2013 Hyundai Equus Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 7, 2012

The 2013 Hyundai Equus is plush, powerful, and enough to impress all but the most discerning luxury-car shoppers.

Can a true luxury sedan like the Hyundai Equus, at $60,000 or more, carry the same badge or be sold in the same showroom as a $15k Accent? Through some innovative marketing and some personalized dealership services aimed at catering to luxury customers, the brand is already showing that it can indeed be done, and the Equus enters its third model year of irritating the likes of Infiniti and Lexus.

Even though Hyundai's Equus luxury sedan doesn't carry a special badge of its own--if you don't count the bird-like emblem that recurs throughout its interior and exterior--the 2013 Equus does look every bit like a luxury car, with a softer, more balanced and traditional look that borrows cues and themes from other prestigious sedans and flagship models. Think of it as having all the credibility of an LS 460 or an M37, with some seen-it-before exterior cues from German models, all while undercutting them by thousands on its pricetag. The Equus may not deliver the prestige or the handling of the best vehicles in its class, but it's a striking bargain for those who don't mind a more softly sprung luxury sedan, or a great deal.

Compared to V-8 luxury sedans from Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Lexus, and others, the 2013 Hyundai Equus measures up closely spec for spec—and it offers acceleration that's just as strong and refined. But it still doesn't come very close to matching those rivals in handling. Last year Hyundai gave the Equus an all-new Tau V-8, displacing 5.0 liters and making 429 horsepower. With the new eight-speed automatic transmission that accompanies the new engine, it can now do the dash to 60 mph in around six seconds, which is closely on pace with the BMW 7-Series, the Lexus LS and the Mercedes S Class. The drivetrain hustles this big sedan up to highway speeds quickly, accompanied by a brawny V-8 burble and ripple.

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Hyundai isn't making any luxury marques nervous--at least not yet--but it comes the closest to its rivals when it comes to cabin appointments and interior comfort. The automaker clearly has studied the Lexus LS and benchmarked everything from fit and finish to the comfort of the seats. Front perches in the Equus are heated and ventilated, and there's a feature in which, like some competitors, the Equus driver seat can inflate and deflate some of its cushions to slowly massage the driver's back. The Equus Signature model gets a three-person bench seat, while the Ultimate comes with dual buckets. And in a nod to those who plan to have the driving done for them (this is a model also designed with Hyundai's home executive-car market in mind), the Ultimate has a reclining, massaging seat in back--but only on the passenger side.

Expectations are met up close as well; walnut or birch trim accents the instrument panel, and the cabin is trimmed out with fine leather. The headliner's sueded, just like the headliners in the top-line Jaguars, and the center console is framed in wood, with matte-metallic accents. It's all coordinated quite well, and more conservative than overt.Ride quality in the Equus is excellent, too, thanks to a well-controlled air suspension. Even with the 20-inch wheels and tires there's no harshness, and road and wind noise are kept away from the cabin.

Between the lavish cabin, the extensive standard-features list, and the white-glove service you'll get as a 2013 Equus buyer--all for an entry price of around $60k--this is one luxury sedan that won't leave you wanting in luxury features for the dollar.

Even on the base Signature model, the equipment list is vast, including leather upholstery, a moonroof, real wood trim, smart cruise control, a pre-collision warning system, front and rear parking assistance, a rearview camera, HID headlamps, heated and cooled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. For the connected crowd, the Equus has a navigation system controlled with a roller knob, an LCD display for its output, and for the audio system display, Bluetooth; and iPod connectivity. In addition, a majestic-sounding 608-watt Lexicon audio system with 17 speakers is included.

The Equus Ultimate brings limousine-like features, including a massaging rear seat with power headrest; a Lexicon audio system; a power trunklid; a forward-facing cornering camera; and a refrigerated bin tucked into the rear center console.

7

2013 Hyundai Equus

Styling

The Equus showcases an assemblage of global luxury styling cues, which means it's not as distinctive in the luxury market.

There's not a lot of drama and flair—nor is there all that much glitz and glamor—in the way the 2013 Hyundai Equus looks. Yet it does look every bit like a luxury car, with a softer, more balanced and traditional look that borrows cues and themes from other prestigious sedans and flagship models. While that doesn't sound like much of an endorsement in itself, it all works quite well.

