The first time I heard that Hyundai was developing a flagship luxury sedan which would slot above the Genesis, I nearly spit out my beverage. It took the stubborn North American market a couple years to digest the sheer existence and value standpoint of the Genesis, but it’s now selling like hotcakes. Rightfully so, too, because it’s a fabulous car. I was offered a week-long test with the restyled 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate, which truly is the ultimate in Korean luxury motoring available today.
Sharing its V8 engine and numerous interior bits with its smaller sibling the Genesis, the Equus is Korea’s answer to the likes of the Lexus LS460, the Audi A8, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. In typical Hyundai fashion, it’s offered at a huge discount when compared to the others (especially the Germans). My Ultimate tester came in at just under $75,000 – about $25,000 cheaper than the 2013 LS460 I drove a few months ago. The price tag may be easier to digest, but the Equus is truly uncompromised. It’s obvious that Hyundai has invested millions and millions of man-hours into ensuring that every last bit of the car ended up truly perfect.
After a highway stint with the Equus Ultimate, I wondered to myself whether it runs on gasoline or pure butter – the car is among the smoothest I’ve ever driven. The 5.0L V8 bumps out 429 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, and is barely audible unless full throttle is applied. When I stomped on it in “Sport” mode, the car came alive and took off as if it was being chased by the mob. I guess this comes in handy when you’re chauffeuring a Korean dictator. Honorary mention also goes to the Equus’ adaptive cruise control. It’s truly impeccable when an intelligent cruise control system is flawlessly able to start and stop the car in traffic, making for some exceptionally lazy driving if so desired.
The 8-speed automatic transmission delivers shifts that are virtually unnoticeable, and there always seems to be power available on tap. “Sport” mode holds the car in sixth gear even at highway speeds, but it can be forced into eighth gear using the manual shift function. There are no paddle shifters in the Equus, because spirited shifting is, naturally, a huge deviation from the intended demographic for the car. Hyundai decided to make the Equus rear-wheel-drive only, which some may find strange considering all of its competitors (even the Cadillac XTS) are available with all-wheel-drive. My tester was equipped with winter tires, and I found myself able to navigate through a few inches of snow without any difficulty whatsoever. There is a “Snow” mode which alters the throttle allowing for slightly more controlled acceleration in Canadian winters.
Even though some reports say the Equus can get away with regular-grade fuel, I don’t recommend it. Whoever drove this particular car before me decided to be thrifty and put regular fuel in it, and throttle response was not optimal. I refueled with the good stuff, and the difference was night and day. Even still, I could only manage 13L/100km in combined driving (mostly highway). That being said, I doubt that members of the wealthy Asian upper class that seems to be snapping these up like hotcakes really care about fuel economy.
Comfort is what the Hyundai Equus is really about, and my tester had it all. Everything is about the rear-seat passenger, because this really is a car to be driven in. The ivory interior is upholstered in supple leather, and the headrests are softer than the pillows in my bed. There’s a one-touch button on the rear console marked “Relax”, which moves the front passenger seat all the way forward, then reclines the rear seat into a relaxed position. The rear seats are also power-adjustable, heated, ventilated, and have a separate climate zone for the utmost coziness. My Equus Ultimate also had a rear entertainment system with 8” screens mounted in the front seatbacks, powered rear window sunshades, and a series of other toys. As I previously said, the chauffeured dictator is properly spoiled back there.
Don’t worry – your chauffeur will be plenty relaxed too. The front seats are ventilated and heated, and there’s a 17-speaker Lexicon surround sound system that can play back pretty much every format available today. Things like a heads-up display and sunroof are a given at this price point. There are a series of cameras that display a bird’s eye view of the car when parking, which is pretty useful in a car the size of the Titanic.
Hyundai emphasizes that when you purchase an Equus, everything is about the customer. The Equus buyer literally never has to set foot in a service center or Hyundai dealership. If you’re interested in buying one, an experienced salesperson will bring a car to your home or office for a test drive and thorough product presentation. This salesperson will also have paperwork and a purchase agreement ready should you decide to purchase the car. The Equus valet service is equally convenient when the time comes to service your car – they pick your car up and leave you a Genesis courtesy vehicle while your car is being worked on. Proper.
Within a 15-minute drive in the Los Angeles area last month, my colleagues and I noticed at least 10 Equus’ and 25 Genesis sedans. Granted, we were in a pretty Korean part of town, but we barely saw any LS460s during that period. I will say though that I’m not sold on the looks of the Equus. I much prefer the (significantly cheaper) Genesis Sedan, which I think is one of the sexiest big sedans on the market. The Equus’ LEDs are gorgeous, and the rear stance is pure W221 S-Class. When walking up to it in a parking lot though, it has a slightly goofy face from certain angles. That being said, you know a car has been done well when my only complaint is that its face could be a bit prettier.
What Hyundai has pulled off here is an amazing feat. Not only have they created a car that’s uncompromised in every sense of the word, they’ve done it without tacking on a ridiculous price tag (are you listening, Mercedes-Benz?). There is also the simplicity of two straightforward models, without the added complication of a thousand available options. It’s important to keep in mind that the Equus is not a volume seller, so you won’t be seeing them selling like hotcakes. Its biggest market will be the Asian one – Hyundai only projects 100 Canadian sales for the 2014 model year. The 2014 Hyundai Equus looks like a big luxury car, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s not an “in-between”, it’s not confused, and it’s not aspiring to be anything that it’s not.
2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate Gallery
Photos by: Krish Persaud