The Big Luxury Sedan That Could
Hyundai is building a luxury sedan to take on the big dogs?
That was the response of many when Hyundai announced they would be building a flagship luxury sedan. At the time, Hyundai shocked many with the introduction of the Genesis Sedan and Coupe, their first rear-wheel drive vehicles in the U.S. The two vehicles were well received when introduced.
But still, a flagship luxury sedan?
Hyundai introduced their flagship, the Equus, in 2011. The company had modest projections for it: 2,000 vehicles sold for the first year, which would only have made up two percent of the total sales of flagship luxury sedans in the U.S.
They underestimated. The first year saw Hyundai sell 3,193 Equus models, taking up 5.1% of total sales of flagship sedans in the U.S. Everyone, including Hyundai, was in complete shock.
Since then, Hyundai has been doing its best to keep the Equus fresh and competitive. This brings us to the nipped, tucked, and tweaked 2014 Equus. The question is, do these changes make the Equus more desirable? I went to Hyundai's Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan to find out.
The Equus is a perfect example of making small changes to keep it fresh in the marketplace. Last year, Hyundai installed a more powerful 5.0L Tau V8 with 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. There was also the introduction of a new eight-speed automatic transmission to help improve efficiency and performance.
For 2014, Hyundai turned their attention to the exterior and interior of the Equus. Outside, Hyundai revised the front with a new grille and LED foglights. There is also a new set of taillights, nineteen-inch turbine wheels, and the deletion of the chrome trim on the front and rear bumpers. Some might think the Equus looks somewhat bland to the rest of the luxury flagship competition. For others, the Equus looks just right.
Moving inside, Hyundai addressed one of the biggest complaints from the previous-generation Equus. The last model didn't feel very luxurious when put up against the old guard. This was due to the plain jane styling and material choices used in the interior. Now, the Equus has moved up a few pegs. The dashboard and centerstack have been redesigned to make the interior more inviting and luxurious. You'll also find more leather and wood trim throughout.
As for the backseat, the Equus loses one of its key features. Before, you had the ability to fully recline the passenger side backseat and have a foot rest pop out. Now, the Equus backseat only comes with the ability to recline, no footrest at all.
Also in the back is a refreshed center console that features controls for the seats, climate control, and controls for the radio. This is refining the term "backseat driver." The Equus Platinum adds two 9.2-inch screens for the rear passengers and automatic door closure.
Tech-wise, the Equus comes equipped with some impressive features. To start, you have a larger 9.2-inch screen for the infotainment system and a very impressive Lexicon 7.1, seventeen speaker audio system. Equus Signature models get a seven-inch screen in the instrument cluster that provides key info such as mileage, cruise control, and speed. On the Equus Platinum, you get a 12.3-inch TFT screen that provides your gauge cluster. Also, the Equus Platinum gets a heads-up display that shows the driver key information such as speed, navigation, and blind spot detection.
Leaving Hyundai's Technical Center and heading out onto the first part of our drive route, I was impressed by the big V8 under the hood. This powerplant provided more than enough oomph to move the weight of the vehicle and the three occupants inside. The powerplant also was very smooth and quiet when moving along. However, if you decide to bury the pedal, the engine will roar to life and get you quickly up to speed. The eight-speed automatic transmission is very smooth and it seems to know what gear it should be in for the particular moment.
The ride was basically what you would expect in a big luxury sedan: soft and ironing the bumps as we went. Sitting in both the front and backseat, I felt more like I was riding on a magic carpet than in a vehicle (credit a revised air suspension system and bushing for that). As for handling, Hyundai says the changes help improve the dynamics - and they do up to a point. The Equus does corner pretty well, but the steering really doesn't inspire any confidence. If you're looking for some sport with your luxury flagship, turn to the Germans.
One other feature that deserves mention is Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start capability. You might think this means the cruise control system can turn the engine on and off, but that isn't the case. What the stop/start capability is referring to is the system's ability to bring the car to a full stop if the system detects the car in front of you is coming to a stop. Once the car in front of you is moving, the system will detect it and bring the vehicle back up to speed. One of the drivers I was riding with put it to the test and found that it worked just as Hyundai described it.
So how much is the 2014 Hyundai Equus? The answer might put you in a bit of a shock. The 2014 Equus Signature starts at $61,920 and that includes a $920 destination charge. The 2014 Equus Ultimate starts at $68,920 with destination. You might think that's quite a steal, but there are three more features I haven't mentioned.
The first is the "Your Time, Your Place" program which involves a specially-trained Equus representative bringing an Equus to your house for a demonstration. Second three years of Hyundai Blue Link's Assurance Connected Care package that provides collision notification, emergency assistance, roadside assistance, maintenance alert, and more. Finally, the Equus comes with five years of "At Your Service" complementary maintenance. If your Equus needs maintenance or servicing, you can have someone from a Hyundai dealer pickup your vehicle to take it in and drop off a loaner while you wait. Once service is done, the Equus is returned to you.
While the Hyundai Equus might not have the badge value of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, or even the Lexus LS, the Equus matches or even surpasses them in many of the key areas that buyers are looking. Take the price into account and Equus looks like the steal of the century.