New & Used Hyundai Equus: In Depth
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The Hyundai Equus is the South Korean automaker's would-be rival for the Lexus LS and other big luxury sedans. It's decked out in limousine-style accoutrements and has a powerful V-8 under the hood, but it's still trying to establish a presence in the executive-luxury class.
True to its name, the Equus is the war horse at the top of Hyundai's lineup—a powerful, plush flagship that pushes the boundaries for the brand ever upward, into a segment of the market in which others (like VW, with its ill-fated Phaeton) have failed to pass muster.
For some, the Equus is a great value proposition. Others may not be able to deal with the non-luxury badge, though.
MORE: Read our 2015 Hyundai Equus reviewIn features, value, and design, the Hyundai Equus puts this brand in the big leagues, taking on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S Class, BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ, and Lexus LS—or even the Infiniti M56—while undercutting most of them by about $10k. If the story sounds familiar, it's largely the same path that Toyota, Honda, and Nissan took with their flagship luxury cars a couple of decades ago, only Hyundai is selling the Equus as, well, a Hyundai.
The Equus looks like it might be a sub-brand of its own, though. It takes off in a completely different design direction compared to the rest of the current Hyundai lineup at its best; and at its worst it feels more like a cobbled set of details and cues from other models—from Lexus and Mercedes, especially. But its interior is well-designed and exceptionally roomy; the shorter-wheelbase version that we get in the U.S. isn't quite right for being chauffeured, but adults will have plenty of space. In back, the right-side seat includes massage functions and an extending footrest. The Equus is common in South Korea as a livery vehicle or limo, and it's easy to see why.
Over several drives, we've found the Equus to feel as much like a more refined, sophisticated version of classic American sedans like the Lincoln Town Car—or Lincoln LS—than a bargain-priced version of those top-tech luxury-performance flagships. The 385-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic initially offered provided confident acceleration, but handling was hardly confidence-inspiring in the way that those other models are, and the suspension's fore-and-aft lift and squat under hard acceleration and braking could be a little disconcerting.
Since the Equus is sold at the same dealerships that move Accents and Elantras in high volume, Hyundai has been offering “ultimate customer service” with the Equus—essentially meaning that dealers will come pick up the vehicle from owners for servicing. At launch, the Equus was the first model with its full owner's manual in tablet form, and each vehicle included an iPad.
The Equus includes many of the same safety and comfort features you'd find on those other models—including adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, plush leather upholstery, an impressive navigation system, and a rearview camera system. Newly optional for 2012 was a lane-departure warning system.
For 2012, a new 429-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 engine was introduced in the Equus, bringing a somewhat lower, brawnier engine sound and quicker acceleration, while knocking EPA ratings down slightly to 15/23 mpg. The news for 2013 was limited to a few color and trim changes.
Changes were more significant for the 2014 model year, when the Equus got a new look from the front, including a new grille and front fascia that brought the snout more in line with the Azera's look. It carries over much the same for 2015: Inside there's a redesigned center stack, and the look is smoother overall inside, with new trims, a flowing new center stack and instrument panel, and new rear center-console controls.
Blind-spot detection, smart cruise control, lane departure warning, and Rear Cross-traffic Alert are all now included, and on the Ultimate there's a head-up display and multi-view camera system. The feature set remains impressive, with an excellent 17-speaker Lexicon sound system, and the Ultimate including things like a cooled rear seat, power rear sunshades, and power door closers.