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2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate Review By Steve Purdy

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2014 Hyundai Equus

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

A horse is a horse, of course, unless it is a Hyundai Equus. That funny name is Latin for horse, by the way, and this is one fine steed. Costing thousands less than comparable large German luxury sedans, and somewhat less than the Asian competitors as well, the Equus is a great value. Though we wonder if “value” is on the radar screen of buyers at the top of the market.

Many buyers in the large luxury sedan segment want to make a statement about wealth, power or importance by driving (or being chauffeured in) one of the prestigious German products. Hyundai consciously focuses on those who want that kind of car but with a significantly lower profile. Hence the Equus’ conservative styling.

In terms of size and content we can compare the rear-wheel drive Equus Ultimate to the S-Class Mercedes, 7-Series BMW and Audi A8. The only Asian competitor close is the Lexus LS and Kia’s just-out version of the Equus called K900.

Our week with the car included a road trip north to Michigan’s “Gold Coast,” which begins at Traverse City where we are to attend the annual fundraising event for the Great Lakes Culinary Institute overlooking West Traverse Bay. Another substantial snowfall was predicted and, sure enough, it began in earnest when we were about 50 miles away. We were able to test the Equus’ prowess in the snow. Not its forte. More on that later.

Some will say the styling and design of the Korean-built Equus is too conservative and without enough personality to contend in this class. Unless you know something about cars and pay close attention you’ll be hard pressed to distinguish it from the lesser Genesis or perhaps another undistinguished sedan. But, it is certainly appreciated by the target customer referenced above who does not want to turn heads with his car, but still wants a large, powerful luxury car.

Inside we find more character and personality but still nothing garish or ground breaking in terms of style or design. Materials, fit and finish, content and convenience are first rate, though perhaps a tad less ostentatious than the others. The electronic instrument cluster mimics analog gauges with a variety of configurations covering whatever information you’re interested in at the moment. A unique scrolling soft-touch disc built in to the steering wheel helps navigate around many functions and we found it functionally interesting, intuitive and effective. Not surprisingly, the cabin is large and luxurious, comfortable and convenient. A classy analog clock fits in the center of the dash.

The rear seating area is huge, reflective of the fact that in Asian markets this car is often chauffer driven. Standard are heated and reclining rear seats. Our test car has the optional massage function back there and cooled rear seats as well. The large center console in the rear has its own climate controls and other functions as well as generous cup holders and a small, refrigerated compartment. Our rear seat passengers this week were duly impressed. Editors Note: The Equus also features real live ashtrays for the rear seat passengers (cough cough).

The standard navigation system breaks no new ground and the map is way too stingy on detail. You must zoom in at least two screens tighter than necessary to see any surface streets. That’s a common fault with many navigation system maps, in my view, with the exception of the Mazda system I recently reviewed. We also had a very hard time figuring out how to cancel a destination that we no longer needed. Like any new system a learning curve must be endured when finding your way around. Even though I review different cars every week, it doesn’t seem to get much easier.

The Equus’ powertrain is sweet. Under the hood is a direct-injected 5.0-liter V8 making a solid 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque mated to a remarkably smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. The EPA rating of 15 mpg in the city, 23 on the highway and 18 mpg combined is reasonably accurate. Our mostly-highway driving resulted in an average of 21.6. Premium fuel is recommended but the Equus is designed to run on regular fuel as well. Expect horsepower and fuel mileage to drop a bit with regular fuel. Perhaps the sweetest element of this powertrain is the sophisticated, muffled yet grumbly, sound on full throttle. I know, most Equus buyers won’t put their foot in it as much as I might, but it’s still a thrill to hear that effortless acceleration as you go from zero to 60 mph in well under 6 seconds.

Ride and handling are more genteel than the no-nonsense German competitors who pride themselves on firm suspension and crisp handling. Electronic air suspension with continuous damping control adjusts to your driving style and road conditions to provide an unobtrusive driving experience. A selectable drive mode system offers Normal, Sport or Snow settings but switching back and forth I found little difference. The “Snow” mode, as we hinted earlier, gave little help in the four inches of fresh stuff accumulating and glazing the streets in the bitter cold. All-wheel drive is not available with the Equus.

Starting price for the content-rich Equus is $61,000. Our “Ultimate” package adds another $7,000 and includes that slick little steering wheel haptic dial controller, power door closers, power window shades and trunk lid, the rear seat extras (cooling, massage, power head restraints, entertainment systems), head up display, and some other stuff.

The base price gets you all the chassis dynamics, park assist, lane departure assist, and other stuff you expect in this level of car. With the $920 destination charge we’re looking a just about $69,000.

If you want to impress your neighbors go for one of the big German sedans, but if you want a bargain in quiet, competent, powerful and luxurious transportation, this might be your car. Take the neighbor for a ride in the Equus and tell him how much you paid. Then he’ll really be impressed.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved