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Test drive: 2014 Hyundai Equus reaches closer to competition

The Hyundai Equus has been with us since 2010, offering buyers a competitor to the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes S-Class for under $70,000. The question is and remains, is it credible as such. Our drive this week sheds light on some of that.

2014 Hyundai Equus reaches closer to competition
2014 Hyundai Equus reaches closer to competitionSam Haymart
2014 Hyundai Equus reaches closer to competition
2014 Hyundai Equus reaches closer to competitionSam Haymart

For 2014 Hyundai spent some updating time with its top of the line Equus luxury sedan, which received striking new 19” “turbine” style wheels, a new front fascia and bolder grille design. Jewled LED fog lamps are now standard up front while at the rear a new tail light design freshens up the look.

The long wheel base separates the look of this Hyundai from others in their lineup well but the rear quarter view however has a curved flair over the wheel arch and tail lamp style which still seems a bit derivative of the last generation Mercedes S-Class.

The interior lined with fine leather on the seats, across the dash and new selections of genuine wood trim for 2014. The instrument cluster and center stack controls have been re-designed to include larger electronic displays.

The driver and passenger get fully adjustable heated and cooled power seats, though the passenger does get a few less adjustments. Memory settings for the driver store seat, steering wheel and power mirror settings.

The rear seat space is cavernous, offering true long wheel-base room. Rear passengers are coddled with heating and cooling vents and power adjustable recline as well as fore-aft adjustment. A fold down arm rest features redundant HVAC and audio controls as well.

The Lexicon audio system with navigation is operated by a console center puck which can take a bit of learning to use. Once you get it down however the sound quality is good with its 17 speakers, 598 watts and 7.1 discrete surround sound.

With the Equus, there are no options thus whether you get the Signature or Ultimate, driver aids like Blind Spot detection, rear-cross traffic alert, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and parking assistance just to name a few.

A few quirks found included a drive-mode selector which offers up Normal, Sport, and Snow settings which change how the throttle mapping, transmission shifting and steering effort behave. They work well, but you lose your settings every time you turn the car off.

The center console storage area has to bi-fold doors which have a sleek look. But because they are so slim the both must be opened separately to actually gain any meaningful access to the storage area. I’d be happy with one big door having lived with it for a week.

Under the hood is a quiet and smooth 429 horsepower 5.0 liter direct-injected V8 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, we achieved 16.5 mpg combined in our week with the Equus.

The engine offers up adequate power for the 4,553 lb Equus and has a nicely tuned yet distant V8 sound. It’s 8-speed transmission shifts smoothly and without drama. In the driver selectable sport mode it lets the engine rev higher and shifts tighter, in normal mode the shifts are less noticeable.

Handling was an area where some criticism arose. On neighborhood streets and highways the air suspension gives a soft if not a slightly floaty ride – meaning a little bit boat like. Spin the knob to sport and it stiffens up considerably as well as giving tighter steering feel.

Regardless of drive mode settings the steering exhibited a high level of kickback and skitter on rougher surfaces, particularly on our mountain road test. Bumps, expansion strips and other surface changes and tug and jolt the steering wheel in your hands.

This is a disappointing characteristic in any car, let alone one in this price range. But this trait was the same we found last year when we test drove the Hyundai Genesis. In all, this platform could use a bit more tuning before the next generation rolls out.

Overall, the Equus is a luxurious and well equipped enough car that it can comfortably park in the same strata of the aforementioned competitors. At $61,000 to $68,000 it is priced dramatically less than they, even those from Lexus and Audi.

In the final analysis what the 2014 Hyundai Equus lacks is not feature content, but that special something the other established luxury brands have in their long sewn DNA that has made them worth the extra leap of dollars. Perhaps in time, Hyundai will gain this important trait.