- More luxury car for the money
- Leather and wood are up to snuff
- Business class, in front and in back
- White-glove dealership service
- The look is derivative
- Thirsty in everyday use
- No more four-passenger edition
- Lacks the prestige badge
The 2016 Hyundai Equus brings strong value and insulated driving to the executive-sedan class, but enthusiastic drivers should still look to Europe.
The mission for the Hyundai Equus could be confusing: value in the premium luxury segment. With a base price in the low-$60,000 range, excellent warranty and service coverage, and swift V-8, it's just that—good value for big money in the same way the Lexus LS was in the early 1990s. It's also one of the most heavily discounted cars in its class, with out-the-door prices often 10 to 15 percent lower than sticker price—the price of Hyundai's recent arrival in the niche.
The Equus gives the South Korean automaker a place at the executive-luxury table. While it can't compete with the best big four-door sedans from Germany, it's a pleasant, plush luxury car that should give pause to buyers who don't put as much weight on the badge as they do on striking value.
The Equus is unchanged for 2016, save for the addition of a hands-free trunk opener.
A 2014 once-over gave the Equus a more cohesive design, new materials, new active-safety features, and even more high-end features. That said, it's still based on the first-generation Genesis; while that car has made strides in standard equipment, technology, and suspension configuration and tuning, the Equus awaits a redesign and rebranding. It'll soon be called the Genesis G90.
One piece of the Equus puzzle that doesn't need changing is its brawny V-8 powertrain. The 429-horsepower V-8 is mated to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission that you can shift manually when desired. The V-8 is equipped with direct injection, variable valve timing, and tuned variable induction. This potent powertrain can hustle the big sedan to 60 mph in about six seconds—accompanied by, as we've found in previous model years, a rather throaty and pleasant exhaust note. In fact, the V-8 has enough torque (376 pound-feet) to silently break the low-grip tires loose when you stomp on it from a stop; it's reminiscent of many early-2000s German sedans.
The Equus leans toward the luxury side of the line that divides crisp handling response and a comfortable, isolated ride. The air suspension on all Equus models includes Sport and Normal modes, which now have a noticeable amount of separation. It's quite softly sprung in Comfort mode, while its Sport mode is by no means at the Lexus LS F Sport's level of tautness—not to mention anything floated in on a freighter from Germany or the U.K.
In terms of seating and comfort, it doesn't quite have the vast rear-seat space of a long-wheelbase German sedan. But the Equus is quite comfortable and plushly lined, and its fit and finish are exemplary.
The Equus does quite well in IIHS crash-testing, and its most recent update included a number of additional standard safety features. Blind-spot monitors are standard, and on the Ultimate model there's a head-up display and a surround-view camera system. A lane-departure warning system and adaptive cruise control are available as optional equipment. Nine airbags (including a driver's knee bag), active front-seat head restraints, and brake assist are included across the model range. The NHTSA has not yet rated the Equus.
There are two trim levels available, Signature and Ultimate. Even the Equus Signature comes as an extremely well-equipped luxury car. It packs more standard features than many models from prestige marques: standard features include HID headlamps; leather upholstery; heated-and-cooled front seats; a 12-way memory driver's seat; steering-wheel controls; a sunroof; and adaptive cruise control. A navigation system with XM traffic and weather data, Gracenote, and 30 GB storage is also included.
The limousine-like Equus Ultimate adds a rear entertainment system with dual 9.2-inch screens; rear-seat audio and climate controls; power door closures; a power rear seat; cooled rear seats; a cornering camera; power side sunshades; and a head-up display.
Fuel economy ratings for the Equus are 15 mpg city, 23 highway, 18 combined.
2016 Hyundai Equus
The Hyundai Equus doesn't strike out in an adventurous styling direction, but it's handsome.
With the Equus, Hyundai flies under the radar. It's styled with deference to global design cues, a subdued mix of elements that grace the competition in one form or another.
The Equus is by no means bold and brash, making it an excellent under-the-radar cruiser for someone who appreciates a solid luxury sedan and prefers to blend into the background.
The Equus drapes some familiar themes over its large-car body—the wide grille could come from Mercedes, the rear quarter panels have stampings like those on a Cadillac or BMW, and the headlamps have more than a passing resemblance to those on the Lexus LS. It's by no means an assertive look like the ones carved out by Jaguar and Cadillac.
