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March 5, 2014

2014 Hyundai Equus Signature

by Mark Savage

Equus has it all, nearly literally

More than a year ago I told you that the only major drawback to the full-size Hyundai Equus luxury sedan was its Hyundai badge.equus1

I’m sticking by that, but if anything, the Equus has gotten better and that means other luxury makes might want to rethink their pricing. Because Equus is a superbly quiet, comfortable and powerful luxury sedan, but priced to grab market share. Hmmm, think I’ve seen this strategy before, from the Japanese makes, and now both Hyundai and Kia.

Get this, the tested dark metallic brown Hyundai Equus Signature that I tested lists at $61 grand with a $920 delivery charge. Now before you go passing out from the price tag, consider that a Lexus LS460, which is similarly sized, but not quite as well equipped, lists at $71,990. My grade school math tells me this is almost exactly $10,000 less.

For that amount, I could live with a lesser logo on the hood or trunk. Want to go full monty on this? OK, a top-level Equus Ultimate lists at $68,000, still less than the Lexus. And let’s not get into the German luxury makes that even a Lexus beats on price.

Value is certainly a big selling point, as it has been with Hyundai for years. But if the car doesn’t perform, isn’t as quiet and luxurious feeling, well, then a lower price doesn’t cut it.

Ah, but Equus is, as I said in my earlier review, large, loaded and luxuriously quiet.

Yes, that's real wood trim!

Yes, that’s real wood trim!

Equus is easy to drive, but has some major grunt under the hood, although that description sounds way too low-class. Let’s just say its 5.0-liter V8 creates a throbbing 429 horsepower on premium fuel and 421 on regular. If you can feel the difference of 8 horses, then pay for premium.

I can’t, and besides, in sloppy weather like we’ve had in spades this winter you’re happy to be in the Normal drive mode where you have good, but not explosive, power from the V8 and silky 8-speed automatic, which includes Shiftronic, to allow manual shifting.

Equus has three drive modes, including Sport that makes this a 4,500-lb. rocket, and Snow, which helps control acceleration and wheel spin in slippery conditions. I used it twice and was happy to have it in a powerful rear-drive car that normally may become squirrelly in snow.

Ride is phenomenal, maybe the best I’ve experienced even in a luxury make. Equus rides on a 119.9-inch wheelbase and features 19-inch tires. Ride is well controlled and smooth. Even the roughest roads feel satin smooth, much of that thanks to two high-tech systems that work together. One is CDC, continuous damping control that uses monitors to judge wheel, body and lateral acceleration and dampen the suspension accordingly. Second is an electronically controlled air suspension to soften ride. FYI, that’s an option on the Lexus, but standard here.

Handling is good, but certainly not European in feel. Since I drove the first version of Equus the steering weight seems to have been lessened enough to give it a substantial, but not burdensome feel. This does not feel sporty, but it feels adequately responsive and I noticed none of the body lean in turns that I’d felt in the earlier test drive.

Braking is fine from four wheel disc brakes, plus traction and stability control help keep the car on track in sloppy weather, of which we had plenty during the drive.

This is a handsome dash, although loaded with buttons. The steering wheel is heated too.

This is a handsome dash, although loaded with buttons. The steering wheel is heated too.

The only performance disappointment I had was in fuel consumption. The EPA rates this big car at 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, so I was hoping for 17-18 mpg. Sadly I got just 15.4 mpg, again in snowy and extremely cold temperatures. On the praiseworthy side, my mileage was exactly the same as the car’s trip computer reported. That’s extremely rare.

Inside, this feels like a top-level 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 aid you’d expect. Last time I drove the Equus it did not have a blind-spot warning system, but it does now, along with back-up camera, heated steering wheel and three-speed heated and cooled front seats, and heated outboard rear seats.

There’s a power sunshade for the rear window, a power sunroof, thick padded sun visors that slide and a simple elegantly designed flat dash to give you better frontal visibility.

Equus has intuitive power seat controls on the door, with two memory settings.

Hyundai’s Equus has intuitive power seat controls on the door, featuring two memory settings.

The test car featured a black over tan leather interior, with black dash and tan seats. There also were black wood inserts in the dash, doors and console and brushed silver trim on the console. The power tilt-telescope steering wheel also is a wood and leather mix, with the leather portion heated. I do wish the leather came up higher than the 9-and-3 position to the 10-and-2 that is the more standard driving position though.

The wheel did power back and away and the driver’s seat powered back once the push-button ignition was off. There are two memory positions for the driver’s seat and both front seat controls (12-way) are up on the door where they are easier to access than on the lower seat cushion’s side. There’s even a power headrest control, but the driver’s power lumbar remains on the seat side.

Head and legroom is generous front and rear, and the back seat easily holds three adults. The outboard rear seats also are heated and there are separate climate controls in back.

Equus has a wide LCD instrument cluster in front of the driver, with white on black gauges and digital trip computer readouts between the gauges. To the wheel’s left are dash buttons to engage the parking sensors, blind-spot system, stability control and to unlatch the trunk. There’s a lane-departure system button, but I couldn’t get the system to work in sloppy road situations.

Hyundai puts radio, phone, trip computer and adaptive cruise control buttons on the steering wheel hub. And a button to fold the side mirrors flat to the body is on the door along with the power mirrors, windows and lock buttons. The mirrors also angle down when the car is put into reverse to help you see curbs as you back up. The back-up camera helps there too.

No denying this is a classy looking luxury sedan that Lexus or Mercedes would be proud to call their own.

No denying this is a classy looking luxury sedan that Lexus or Mercedes would be proud to call their own.

On the console is a ride-height button to let you lower or raise the car slightly. I doubt you’d use it much, unless you took your luxury car into mud, muck or heavy snow.

As I said last time, sadly Hyundai follows most other luxury makes to create a complex radio and navigation system that is not easy to use as you drive. It again involves a large knob amid the console to find stations. Ugh! And I guess I’m getting used to the slightly annoying chime that goes off every time you start and stop the car.

Other pluses include a HomeLink system overhead, a fancy radio with satellite radio and the Hyundai blueLink telematics system to help keep you safe and do some functions with voice commands.

Feeling like you deserve More luxury?

The Equus Ultimate adds quite a lot for another $7,000, including a multi-view backup camera, a forward-view cornering camera, power door latching, power trunk, power lumbar supports for the outboard rear seats, illuminated vanity mirrors in the rear seat, power side window sun shades, a rear seat entertainment system with two monitors and heads-up display for the driver, among other goodies.

So for $68 grand you could have the whole luxury experience and save money compared to others who may seek fancier nameplates.

FAST Stats: 2014 Hyundai Equus Signature
Hits: Lexus looks and performance at a lower price. Handsome interior w/3-speed heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, backup camera, blind-spot warning system, 3 drive modes, power seat controls on door, accessible dash with big buttons and large nav/radio screen, side mirrors fold flat, visors slide, sunroof, rear sun shade, big trunk. Super power, excellent ride and good handling and feel.
Misses: Poor gas mileage and radio uses center console control that isn’t easy to use while driving. This needs simplified.
Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea
Engine: 5.0-liter, GDI D-CVVT V8, 429 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic/Shiftronic
Weight: 4,553 lbs.
Wheelbase: 119.9 in.
Cargo: 17.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 15/23
Base Price: $61,000
Dealer’s Price: $56,991
Major Options: None
Delivery: $920
Test vehicle: $61,920
Sources: Hyundai, http://www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Hyundai

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