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2012 Hyundai Equus Signature Review
Posh but prudent
By Ken Glassman, Photography by Hyundai, Aug. 29, 2012

Anyone who buys a Hyundai Equus must spend the first few days looking over their shoulder, dreading that knock on the door or doorbell ringing, waiting for the police to arrive. With a sticker price of only $59,250, they’ll feel like they stole it.

FAST FACTS

1. Updated in 2012, the Equus now features a 5.0L V8 making 429-hp and 376 lb-ft of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

2. With a 5.5 second 0-60 mph time, fuel economy is rated at 15/23-mpg.

3. Pricing starts at $59, 250

4. A $66,250 Ultimate model adds cooled rear seats, power rear and side sunshades, a power trunk lid, forward view camera, a rear seat fridge and 8-inch entertainment system.

It would not be an overstatement to say that the Equus is the biggest bargain in the luxury car market, and one would have to spend at least another $12,000 to $15,000 to come even close to finding another car to duplicate its size, luxury amenities, and performance. 

LARGER V8, MORE POWER

 

First we’ll talk engine performance. New for 2012 is the 5.0-liter, 429 horsepower, 376 lb-ft of torque, direct-injection V8 engine. That matches the horsepower of the $95,000 Mercedes S550, and exceeds that of the $84,300 BMW 750i sedan. And while you can expect zero to 60 times of about 5.5 seconds in the Equus, it will still achieve an excellent 15-mpg city and 23-mpg highway mileage rating. Some of those performance and mileage numbers can be attributed to the new 8-speed transmission which, along with being smoother overall, added two additional gear ratios for better acceleration and fuel efficiency.  

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In the real world of driving, it means that the 4,659 lb Equus has all the punch and power necessary to make it a fun and enjoyable car to drive, and any acceleration maneuvers can be accomplished quickly and easily, whether it is merging into traffic on a busy highway, or pulling out to pass on a two lane rural road.  Stopping the Equus is made easy by 13.6-inch front rotors, clamped down upon by 4-piston calipers and 12.4-inch rear rotors with single floating pistons calipers out back. The brake pedal also has excellent feel. 

TRUE LUXURY RIDE

 

The ride quality of the Equus is outstanding, aided by a stiff chassis and an electronically controlled air suspension, which is up to the challenge of smoothing out broken and potholed pavement. The five-link front and rear suspension geometry aids precise wheel control and Continuous Damping Control (CDC) monitors the road and driving dynamics and adjusts the damping forces accordingly. So even though this is a large car, it never feels ponderous or clumsy. And for those times when a bit firmer suspension is desired, a push on the Sport mode button will tighten things up a bit for more body and lean control.  

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While the driving performance is exemplary, it is the luxury features and appointments that make the Equus really shine. Any CEO would find the cabin of the Equus up to his standards. Our test car was finished in a metallic silver color, and had the unusual interior color combination of chocolate brown and black producing a handsome elegant look. The brown is picked up on the soft touch door panels, and is complimented with wood trim surrounding the dash, and console in front and back. The brown tones are set off nicely by the padded black leather dash, door armrests, and top of the console. An ultra suede headliner surrounds the moonroof.

FEATURES & TECHNOLOGY

 

The chocolate brown seats are wide, comfortably bolstered, covered in supple leather and are heated and cooled. The driver seat cushion also has an extendable thigh support, and air adjustable lumbar supports with a massage feature to prevent fatigue for long hours behind the wheel. And that steering wheel has all the usual redundant controls for the radio, climate control and Bluetooth. In addition, the Equus comes with a heated steering wheel. It might not have AWD, but if you live in a cooler climate, one could argue the heated wheel is more of a necessity.

All the controls are nicely laid out and the electroluminescent driver gauges are well lit and easy to see, as is the info screen that resides between the tach and speedometer. A large high-resolution Navigation screen with back-up camera dominates the upper center stack and it is easy to use and provides a host of good information. One thing we disliked is the BMW-like round multi-function control knob residing behind the shift lever on the bottom of the console. It’s not terribly easy to operate and makes us wish for the days of knobs and buttons.

One feature that requires no driver input is the lane departure system which lights up the outside mirrors when a car is traveling in the blind spot. That, coupled with radar cruise control, which automatically keeps a pre-set driving distance from the car in front of you, adds greatly to driving safety and should become standard on all cars.

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The center console is clever, using a small compartment on the upper portion to hold a cell phone or MP3 player, with a cut-out to allow the charging cord to reach the lower compartment where the 12-V outlet and other interface ports reside. Another thoughtful amenity are electric controls on the passenger seat back, facing the driver, to move that seat forward and to lower the seatback so the rear passenger has even more leg room to stretch out. 

SERIOUSLY HUGE BACK SEAT

And let’s talk about that rear passenger room. One 6’3” passenger gushed, “This back seat has more room than an old Lincoln Town Car! It’s like a limousine.”

And that’s because Hyundai anticipated that many of the Equus models sold will be chauffer driven, so the back seat accommodations are very important. And while three adults can sit comfortably, it is really posh for two. The fold down rear armrest not only contains cupholders and storage, but an array of controls to operate the dual zone heating and air, with vents on the rear of the console and door pillars, as well as the radio system, and front seat controls, rear window sunscreen and heated seats. All controls are surrounded by the rich wood trim. 

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And all occupants in the Equus will be treated to a whisper-quiet cabin . . . at least until you crank up the volume in the 17-speaker Lexicon surround-sound audio system and turn the car into a rolling concert hall. Naturally, the system includes a music interface for an iPod, as well as Satellite and HD radio capability and an in-dash 6-CD changer.

And Hyundai wants Equus buyers to feel special, so all owners will be treated to special perks. When service is required, the dealership will send a valet loaner car to one’s home or office to pick up the Equus and return it afterwards and service appointments can also be scheduled online for added convenience. 

THE VERDICT

 

With a 9-airbag system, and a Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Equus is truly an outstanding luxury car and an incredible value. The Equus badge may not have the same cache as a 3-pointed star, or blue and white propeller, but it’s filled with luxury and comfort and can send the right message if you’re a CEO looking to show stockholders just how prudent you are.

LOVE IT
  • Excellent power and performance
  • All luxury amenities and then some
  • Enormous interior space
LEAVE IT
  • Handsome, but conservative styling
  • No AWD
  • Multi-function knob is inconvenient