The Equus' cabin was reworked for 2014, adding a few distinctive touches. The finishes have been upgraded, and the grades of wood and leather have never been finer. Over our week of testing, we slowly became accustomed to the rotating-wheel controls on the new steering wheel. As before, there are some delicately applied details we like in the Equus’ interior, including the winged metallic trim that surrounds the dash vents, and the big LCD screen that glows with higher-resolution graphics.
2016 Hyundai Equus
Light steering and softly sprung handling make the Equus' powerful V-8 its best performance piece.
The Equus handles straight-line speed with quiet grace, but it’s not the handling equal of its European rivals.
The Equus' hallmark in the performance department comes via its 5.0-liter V-8. The big Hyundai pours on smooth, quiet acceleration, surging forward with 429 horsepower on tap from its sole powertrain offering. It's coupled only to an 8-speed automatic transmission, one with smooth, drawn-out shifts that put a much higher priority on buttery gear changes than quick, fast shifts. With 367 pound-feet of torque, it can break the rear tires free quite easily once traction control is disabled.
The Equus hustles up to highway speeds quickly, accompanied by a brawny V-8 burble and ripple; something you might not expect from a car with the luxury demographic in mind. If you maintain traction, acceleration to 60 mph takes about six seconds, in the ballpark of the base Lexus LS, and not far off the mark set by cars like the base twin-turbocharged Mercedes S550.
Despite a recent round of tuning for its adaptive air suspension, the Equus still doesn't come very close to matching the best of the group in handling. It's most like the Lexus LS here, with even softer settings in its "Comfort" mode; it rides with pillowy compliance, and not quite enough control. The air suspension feels more confident in its sport setting, though it's still not going to be confused with something as athletic as a Jaguar XJ. It feels secure on high-speed sweepers and stable on the interstate, but in tighter corners, the Equus answers with lots of body lean and nose dive. The resounding observation here is the Equus is not a sports sedan, it’s a luxury sedan with its sights set on Lexus, Acura, Buick, and Cadillac more so than the Germans.
Overall, the sense of driving refinement is excellent. Even with 20-inch wheels and tires there's no harshness, and road and wind noise are kept away from the cabin. Unlike most cars in this segment (and others) the Equus retains hydraulic steering. Its electrohydraulic setup is better suited to more sporty driving, pairing the linear, consistent feel that hydraulics allow with weighty on-center feel, providing a feeling of precision and making it easy to place in tight places.
2016 Hyundai Equus
Comfort & Quality
The back seat is slightly smaller than other luxury-sedan accommodations, but fit and finish is excellent.
Although the Equus remains Hyundai's flagship, the recently redone Genesis now surpasses it in many ways. Still, the Equus has the space of a Lexus LS along with many of the amenities buyers of big luxury sedans expect.
In the front seat, the Equus establishes itself among the plusher, more pliant luxury sedans. The front seats aren't heavily bolstered or overly firm, as is the case in some European executive four-doors. They're ventilated and heated, and incorporate a massaging function to keep drivers feeling fresher over long distances. It's mildly effective, but we'd ask for a bit more under-leg support given the option. One omission: The Equus' seats don't have the extending bottom cushions that we’ve liked much on Mercedes and BMW flagships.
Hyundai's Driver Information System centralizes most of the secondary controls under an interface operated by a knob controller on the console. It's similar in concept to BMW iDrive, Audi MMI, and Mercedes COMAND—but it's not as easily grasped as the best of those systems. Hyundai blocks any touchscreen control, even when parked; the controller and voice commands are required even to do fine adjustments like AM radio selection. There's a redundant screen in the gauges that can show something different from what's on the main central display, which helps minimize the confusion at times.
The rear seat is clearly a priority in the Equus, especially when compared to the smaller, related Genesis sedan. There's lots of leg room and head room by conventional standards, and the Equus is wide enough to fit three across. Both Equus Signature and Ultimate models come standard with a three-person bench rear seat and a console that folds down from the middle position. (The formerly available twin-bucket rear seat is no longer available.) With rake adjustment—as well as ventilation and lumbar control on Ultimate models—the outboard seats are a step above the seats in most other competitively priced vehicles. The Equus rear seat lacks the first-class reclining chairs of the new S-Class, for example.
