Hyundai Equus — Bang for the buck

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Hyundai Equus is as feature-laden as such stalwarts of the full-sized luxury ranks as the Lexus LS 460, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series and Audi’s A8, but for many thousands less making it perhaps the number one automotive value that virtually no one knows about, offering more bang for the buck than any car sold in America.

As good as it was in its first year of production four years ago, it was criticized despite its unquestioned value — going out the door for under 60 grand — as not as sophisticated as the cream of the luxury world, lacking in interior refinement and overall craftsmanship, and with inferior performance. Hyundai has taken those criticisms to heart.

Hyundai's first move to address criticism came in the 2012 model year when it replaced the original 4.6-liter V-8 making 385 horsepower with a 5.0-liter V-8 rated at a considerably more energetic 429 horsepower mated to an eight-speed automatic with manual shift capability giving the big car a true luxury feel. On the downside
, low-end urgency is not quite up to the Audi-BMW standards, but even so with a 0-to-60 time of around 5.5 seconds the Equus is anything but slow. Overall, performance is smooth through the unobtrusive automatic transmission and the engine is so quiet you might have to check the tachometer to determine if it's running while sitting at idle.

Hyundai has tuned the air suspension for a softer, limo-like ride. The comfortable, compliant ride is what most buyers expect, but f
or those of us desiring a more sporty feel even in our creature-comfort-loaded luxury cruiser, Hyundai has offered an alternative. Selecting the Sport mode setting tightens up the ride and handling and the shift points become more aggressive. We never left home without Sport engaged.

The Equus handles the twists and turns of back-road America in a commendable fashion even through the steering did not offer the feedback we desire. The Equus does accomplish its primary mission and that's to smooth out road imperfections, swallowing up bumps and potholes with aplomb, while offering a near Lexus-quiet interior. While the Equus is one of the few luxury sedans without an all-wheel-drive option, it does offer a Snow mode to aid the driver in challenging road conditions.

Although Hyundai concentrated most of its refreshening efforts on the interior, it did make a few revisions to the exterior while leaving the handsome, but very conservative look intact. The new look is set off by new 19-inch turbine-blade alloy wheels. The front fascia has been updated and the chrome accents removed. The headlamps now offer jeweled design elements and the tail lamps have been revised with a more horizontal theme.

Inside, Hyundai has upgraded the quality of materials, and the instrument cluster now delivers a more modern, high-tech look. Center stage is a large 9.2-inch display screen for navigation and infotainment functions. The system
is relatively easy to use through a rotary knob on the center console. Climate control functions can be accessed without going through the screen as can basic audio functions. You will be in for a treat when you turn on the delightful Lexicon sound system.

We like head-up displays, and our test vehicle was equipped with an HUD that not only displayed the usual information such as speed, it offered turn-by-turn instructions from the navigation system.

We found the front seats comfortable but it's the rear passengers that will be pampered to the extreme, especially in the top Ultimate trim, with scads of leg room, lumbar adjustments, heated and cooled reclining seats, and two 9.2-inch high-resolution adjustable seatback video screens that can display movies, media and the navigation screen. A fold-down rear console in both trim levels can control about anything in the car from the radio to the seat in front of you. The Equus also features a decent-sized trunk with a storage capacity of 16.7 cubic feet.

The Equus comes in two well-equipped trim levels, the Signature at $61,920, and the Ultimate at $68,920. Edmunds says the True Market Value of the Signature is $58,434 and the Ultimate $65,199.

You won't buy the same status as you would with a BMW, a Mercedes or an Audi and you won't get the same upscale experience visiting a Hyundai showroom. But you will purchase the same level of performance, features and comfort at a considerably lower price. If you desire a sophisticated luxury car for what it can deliver in a daily driving experience without the need for a prestigious nameplate, than the Equus truly is the number one value in America that no one knows about.

Base price: $61,920; as driven, $68,920
Engine: 5.0-lier V-8
Horsepower: 429 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 376 foot-pounds @ 5,000 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 119.9 inches
Length: 203.1 inches
Curb weight: 4,616 pounds
Turning circle: 39.6 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 20.3 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 23 highway, 15 city
0-60: 5.5 seconds (Motor Trend)
Also consider: Lexus LS 460, Cadillac XTS, Mercedes S-Class

The Good
• Standard features abound
• Purchase price is a bargain
• Outstanding sound system
• Passenger-friendly back seat

The Bad
• All-wheel drive not offered

The Ugly
• Wears a Hyundai badge