doing it to the Germans, too.

To outgun the Equus in a BMW 5 or Benz E, it is necessary to  order a plethora (cue El Guapo from The Three Amigos) of options. One must move up to the 550i BMW and the E550 Benz – and no matter how many wheelbarrows of cash you bring to the table, neither of them will ever have more backseat room than the much larger Hyundai (more on this below). If you want size and V-8 power, you will have to move up to the 7 series and S Class, respectively.

Bring several wheelbarrows’ worth of cash in that case.'14 Equues shifter

On the downside . . . the Hyundai’s big V-8 has a big appetite, which is no surprise and on the face of it, probably represents no big deal to the well-heeled who buy cars in this class. After all, if you can afford to spend $60k-plus on a car, then spending $70 to fill the thing up isn’t going to hurt too much. The problem isn’t so much the Equus’ appetite (15 city, 23 highway) it’s the inconvenience of fairly frequent pit stops. Best-case highway range is 466.9 miles, according to the EPA – and just 304.5 in the city.

If you don’t mind a smaller car – and a much tighter back seat – you might be tempted by the 40 MPG-capable E-Class diesel (reviewed here) which can go almost 1,000 miles on a full tank. BMW also offers a similarly appealing diesel engine in the 5 and-  beginning with the 2015 model year – also the 7.

Benz and BMW also offer all-wheel-drive in their respective liners, the 5 and 7 (for BMW) and the E and S (for Mercedes). Hyundai only sells the Equus in rear-wheel-drive form.'14 Equus in snow

But, it’s a bullet.

The Equus – the standard-engined Equus – is much quicker than the diesel-powered versions of the BMWs and Benzes. It is also quicker than the gas-engined versions of those cars, unless you go deep and order them with their range-topping V-8s, as previously detailed.

And pony up, accordingly.    

ON THE ROAD'14 Equus road 1

The Equus is as smooth as liquid glass, as quiet as the slumber room at your local funeral parlor. It is what luxury sedans once were but increasingly aren’t anymore – having become (for the most part) luxury-sport sedans. This includes the Benzes and BMWs, all series and classes. They ride firmer – and handle better – than the Equus. But the equipoise of the Equus is unmatched – at this price point, at least.

The Lexus LS is similarly at ease, but as discussed above, this also includes its inability to accelerate appropriately when called upon to do so.'14 Equus gauges 1

Push the little button forward of the gear selector on the center console to select Sport mode (in Ultimate trims, with the LCD gauges, the backlighting goes angry red) and instantly the shifts sharpen up, the throttle response is noticeably snappier. Alone among the cars in its class (and then some) the big V-8 roars – the correct descriptor – to life and the car leaps forward in a way that only cubic inches (or lots of liters) and a superabundance of torque can deliver. You can even turn the traction/stability control off if you like – really off, not somewhat off – and roast the rear tires.

Forget about that in the Lexus. Or the Benzes and BMWs. They all have momma-knows-best computers that do not allow tire spin, or allow less of it, or only allow it under certain conditions – approved by the computer rather than determined by the driver.'14 Equus snow

There are two other drive modes – Snow and Eco – and you can control the gear changes of the eight-speed automatic manually if you prefer. Both trims also come with a driver-selectable “kneel down” – and “stand up” function that lets you raise or lower the car’s ride height by pushing a button just aft of the gear shifter. Raising the car could help in winter – or if you have to deal with high standing water in the wake of a heavy rain.

Handling and ride-wise, the Equus is a very different car than its German rivals. It is like being in a first-class suite on Titanic. A massive object moving at a good clip, unperturbed by the “water.” But – also like Titanic – this big boat does not like to turn quickly. If you insist, it will protest. Tires will begin to squeal as the 4,533 lbs. of steel aluminum, glass, plastic and leather will begin to slosh around. The steering is way too light and numb for Hunter Thompson-esque off-ramp pirouetting or apex-drifting.'14 Equus road 3

But does it matter?

Do people who buy cars in this class drive like Hunter Thompson?

Probably not – in which case, the Hyundai’s high-speed handling deficits are as immaterial as the of-road capabilities of a Corvette.

