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2014 Hyundai Equus road test: Luxury for the passenger --- and the driver

2014 Hyundai Equus
2014 Hyundai Equus
Nick Yost

2014 Hyundai Equus


You can look far and wide and never see a Hyundai Equus idling away in midtown Manhattan with a chauffeur sitting behind the wheel waiting for some high-powered executive to return.

And, in some ways that's too bad.This thrifty rich man's answer to the Mercedes S Class, BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, Lexus LS 460 and Jaguar XJ is quite capable of transporting a rear-seat passenger in limousine-like comfort, whether it be on the daily commute or a business trip. And, at a saving of many thousand dollars.

Of course, most of my week with a recently refreshed 2014 Equus was spent in the driver's chair. That, too, is a pleasant place to spend time. The Equus is easy and pleasant to drive. Even in the selectable sport mode it's certainly no sports sedan, but a driver can't help but be impressed by Equus' smooth and powerful engine, its easy controllability, its supreme isolation from the world outside, and its supple suspension. I was quite happy cruising urban, suburban and rural roads.

Nevertheless, let's start by examining the rear quarters of the ultimate Equus..

First the outboard seats: Lots of room to stretch out, sumptuous soft leather, power recliners and lumbar adjustment, . Straight ahead, mounted to the rear of the front seats, are two 9.2-inch, high-definition monitors for the DVD entertainment system.

The center console is the command post for the tri-zone climate control system, the killer sound system, the movie screens, navigation and more. Mr. (or Ms) Executive and a companion will be traveling first class whatever the destination.

New for 2014, that console can be raised into the seatback to make room for a fifth passenger when required.

Now, let's take a closer look at the total package.

The Hyundai Equus comes in two flavors only. Signature carries a sticker price of $61,920, including delivery charge. The upgraded features that turn it into the Ultimate run the suggested bill up to $68,920, also including delivery charge. Taxes are additional.

That's not exactly chump change, but the price pales in comparison to the rolling status symbols from Germany, England and Japan that command prices some $20,000 to $40,000 more.

A close examination will reveal several areas where Hyundai lags behind the competition dynamically and aesthetically, but to the cost-conscious buyer the differences are minimal. Hyundai has plenty to offer on its own and is steadily working to elevate the Equus into a fully competitive thoroughbred.

The exterior upgrades for 2014 include new front and rear bumpers, a new grille, new 19-inch wheels and LED fog lights. Overall, from my viewpoint, the Equus comes across as conservatively handsome.

Inside, the 2014 Equus is more comprehensively upgraded, including an all-new dashboard, steering wheel and center stack. There is more wood veneer and even the shift lever is surrounded by leather.

The Ultimate package moves the Equus even further upscale, There, in addition to the rear entertainment system, you will find a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, a heads-up display that shows speed in the windshield so a driver doesn't have to take eyes off the road, power-closing doors, power rear- and side-window sunshades, and more.

And, let's not forget the steering wheel haptic dial control. Haptic? I had to look that one up. Dictionary says haptics is "a science concerned with the sense of touch?"

More simply, I would say it is a wheel imbedded into the steering wheel that can be manipulated to bring information about the operation of the vehicle into the driver's gauge cluster. I would also say that it is more complicated than it needs to be.

Power for the 4,600-pound Hyundai Equus is provided by one engine --- a 5-liter V-8 which generates 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. This powerplant is the strong, silent type and should not leave anyone craving for more gusto.

The seamless eight-speed transmission with manual-shift mode delivers that power to the rear wheels only so snow belt dwellers may want to shop elsewhere. There is a little help for the climatologically challenged, though. In addition to sport and normal, the drive-mode system offers a snow option that reduces power to alleviate wheel spin.

Ride quality, supplied by an updated air suspension, is definitely tilted toward the comfort side of the handling equation, much like it is in the big Lexus. To me this makes sense, because a large luxury vehicle will seldom, if ever, be seen rocketing around mountainous switchbacks.

Suffice it to say the Equus handles competently in all circumstances, if not quite able to match the driving dynamics of the German autobahn burners.

Fuel efficiency is not the Equus' long suit but that will matter little to the buyer of a premium full-size sedan. The EPA guesstimates mileage at 15 in the city and 23 on the highway, with an overall average of 18 mpg. My overall average was 17 mpg, and that was obtained driving at a reasonable pace and carrying a relatively light load (me).

As expected, the Equus comes with an abundance of safety features. In addition to the usual complement of belts and airbags, traction and skid control, this Hyundai has stability management with pre-collision warning, a blind-spot detection system, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance from the car ahead and can bring the Equus to a complete stop, and multi-view and forward-view cornering cameras to take the "uh-oh" factor out of such nerve-wracking chores such as backing up and fitting into tight mall and parking garage spaces.

The list of Equus features goes on and on, but suffice it to say that In the final analysis there is not a whole lot this Hyundai is missing that the other big guys have.

The No.1 question a buyer must ponder, then, is whether the Hyundai value equation is more important than the perceived status that is conferred on an owner of a significantly more expensive Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi.

It's not a question I can answer.

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