What’s new for 2015?
This surprisingly plush full-size flagship is unchanged, continuing as a rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan with standard V-8 power. It slots above the smaller Genesis sedan in Hyundai’s lineup and is roughly the size of the Lexus LS 460 and BMW 7 Series, though both those cars are available in extended-length form, as well. Equus returns for ’15 in Signature and Ultimate trim levels with factory options limited to exterior paint colors.
How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?
Equus of course isn’t buoyed by the brand cache attached to its premium-class competition but it compensates to a degree by offering similar attributes for far less money. The Signature is the more popular trim and is priced at $62,450, including Hyundai’s $950 shipping fee. That’s $12,0000 or more under the comparable 7 Series or LS models, if a solid $10,000 more than the impressive top-of-the-line V-8 Genesis. Better yet, big discounts ought to be readily available, with TrueCar.com saying buyers are paying an average of $57,600 for a Signature and identifying dealers offering it for as little as $52,610. List price for the Ultimate is $69,700 (including shipping), again thousands less than its more established rivals and again subject to steep discounts. TrueCar says buyers shelled out an average of $64,507 and that some dealers are offering Ultimates for as little as $58,976.
When will the next big change be?
Equus debuted for model-year 2011 as this South Korean automaker’s stretch into the realm of Lexus and even Mercedes-Benz. It’s essentially a statement of Hyundai’s ambitions and a test of its ability to satisfy premium-class customers. The car received a welcome cosmetic freshening for model-year 2014, with crisper front and rear trim diluting some of the ornate details that marked the original as a product of Korean design sensibilities. A revamped dashboard accomplished the same inside, and was highlighted by additional wood trim. The second-generation is in development, scheduled for a U.S. launch in during 2016, likely as a 2017 model.
What options or trim level is best for me?
The two trim levels share identical styling and mechanical attributes and a long list of standard features, including a cabin trimmed in supple leather and real wood, power heated and cooled front seats, heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel, power-reclining and heated rear seats, a 17-speaker Lexicon-brand audio system, tri-zone automatic climate control, a power moonroof, and a power rear sunshade. Each also comes with a navigation system with a bright 9.2-inch dashboard screen and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics access to wireless infotainment and concierge services. That’s obviously enough to satisfy most feature-minded Equus buyers that a Signature model represents great value. However, if you can wrangle an Ultimate by adding a relatively palatable $120 or so to your monthly payment, consider it money well spent toward another layer of amenities you’ll enjoy — and enjoy showing off to your Equus-doubting friends. Install them in the rear seats, for example, and invite them to enjoy the cooled cushions with power-adjustable lumbar, power side-window sunshades and power-adjustable headrests, and, oh, yes, the DVD entertainment system with dual 9.2-inch monitors. They won’t believe they’re in a Hyundai.
What engine do you recommend?
There’s but one and it’s a fine performer. With 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, the 5.0-liter V-8 is a good match for any in the competitive set in terms of smoothness and acceleration. It works though a fully up-to-date eight-speed automatic transmission, delivering stress-free response off the line, around-town, and in any highway-speed passing or merging situation. Hyundai was wise enough to base this car on a rear-wheel-drive design, preferred over front-wheel drive in high-end luxury cars for the handling benefits of the better weight distribution. However, virtually every rival now also offers the option of all-wheel drive, which beats rear-drive for traction on wet and snowy pavement. All-wheel drive is available on the Genesis and Hyundai would be smart to offer it on the next-generation Equus, too. Several competitors also sell gas-electric hybrid versions of their flagships to appeal to buyers both well-heeled and sensitive to the environment and their image. No word on whether a hybrid Equus is in the cards.
How is the fuel economy?
Slightly behind the curve, even for a class in which great fuel economy seldom influences a buying decision. EPA ratings are 15/23/18 mpg city/highway/combined .Competitors with better mileage tend to have less power than the Equus, but to compare, the Audi A8 with a twin-turbocharged V-8 of 420 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque rates 17/28/21 mpg. Expect the next-generation Equus to be lighter and more fuel-efficient.
How does the Equus handle?
It’s the Queen Mary of highway cruisers, with the standard air suspension automatically adjusting to flatten bumps and tar strips and produce an isolating ride worthy of any big luxury sedan. Unfortunately, when the road gets wavy or curvy, the Equus can also feel like an ocean liner. It’s slow to settle after pavement dips and swells, reinforcing the aquatic metaphor. And it keels over in anything more than gentle cornering, delivering body lean and noseplow that’ll have you slowing in frustration. Of no help is steering that’s light and numb.
Are the controls easy to use?
There are lots of them, as expected in a car with this many power and connectivity features. But they’re well organized and clearly marked and move with pleasing and appropriate precision. Both models display their main gauges on a crisp thin-film-transistor (TFT) screen . It measures 7 inches on the Signature and 12.3 on the Ultimate, which also has a haptic-feedback steering-wheel dial to scroll through the display.
It also projects key navigation, cruise-control, and vehicle info onto the windshield in the driver’s line of sight. Exclusive to the Ultimate as well are front-corner cameras that help you see into intersections and a “birds-eye” view for a better look at your immediate surroundings in tight parking situations.
Is it comfortable?
Aside from compromises associated with the aforementioned floaty ride and wayward handling, this is a supremely comfortable car. All seats are generously proportioned and deeply cushioned. There’s limo-like rear legroom to go along with the multi-adjustable, climate-controlled, sun-shaded accommodations. Few untoward noises intrude, with wind rush and tire roar well muffled and the V-8 whisper quiet at cruise and enjoyably throaty in brisk acceleration. The doorways are wide for easy entry-exit. At 16.7 cubic feet, trunk volume is no better than midpack for this class, but the cargo hold is accessible and nicely finished.
What about safety?
Equus shows its age in lacking some of the latest safety features. Smart cruise control that automatically maintains a set distance from traffic ahead is standard. So is blind-spot detection and lane-departure warning, though automatic lane-wander correction isn’t available. Neither is a front-collision mitigation or prevention system. The car has not been subjected to the 5-star safety-rating crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In crash tests by the influential, insurance-industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Equus earns the highest “Good” ratings for side and roof protection and in the “moderate overlap front” test, as when two vehicles collide front-corner to front-corner. The sedan didn’t qualify for the IIHS’s Top Safety Pick awards categories. And it wasn’t subjected to the new “small overlap front” test, as when a vehicle’s left-front corner strikes a pole or tree.
How’s the reliability and resale value?
While the Hyundai brand’s quality ratings are climbing, Equus scores no better than average in initial quality, as measured by problems reported during the first 90 days of ownership. That’s according to surveys compiled by J.D. Power, the leading automotive-consumer-assessment firm. Owners were critical of performance and design, though J.D. Power rates Equus slightly above average for predicted reliability. As for resale value, don’t expect a huge return on investment. Equus earns a below-average two out of five stars for depreciation from the residual-value-tracking firm, ALG.
Is it better than the competition?
No. Hyundai admittedly makes it easy to join its grand experiment in premium-class transportation. It’ll bring an Equus to your home or office for a demonstration and test drive. Should you buy one, it covers all maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. If the car requires service, it’ll pick it up at your convenience and furnish a loaner. It may not be fair to say this big sedan is best for those who wish to be coddled rather than involved in the driving experience. But perhaps the redesigned model will deliver the road manners that, at these prices, ought to go along with so much power and luxury.