What this car does brilliantly is reproduce the ambiance of a first-class stateroom on Titanic . . . and while moving along at considerably faster than Titanic’s 22.5 knot maximum speed.

AT THE CURB

I parked my Equus press car next to a new Benz E 350 to get a sense of them both. The Hyundai made the Benz – which is a very nice car – look very small.

Which it is – in comparison.'14 Equus doors open

The Equus is 203.1 inches long and rides on a 119.9 inch wheelbase. The E-Class Mercedes is nearly a foot shorter, just 192.1 inches long – and a 113.2 inch wheelbase. This is somewhere in between a Toyota Camry and an Avalon, size-wise (189.2 and 195.3 inches long, respectively).

A BMW 5 is similarly downscaled  . . . relative to the Equus: 193.4 inches long overall, riding on a 116.9 inch wheelbase.

The difference amounts to the difference between a mid-sized car and a full-sized car.

Here’s what that means to you:

In the Hyundai, there is 38.8 inches of legroom in the second row – vs. 35.8 in the E-Class Mercedes sedan and 36.1 in the BMW 5. The Hyundai’s back seats also recline – very much like the back seats of the Benz S-Class I tested out a couple months ago (review here). But the S-Class is in another galaxy, price-wise.'14 Equus curb 2

What Hyundai has done here is what battleship gunners aimed to do: straddle the target, then sink him.

The “targets” being mid-sized luxury sedans like the BMW 5 and Benz E, which cost more than the Equus when comparably-engined but are are smaller inside and out – and full-size luxury sedans like the Benz S and BMW 7 that are as big or bigger, but cost a helluva lot more.

One salvo that scored a direct hit was aimed at the Lexus LS460, which – though nominally full-size (and Lexus’ top-of-the-line model) is nonetheless a smaller, far less roomy on the inside car (35.8 inches of backseat legroom) that also happens to have a base price nearly $10,000 higher than the Equus’ base price. A long-wheelbase version of the LS460 is available . . . for another $6,000 ($78,440) which means you’ll pay $17,150 more to get a Lexus that’s larger/roomier than the Hyundai.'14 Equus LCD

Another shot that hits home against all the targets is the seemingly endless catalog of features and equipment that come standard in the Hyundai: Three-zone climate control, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescoping, heated and reclining power rear seats, power rear sunshade, adaptive cruise control, windshield wiper de-icer and rain-sensing automatic wipers, navigation with 9.2 inch LCD display and real-time traffic updates, “extended” leather trim (what’s not covered in leather is covered in velvety soft  Alcantara suede) and that phenomenal 17 speaker Lexicon ultra-premium audio system mentioned earlier.

Remember: All that stuff comes standard. It bears harping on. Equivalent equipment is either optional in the Equus’ price-comparable competition or it’s not available at all (e.g., those reclining rear seats).'14 Equus rear DVD

To really blow ’em out of the water, order the Equus Ultimate. It comes with all the stuff above, plus a flat-screen LCD gauge cluster (similar to what you’ll find in the six-figure Mercedes S-Class), a programmable heads-up display, power/”soft touch” door and trunk closers, surround-view camera system and a twin-LCD rear seat entertainment system.

And you’ll still be under $70k.

That’s about $3k less than Lexus wants for the least expensive LS460, incidentally. Without options, without the extra backseat room that comes with the long-wheelbase L model.

THE REST

There are two possible downsides to owning a Equus vs. one of the name-brand competitors. I emphasize “possible” because these critiques are to a great extent subjective – and may not matter to you.'14 Equus badge

First, there is the obvious one: Curb appeal. Or rather, snob appeal. “Hyundai” simply hasn’t got the cachet that “BMW” or “Mercedes” and “Lexus” have. Hyundai apparently realizes this. Evidence being the notable absence of “Hyundai” badges on the Equus. Even the logo is different – a stylized spread-winged raptor (almost a Firebird!) in lieu of the run-of-the-mill Hyundai’s rightward-leaning “H” logo.

But, you’ve still gotta go to a Hyundai dealer to buy the Equus – and that’s also where you’ll be going for service.

And that’s a potential problem.

