Full-size luxury has a new name – Equus – and plenty of ponies
Hyundai’s full-size Equus is a fine luxury car with one major drawback, the Hyundai name.
Unlike Honda and its Acura line or Toyota’s Lexus or Nissan’s Infiniti, Hyundai has chosen to simply offer its luxury liner as an extension of its standard line. Thus the Hyundai Equus Signature edition that I tested proudly wears its parent company’s name along with a $59,650 price tag.
You read that right, nearly $60 grand for a Hyundai. Officially the price is $58,750 with a $900 delivery charge. There’s a slightly more upscale Ultimate edition that lists at $66,250.
But let’s keep our thoughts on this “base” Equus (which might have been a better brand name).
It’s large, it’s loaded and it’s quiet. Equus is a dreamy, easy to drive luxury yacht, similar in size and appearance to the Lexus LS, but for considerably less dough. That’s where Hyundai may get some converts if they are comfortable enough to roll up to the country club and show off their new luxury car sans a Lexus or BMW logo.
Equus is powerful. It boasts a strong 5.0-liter V8 that creates a mega 421 horsepower and slickly gets you up to speed via a silky 8-speed automatic with Shiftronic, in case you want to do the shifting yourself. This powertrain feels solid and luxurious, as does the entire car, all 4,486 lbs. of it.
Compared to a Lexus LS, the Equus has 41 more horsepower, has about 6 more cubic feet of interior room, is more than 3 inches longer, rides on 1-inch larger wheels and tires and features a trunk with 3 more cubic feet of space at a lofty 17.0 cu.ft. Likewise the Equus has a lower power to weight ratio, so should have better oomph off the line.
Lexus wins on weight though, edging Equus by 240 lbs., and wins the MPG battle by 1 mpg both city and highway over the Hyundai’s feeble 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. I got just 15.1 mpg in about 60% city driving. That’s large SUV and pickup truck territory.
Price? Equus starts about $7,000 less than the Lexus.
Steering effort is heavier in Equus than is needed to convey that this is a sizeable luxury car. There also is some numbness to the wheel feel and a little body lean in turns. If you want better steering feedback or precision an Infiniti would likely better suit you, or a German luxury make, ah, but then you’re back to paying a lot more.
Braking from the four-wheel discs was fine and there’s the usual stability and traction control systems. Most luxury cars are rear-wheel drive, and the Equus continues that tradition.
Inside, you’ll feel you’re in a true luxury make. The cabin is incredibly quiet, the seats fairly flat and covered in soft leather and the car includes nearly every bell, whistle and electronic doodad you’d expect, except a blind-spot warning system.
The sparkling “granite gray” test car featured brown leather seats and black leather dash and door trim. The dash is handsome and perfectly flat on top for good visibility out the windshield. There also were wood inserts in the dash, doors and console and matte silver trim. The power tilt-telescope steering wheel also is a wood and leather mix.
Gauges are white on black with digital trip computer readouts between the main gauges. To the wheel’s left are buttons on the dash to engage the park alert system, power rear sunshade, stability control and to unlatch the trunk. A gas cap release button is conveniently on the door.
I like the power seat adjustments on the doors too, with a 12-way selection of positions for the driver and 10-way choice for the passenger. There’s a massage button on the driver’s bottom cushion’s side, but I didn’t care for it. Mercedes-Benz’s massage system is light years better, but at least you Could engage it to keep you awake if you were feeling drowsy.
Hyundai also provides two-position memory buttons on the door and 3-level heated and cooled seats for more seating comfort. Head and legroom is generous front and rear too, the back seat easily holding three adults. And there are heated rear seats and separate climate controls.
I like the backup camera and there’s a ride-height button on the console to let you lower or raise the car slightly. Lane departure warning is available, but can be turned off easily.
Sadly Hyundai follows most other luxury makes to create a complex radio and navigation system that is Not easy to use as you drive. Train a passenger so you can keep your eyes on the road. Plus what’s with the silly chime tune that plays every time you turn the ignition on or off. Ugh, more senseless noise pollution.There are some more pluses though, including plush visors that slide, a HomeLink system overhead, along with a sunroof and power seat back buttons on the passenger’s seatback, where either the driver or a rear passenger can power the seat forward or to another position to make the rear seat passenger more comfortable.
Outside the car is handsome with chrome wheels and a look that oozes luxury.
The only substantial problem I see is that people laugh when you tell them you’re driving a $60 grand Hyundai. It might be time for Hyundai to think of a luxury name and separate its mainline brands from its top-o-the-heap cars. An Equus ZX1 might be an easier sell among the monied country club set.
FAST Stats: 2012 Hyundai Equus Signature
Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea
Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 421 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/Shiftronic
Weight: 4,486 lbs.
Wheelbase: 119.9 in.
Cargo: 17.0 cu.ft.
Base Price: $58,750
Dealer’s Price: $55,368
Major Options: None
Test Vehicle: $59,650
Sources: Hyundai, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy Hyundai
Hits: Giant comfortable, quiet luxury sedan that looks like a Lexus. Nearly every bell & whistle, including power rear sunshade, backup camera, ride-height adjustment, etc. Good power and ride and excellent seat adjustments. Priced less than Lexus.
Misses: Gas mileage is poor, heavy steering, complex radio system, silly chime tune when you turn on/off ignition. People laugh when you tell them it’s a $60 grand Hyundai.