From the front, the Equus has a relatively simple and unadorned look, though the wide chromed grille reminds us of Mercedes and the headlamps are very Lexus-like. It's missing the winged hood ornament that comes with this model in other world markets. And while that's not a great start next to the assertive, unmistakable look of Jaguar models or the now-distinct LED eyeliner accents used by Audi and BMW, the rest of the Equus' handsome shape comes together well enough without it.

The look is far from outspoken or overt, though; its sheetmetal is more a nod to the upswept tail and tapered side glass that we see in so many other upscale sedans than a high water mark for Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy—and in that respect it feels dated or retro, or revealing of its Korean executive-sedan roots. Only around the rear flanks of the Equus do we see a solid hint of contemporary Hyundai design.

Inside, the Equus has the look and feel of a true luxury space that, altogether, remind us a bit of the last-generation Mercedes-Benz E Class and a bit of the outgoing Lexus LS. The curvature of the doors and instrument panel, along with many of the finishes, hint heavily of Lexus influences, but again there's some delicately applied subtext--like the winged metallic trim that surrounds the dash vents, and the big LCD screen during start-up, that bring a mixed message.

The 2013 model year brings only a few minor color and trim changes; White Satin Pearl with a Saddle interior is a new combination, while new interior themes include cashmere with Birch Burl wood, Jet Black with walnut wood and Saddle with genuine walnut wood.

7

2013 Hyundai Equus

Performance

With a strong V-8 powertrain, the Equus muscles securely into the luxury-car radar--but its handling is more Lexus LS than BMW.

Compared to V-8 luxury sedans from Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Lexus, and others, the 2013 Hyundai Equus measures up closely spec for spec—and it offers acceleration that's just as strong and refined. But it still doesn't come very close to matching those rivals in handling.

Last year Hyundai gave the Equus an all-new Tau V-8, displacing 5.0 liters and making 429 horsepower. With the new eight-speed automatic transmission that accompanies the new engine, it can now do the dash to 60 mph in around six seconds, which is closely on pace with the BMW 7-Series, the Lexus LS and the Mercedes S Class. The drivetrain hustles this big sedan up to highway speeds quickly, accompanied by a brawny V-8 burble and ripple.

In handling (and ride quality), the Equus feels positioned directly against the Lexus LS; it's clearly more softly sprung than German luxury sedans, yet the combination of a well-tuned air suspension and otherwise relatively soft chassis settings make this a car that brings security on the highway, or in high-speed sweepers. But make sudden changes in direction at lower speed or brake suddenly, and the Equus' weight becomes apparent, with some excess body motion or nosedive.

While we're still not all that impressed with the electric power steering in Hyundai's more affordable front-wheel-drive cars, the electrohydraulic steering in the 2013 Equus is actually quite good, pairing the linear, consistent feel that hydraulics allow with a 'geared-down,' weighted feel on center that allows it to feel precise and easy to place in tight places.

There is a Sport mode--engaged with a button on the center console--that's supposed to sharpen the steering feel, transmission shift points, and throttle mapping, although the difference between modes is minimal.
9

2013 Hyundai Equus

Comfort & Quality

High-quality trims and materials never fail to impress, but the Equus lacks both the backseat space and top-notch seats of its rivals.

The 2013 Equus serves as a showcase for all the progress that Hyundai has made in recent years; and in no way is it more apparent than in the Equus' interior. 

At the same time, the automaker clearly has studied the Lexus LS and benchmarked everything from fit and finish to the comfort of the seats. In front, the Equus leaves the heavy bolstering--as well as the extendable thigh supports that taller drivers might appreciate--to German performance sedans. Front perches in the Equus are heated and ventilated, and there's a feature in which, like some competitors, the Equus driver seat can inflate and deflate some of its cushions to slowly massage the driver's back.

The Equus Signature model gets a three-person bench seat, while the Ultimate comes with dual buckets. And in a nod to those who plan to have the driving done for them (this is a model also designed with Hyundai's home executive-car market in mind), the Ultimate has a reclining, massaging seat in back--but only on the passenger side. The reality is that the Equus isn't quite long enough to sport a fully reclining chair and it doesn't leave much space for the passenger's feet (you can scoot the front passenger seat forward with switches on the side of that seat). But with a rake adjustment, as well as ventilation and massaging, it is a step above most other back-seat accommodations. Otherwise in models with the bench seat there's lots of legroom and headroom by conventional standards, the Equus is wide enough to fit three across.