People who shop cars in this class generally do not care to mingle with people who buy cars in the economy class. Call it classist, call it what you will. It’s a reality. Toyota was savvy enough to create Lexus – and not sell cars like the LS460 side-by-side with Corollas and Camrys.'14 Equus badge 3

Hyundai probably should have followed that example – and likely will.

The order thing is the take-it-or-leave-it drivetrain. This is the one area where the Equus offers less than the competition. The V-8 being standard – and very powerful – is great. But given the cruiser-not-bruiser nature of the Equus, a turbo-diesel option seems logical.

Or perhaps a hybrid layout (gas V-6, electric motor and battery for boost on demand).

With the V-8, you’ve got muscle car quickness, but also frequent fill-ups. As mentioned up above, it’s not the money that matters – it’s the hassle. A few weeks ago, I tested the new E250 Mercedes – the E-Class sedan with Mercedes’ new turbo-diesel four. I drove it all over the place for a week and it still had a quarter tank left on the day they came to pick it up.

The Equus was empty after three days, driving the same distance.   '14 Equus bullet

There’s one other thing to consider, too. Hyundai – like every other automaker – is going to have to figure out a way to keep on building cars like this while not running too far afoul of the government’s ever-more-strident fuel economy mandates. BMW and Mercedes have been going over to sixes (and even turbo-diesel fours) for exactly this reason – even in their high-end cars. Not so much because of market pressure but because of government pressure. The smaller sixes and fours even out their “corporate average” fuel economy numbers – and thereby make it feasible to continue offering V-8s, but as relatively low-production (and mostly optional) powerplants.

If Hyundai doesn’t figure out a way to make the Equus more economical, it’s likely it’ll become more expensive . . . as a result of government-imposed “gas guzzler” fines.'14 Equus last

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you care more about what you get than about what other people think you spent, take a little trip down to the Hyundai store.

I think you’ll be impressed.

Throw it in the Woods?

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Now I like to save a buck like the next guy, and I don’t care much about the “premium brand” name.

    However if I am trying to save a few bucks but want a rear drive full size V-8 sedan, why would I pay 60k for a Equus instead of buying a Dodge Charger and/or Chrysler 300 (35k for the Charger I would buy) or a Chevy SS (45k for the SS I would buy).

    There doesn’t seem like there is much of a difference between the classes outside of the premium brands name and the price. What makes the Equus better then a Charger or SS?

    • Hi Rich,

      The chief objective difference is the Equus comes with a lot of amenities, many of which are not even available as options in the Charger or 300. Also, it’s a bigger/roomier car – backseat-wise, especially. Also, the Equus is set up for comfort – luxury – more so than the 300 and much more so than the Charger.

      But, you make a fair point. The Mopars are RWD, offer strong V-8s and are very nice cars in their own right.

    • Dear rich,

      Ditto. I might enjoy occasionally riding in someone else’s luxury car for the novelty, but I really have no particular hankering for luxury per se.

      It doesn’t do that much for me.

      To me the original Plymouth Road Runner was my idea of a sedan.

      • Bevin, like that rough-ass ride and Conestoga handling vs. a GM that was quiet, smooth and a downright F-1 car comparatively? I don’t have a clue as to the value of this car but it has appeal to me. Big back seat, big everything including power. Air bag and do something like Edelbrock Performer IAS shocks and blow the competition away. The reason for the shocks is that they are very smooth but instantly turn into performance when needed. I didn’t quite believe it until I installed some. Float over the rough stuff but bang the throttle or the brakes, need to turn fast and they were instantly performance.

      • Dear 8sm,

        I’m pretty extremist in some of my personal preferences. It’s the idea of it more than anything else.

        For example, I always liked the idea of cars with their interiors stripped out to the sheet metal and equipped with racing instrumentation, roll bars, racing harnesses.

        • Bevin, I’m with you there…..but I want something I can point to and say it was all worth it. No point in no sound deadening if the performance isn’t there. I’m one of those guys with what my wife calls “too many gauges”. Hell, there is no such thing. Hell, even before the truck started to overheat last week a flashing light came on along with an ever-increasing audible. I like an idiot light, a gauge and an audible alert for each thing. I know most vehicles don’t have transmission temp gauges but mine have and once GM produced the Duramax, it did from the factory. Low oil level lights, audible alerts as well as gauges is just common sense and that goes double for air pressure on big rigs which it’s all mandatory on.