Up close, the Equus strikes much closer to the global standard than it did when it was launched a few years ago. It's fitted with walnut or birch trim on the instrument panel, and leather, all over the door panels and dash. The headliner is lined in suede just like the roof in a top-line Jaguar, and the center console is framed in wood, with matte-metallic accents. It's all coordinated quite well, and continues the understated look of the rest of the vehicle. It's not as modern in style as the interior in the new Genesis, but it's fitting for a car meant primarily to be driven in.
2016 Hyundai Equus
The Equus has incomplete crash data, but a full complement of additional safety features on board.
The Equus has scored well in the crash tests it has endured thus far. The IIHS gave the 2015 model top scores in tests performed—but it hasn't yet performed the important new small-overlap frontal crash, which simulates a collision with a telephone pole or light pole.
The NHTSA hasn't tested the Equus.
While its scores are incomplete, the Equus' safety gear is replete with the latest safety technology. 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 didn’t particularly care for this intrusive system as it had the ability to be rather frustrating during spirited driving. That said, given the target demographic of the Equus, we don’t suspect potential buyers would take any particular issue with the function. A collision-warning system and blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts are included on all Equus models. Ultimate models also get a surround-view camera and a head-up display.
The Equus does not offer an optional all-wheel drive system, which could be disconcerting to some who value that drive system as a safety feature. The related Genesis sedan offers all-wheel drive for those who want a big Hyundai with all-weather traction.
2016 Hyundai Equus
Personalized service calls and a very long warranty are two of the Equus' advantages over rivals.
With the Equus, Hyundai ladles on standard equipment to make it one of the most fully equipped vehicles at its price point. There are no additional options or packages available on either trim level of the Equus, in fact, buyers only choose between the Signature model and the Ultimate version.
Even in its base configuration, the Equus is Hyundai's most lavishly equipped vehicle. Still, it does without a few items recently added to the less expensive Genesis sedan.
For its $62,450 base price, the Equus Signature includes the usual power features, cruise control, and air conditioning, then adds more—and more. It has leather upholstery and wood trim; a heated steering wheel; heated and cooled front seats; three-zone climate control; a moonroof; adaptive cruise control; a rearview camera; front and rear parking sensors; a pre-collision warning system; and high-intensity discharge headlamps with LED running lights.
A navigation system with real-time traffic is standard, as is a glorious 598-watt Lexicon audio system with 17 speakers. Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system is also standard across the board.
On the connectivity front, the Equus includes USB/iPod inputs and Bluetooth for phone and audio, all of which are integrated into the infotainment controller—one of the knob-driven systems that doesn't respond to screen touches and blocks many functions when the car is moving.
On the $69,700 Equus Ultimate, Hyundai fits a set of surround-view cameras and a more powerful Lexicon audio system. The Ultimate Equus also has standard power-recline rear seats with power headrests; a cooled bin between the rear seats; a soft-close system for doors and the trunklid; a twin-screen rear-seat entertainment system; a 12.3-inch high-resolution screen replaces the gauges with beautifully rendered digital replicas; and power rear side sunshades.
Hyundai understands that Equus owners will have a completely different level of expectations compared to Accent or Elantra shoppers, so it's also offering specially tailored showrooms, at-home demos, and personalized valet services for its Equus owners—sweetening the pot even further for potential buyers.
As for those previously-mentioned features that haven't yet migrated up from the Genesis? There's a self-steering function enabled by electric power steering as well as automatic headlights. Both sound better than they work in practice, so really there isn’t anything being lost in this equation. This year, the Equus adopts a hands-free trunk opener; it's offered on the Ultimate model.
2016 Hyundai Equus
Fuel economy is low with the Equus' V-8, even with its 8-speed automatic.
The Hyundai Equus is neither efficient nor a gas-guzzler when judged against other large, rear-drive sedans.
The 2016 Equus earns an EPA fuel economy rating of 15 mpg city, 23 highway, 18 combined. Its sole source of power is a 5.0-liter V-8, and since it's coupled to an 8-speed automatic, the numbers are about as good as they can get. In real-world use, we've seen as much as 18 mpg in a mix of canyon runs and interstate strafes.
Hyundai does offer hybrid powertrains in their model range, but there's no current plan to add a gas-electric hybrid version of the Equus.
We'd note that gas mileage is a lower priority than luxury for most buyers in this class—but in the Hyundai's case, its strong value could make fuel economy a bigger priority.