Expectations are met up close as well; walnut or birch trim accents the instrument panel, and the cabin is trimmed out with fine leather. The headliner's sueded, just like the headliners in the top-line Jaguars, and the center console is framed in wood, with matte-metallic accents. It's all coordinated quite well, and more conservative than overt.

Climate and audio functions are directed through a rotary knob controller that's just behind the shift gate. A big LCD screen, for the so-called Driver Information System (DIS) is relatively close to the line of sight and framed by winged vents that mimic the Equus winged-bird badge. The only thing missing in the controls and displays, compared to other newer luxury cars, is a abbreviated screen display just in front of the driver (there is a multi-function trip computer, however).

Ride quality in the Equus is excellent. Even with the 20-inch wheels and tires there's no harshness, and road and wind noise are kept away from the cabin.

9

2013 Hyundai Equus

Safety

All Equus models include several key active-safety features; and the Equus is a Top Safety Pick.

The 2013 Hyundai Equus is a big, stout luxury car with every indication of a solid structure and good occupant protection; factor in a lengthy list of active-safety features, and there's no obvious compromise here versus German luxury sedans and their safety pedigree. 

Although the Equus still hasn't been tested by the federal government, it's been given top 'good' scores in every category of testing from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and it's earned Top Safety Pick status.

In addition to the usual airbags and stability control, the Equus also has front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, and a lane-departure warning system. The latter system tightens the seatbelt when it detects a drift out of the driving lane. We're not the biggest fans of these systems, because the haptic feedback can be distracting in sporty driving, yet turning it off defeats its very purpose.

Some offerings in this class do offer all-wheel drive--thought of in some very limited situations as a safety feature--although that's not an option on the Equus.

10

2013 Hyundai Equus

Features

The 2013 Equus offers an astonishing level of luxury for the dollar; Hyundai also ups its dealership service level for owners.

Between the lavish cabin, the extensive standard-features list, and the white-glove service you'll get as a 2013 Equus buyer--all for an entry price of around $60k--this is one luxury sedan that won't leave you wanting in luxury features for the dollar.

Even on the base Signature model, the equipment list is vast, including leather upholstery, a moonroof, real wood trim, smart cruise control, a pre-collision warning system, front and rear parking assistance, a rearview camera, HID headlamps, heated and cooled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. For the connected crowd, the Equus has a navigation system controlled with a roller knob, an LCD display for its output, and for the audio system display, Bluetooth; and iPod connectivity. In addition, a majestic-sounding 608-watt Lexicon audio system with 17 speakers is included.

The Equus Ultimate brings limousine-like features, including a massaging rear seat with power headrest; a Lexicon audio system; a power trunklid; a forward-facing cornering camera; and a refrigerated bin tucked into the rear center console.

There are a few other details that we see as a little lacking--or revealing that this was a model originally designed as a Korean executive car, not as a global luxury sedan. One of those is the lack of a dual-screen entertainment system (there's only a single system offered at the back of the console).

Hyundai understands that Equus owners will have a completely different level of expectations compared to Accent or Elantra shoppers, so it's offering specially tailored showrooms, at-home demos, and personalized valet services, with scheduling available to have the vehicle picked up or dropped off to home or work.

6

2013 Hyundai Equus

Fuel Economy

Nearly every other large luxury sedan gets better mileage than the 2013 Hyundai Equus.

The 2013 Hyundai Equus is a very thirsty luxury car--and one of the few models for which we've seen ratings drop in recent years. And Hyundai has no plans for a hybrid or diesel.

Last year, Hyundai dropped the more fuel-efficient 4.6-liter V-8 for a new 5.0-liter version of the same engine, this one making 429 horsepower; EPA ratings went down 1 mpg overall, to 15/23 mpg (and we've struggled to meet those estimates in real-world testing).

It's fair to say that some large luxury-sedan shoppers aren't at all thinking about gas mileage, however.

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8.4
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 10.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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