          No Trees Texas was where my air, coolant and oil gauges, lights and buzzers all sounded almost simultaneously. I was so glad the road was wet and slick when both those emergency air buttons popped and all 18 wheels locked up since I didn’t really want to eat that load of casing. Once stopped, I found out my headache rack was broken too. After isolating the trailer, doing some repair on the coolant lines and oil lines, using a chain and boomer to keep the headache rack sorta steady, I headed on back to the yard and announced my displeasure of spending the entire night searching for a rig on lease roads I never found. I never again left with directions that didn’t make sense. The women in the office were incensed I had the nerve to tell them that going North and taking a left turn to go east made no sense and I’d never leave there again with those idiot sort of directions. I thought I could make up for their lack of sense but not that night. I love every gauge, light and buzzer I can get. Pyrometer, boost gauge and coolant temp make it all make sense. Just one gets you on edge. Engine oil temp confirms it all.

          • Dear 8sm,

            One thing has always baffled me. The gauges in most Detroit iron. They insist on stylizing them in non-functional ways.

            The clearest example of this was the “horizontal sweep speedometer.” Talk about form failing to properly follow function!

            http://assets.hemmings.com/story_image/127991-500-0.jpg?rev=2

            What the hell is wrong with just plugging in standard round gauges with 270 degree sweeps for the tach and speedo?

            Dashboards ought to more or less look like this:
            http://comps.canstockphoto.com/can-stock-photo_csp10887945.jpg

          • Bevin, yep, they seemed to try to non-sensically outdo each other. The speedo with a colored line that moved through the numbers was a doozy too. Of course that line was actually a big thing behind there getting moved via a needle style affair but only part showed in that narrow opening.
            i despised when they had that warning thing that wouldn’t shut off after a certain speed. Now that was irritating when you’re headed hundreds of miles across vast flat lands of Texas and New Mexico and have no intention of doing less than “buzzing” speed.

            Fuel gauges go from right to left to indicate full to empty….or at least that’s what every fuel gauge I ever had did. My wife’s car has full up vertical left and empty below horizontal right. I’ve left out in it thinking I was full when it was empty. Just as you get to the point of no return, the damned “low fuel” light comes on. Then you get to creep to the next source of fuel you can find. I used to be you could stop at a rural house and buy fuel but nobody has gasoline on hand any longer.

          • Bevin, one of my pet peeves that’s thankfully gone, the Fuel Economy gauge, parked right there where the tach should be. Since I didn’t care to see my vacuum, only not reading in proper values, I placed my big Sun tach there, problem solved.

          • Dear 8sm,

            So true. Ergonomics includes sight as well as touch.

            I wrote an article on this a number of years ago.

            Nonergonomic! Long Live Analog!
            http://proporzionedivina.blogspot.tw/2009/06/nonergonomic-long-live-analog.html

            Excerpt:

            The general position of the needle on a large circular analog dial can easily be determined out of one’s peripheral vision. Once a vehicle is in motion, the position of the speedometer needle along a 270 degree arc instantly informs a driver where his speed falls within the vehicle’s “performance envelope”. A race or rally driver can continuously refer to his analog speedometer and tachometer to time his gear changes, without ever taking his eyes off the twisting road ahead. Try that with a digital data display! Even the movement of the speedometer needle as it alternately swings clockwise and counterclockwise constantly updates a driver about his rate of acceleration and deceleration.

          • Bevin, I detest digital gauges. No matter how many degrees of arc you cover, where everything should be is the place you want the needle pointing up. Most of the needles on the gauges on big rigs are pointing straight up. Some drivers will even move some of their gauges so they point up when everything’s up to temp and running normally. I’d just as soon spin my red/green main air supply gauge to that point so that 130 lbs is straight up. The brake application gauge is one that shouldn’t ever get very far off it’s peg and that’s easy to see. Pyrometer is nearly always straight up or near that when operating at close to maximum as is the boost gauge. Volts, temp, oil, water, all should be close to pointing straight up. You don’t even have to look straight on at them just catch them all in your peripheral vision. I commonly drive rigs (I don’t like this at all)where the warning lights and buzzers are all right at the top of the windshield. It’s not easy to see, takes your eyes off the road and the gauges it pertains to. Another trend I detest is having no light indicating your diff lock is on or your airbag is in the down position or the fifth wheel slide isn’t locked. If you forget your diff lock is on, you can run forever without spotting the black switch isn’t inside it’s cover. When I use different light switches I want an indicator light to show when it’s on or off. No wimpy little things under the switch you can’t see, esp. if they’re dirty. And I don’t need a bright light beam indicator light to illuminate the entire cab. I’ve seen lots of these with a piece of tape over them since they’ll mess with your night vision. They should let ME design the dashboards and light switches or somebody who has driven one for a long time. I don’t even care if the tach works since the seat of your pants and your other senses tell you when to shift. Speedos are just to keep from getting a ticket in a reduced speed zone(all of them, ha ha).

          • Dear 8sm,

            “Most of the needles on the gauges on big rigs are pointing straight up. Some drivers will even move some of their gauges so they point up when everything’s up to temp and running normally.

            You don’t even have to look straight on at them just catch them all in your peripheral vision. ”

            Yes! All true. So very, very true.

            As I said, ergonomics isn’t only tactile, it’s also visual.

          • Bevin, your article really nailed it. Nothing about a digital gauge gives you a hint of what “could” be or “might” be but that analog says it all right there and generally has a colors to let you know what’s good and what’s not. Something probably not a lot of people have thought about and I’ve considered hundreds or thousands of times is “Why does a tach go to 4000 rpm or maybe above when the engine it’s attached to will never turn more than 2200 rpm?” I can see it in my pickup that might turn as high as 3700 rpm or a touch more, but what’s the point when you’re monitoring a 14L engine?

            I was recently reminded of ergonomics and similar things when a strange woman I was speaking with grasped my hand with her thumb and forefinger right in the center of my palm(thumb in palm, forefinger on the back…..firmly). It was pleasant but I didn’t know what to make of it. I’m not exactly clueless when it comes to women but this was…..strange. I wish some woman would tell me what this means…..or anyone for that matter.

          • Dear 8sm,

            Thanks!

            Re: analog gauges and ergonomics

            It’s something clearly both you and I have thought about. You probably far more than I, seeing as how you do it for a living and have vastly more OTR experience than I, a former drone from “Office Space.”

            I’ve always been interested in industrial design, but have always been dismayed at industrial designers trying to come up with some pointless new gadget, when all these existing technologies are crying out for solutions or at least improvements, often at little or no cost.

            Re: the woman and the surprise hand clasp

            Was she a New Age type with crystals around her neck? If she was, then she probably perceived something having to do with body energies and was trying to help you.

            I think I mentioned I was into the SoCal New Age psychology movement for nearly 20 years? I even have the crystal pendants and Tarot cards to prove it.

            If not, then it’s anybody’s guess!

    • That’s true – but it’s based on a perception that may no longer apply.

      Lexus vehicles are not as fault-free as they once were.

      And Hyundais have far fewer faults than they once did!

  2. Love the big engine. Like the looks.

    From the size of the Equus, you’d think Hyundai was going after the biggest models in the luxury car arena. But 99% of S Class or 7 Series shoppers would never…ever… purchase this Hyundai.

    So here’s the question. Exactly what group of buyers do they believe will actually buy one of these things?

    • Hi Mike,

      In all seriousness, anyone who takes a look.

      One of Hyundai’s biggest problems is the invisibility of the Equus. Very few people (outside the enthusiast press/public) even know it exists.

      But once you are aware of it – once you check it out – you can’t help but like it. And be very impressed with it.

      Stack it up against a BMW 5 or Benz E. Those are both very nice cars. But they are sparsely equipped – as they sit – and no matter how much money you spend on options, you’ll never get the room (much less the reclining rear seat). And how about the Lexus LS460?

      http://www.ripoff.com

      It’s way expensive – for what you get. Compared with what you get for your money at the Hyundai store.

      The other problem Hyundai has that – my opinion – is potentially lethal is the commingling of the Equus with Elantras, et al. Hyundai ought to spin off Equus as a luxury line, not just the top-dog Hyundai.

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