Horses have played a huge role throughout human history. Hooves thundering they’ve fearlessly ridden into battle, toiled immeasurable hours in fields and forests, plus they’ve herded cattle and hauled mail… literally and figuratively. Just a hundred or so years ago odd-toed ungulates were the fastest form of personal transportation on the planet. These animals are far more than just beasts of burden.
|1. Every 2014 Hyundai Equus is powered by a 5.0-liter Tau V8. It churns out 429 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque.
2. The engine is paired to a technologically advanced eight-speed automatic transmission.
3. The “entry-level” Signature model starts at $61,920 including $920 in shipping and handling charges. The range-topping Ultimate version is a bit richer, weighing in at $68,920 out the door.
4. Fuel economy for the Equus in America is 15 miles per gallon in city driving and up to 23 MPG higway.
5. According to J.D. Power Equus buyers are more satisfied than BMW or Mercedes owners.
More majestic than mules and faster than oxen, horses have spawned a world of legend all their own. From the graceful Unicorn to the soaring Pegasus, there’s ample folklore involving these animals. And of course you can’t forget about Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged steed from Norse mythology.
Nearly as legendary is Equus, Hyundai’s flagship sedan. The value-conscious South Korean brand introduced this luxury car to North America a few years ago and it was met with limited but surprising success. For the 2014 model year they’ve treated the vehicle to a mid-cycle refresh, borrowing from other mythical horses. Instead of a pointed horn it’s graced with a pair of LED fog lights; rather than wings it has 429 horsepower to make it fly; in lieu of eight legs it has eight gears, and so much more.
EQUIPPED, NOT STRIPPED
According to Hyundai the Equus’ primary rivals are luxury flagships like the Lexus LS460 and Mercedes-Benz S550, hardly run-of-the-mill models. To compete with top-tier sedans like these the car had better deliver the goods, and for the most part it does.
To improve the Equus’ curb appeal designers cleaned up its exterior. Most notably the grille and front bumper have been revised; gaudy chrome accents were eliminated. Auto-leveling xenon headlamps are a nice addition while and the side-view mirrors have been tweaked to reduce wind noise. Around back the car features new LED tail lamps. Nineteen-inch “turbine-blade” wheels are standard.
The redesign makes the car look more subtle and upscale but it’s still a mélange of styling elements, with a bit of Buick here, a dash of Lexus there and a touch of Mercedes thrown in for good measure. The car lacks the curb appeal of more established players in the segment, which is unfortunate because it offers so much for so little.
Inside is where the biggest changes have been made. The Equus’ instrument panel has been completely overhauled. It features vast swaths of supple, stitched leather, there’s an accompanying microfiber headliner and premium wood trim that’s so radiant it probably glows in the dark. Common touch points like the shifter and steering wheel have been upgraded and so has the center stack.
Other standard goodies include three-zone automatic HVAC, lane departure warning and smart cruise control that can stop and start the vehicle in traffic, a major convenience. Furthering the symphony of circuits Ultimate models get a full digital instrument cluster that’s comprised of a gargantuan 12.3-inch TFT display.
Naturally Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system is included. This technology allows drivers to remotely lock or unlock the doors; it sends them maintenance reminders, offers turn-by-turn navigation and can even send out automatic crash notifications in the event of an on-road mishap.
LUXURY TAKES A BACK SEAT… LITERALLY
Hyundai also upgraded the Equus’ back bench. Ultimate models treat rear-seat riders to more luxury features than passengers in a private jet. For starters the outboard chairs are heated and cooled, plus they’re adjustable so passengers can get comfortable in any weather. Power shades help block the sun’s scorching rays and paparazzi flashbulbs. Headliner-mounted vanity mirrors allow riders to quickly double check their makeup or toupees. There’s also a duet of 9.2-inch display screens that are integrated into the backs of the front headrests. These monitors should do an admirable job keeping boredom at bay. A middle spot in the back is also a new addition to the car resulting in five-passenger seating.
IT MIGHT AS WELL BE GREEK
In case you haven’t noticed Hyundai is all about value, giving drivers the most for their hard-earned moolah, or in the case of Equus trust-fund dollars and dividend checks. The car is as well equipped as just about any other flagship sedan on the market today, with a comprehensive suite of high-end features. That “bang” for the buck continues ahead of the firewall, with a potent powertrain.
What’s the plural of Equus? Equueses? Eqqui? It really doesn’t matter because every 2014 model is powered by a snortin’ 5.0-liter V8 that’s curiously named after the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. Tau do we like it? Quite a lot, actually.
Rapidly oxidizing high-octane hydrocarbons in its octet of combustion chambers results in an advertised output of 429 ponies at a lofty 6,400 revolutions per minute. Peak torque is 376 lb-ft at 5,000 RPM, also on premium unleaded gasoline. Needless to say this engine likes to run, and it spins more freely than a windmill in a hurricane. High-tech features like variable valve timing and direct fuel injection add performance and improve efficiency. The car stickers at 15 miles per gallon in urban driving and up to 23 on the highway. According Uncle Sam’s EPA it should average 18 MPG in mixed driving.
The car’s standard eight-speed automatic transmission sends power exclusively to the rear wheels. It’s more than willing to let that big Tau wind up, making the most of its torque at any speed. The Equus will slowly trot around town or gallop toward the horizon on open stretches of interstate. Of course the company’s SHIFTRONIC manual mode is also available, but with eight gears who wants to play with that, especially when there aren’t any paddle shifters?
Curiously the transmission seems smoother under heavy throttle than it does when driven gently. It shifts seamlessly at higher engine speed but counter intuitively it’s a little bumpy through the gears when driven like a normal person.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Clearly the Equus is designed to coddle passengers in absurd comfort, but how does it drive? In short, nothing about the car that really stands out, which is actually a good thing. The road feel and handling are comparable to the Lexus LS460. Hyundai’s offering is probably a little less sporty than vehicles like the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series, but without a direct back-to-back comparison it’s hard to tell.
The car’s adjustable air suspension provides a suitably smooth ride, though perhaps it’s not as silky as one might expect. Bits and pieces of the road’s texture manage to filter through the chassis; over bigger bumps you get the sensation that a lot of mass is moving around under the vehicle.
Acceleration is brisk; the car is eager to propel you deep into the illegal portion of the speedometer so be judicious with the accelerator lest you end up in the back seat of a much less desirable car, one with lights and a siren.
Like a whispering ghost the Equus’ interior is otherworldly in its silence. Engineers must have packed every nook and cranny of the body with sound-deadening materials; either that or they’ve enlisted the services of something supernatural.
In addition to a compelling product Hyundai raised the customer-service bar with its first-generation Equus and their efforts are paying off. According to J.D. Power, buyers are more satisfied than BMW and Mercedes owners.
There are several benefits to purchasing an Equus compared to a competing luxury car. Customers can schedule an in-home vehicle demonstration; there’s no need to drive to a dealership to check out the car. After the sale owners are treated to no-cost maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. In addition to this the company offers a special valet program. They’ll actually pick the car up from an owner’s home or office and provide a loaner vehicle for any service that’s required.
At the product presentation John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America said “We can just smother these owners in delightful experiences. BMW dealers can’t do this.”
Base price for a Signature model, which is expected to make up 70 percent of the sales mix, is $61,920 including $920 in shipping and handling charges. The range-topping Ultimate version is a bit richer, weighing in at $68,920 out the door. These prices are $1,750 more than the 2013 model because of the addition of more standard equipment.
Like a mythical creature the idea of a flagship luxury sedan from Hyundai seems like the product of an overactive imagination, or worse, the punch line to a bad joke. But in practice the Equus is a compelling vehicle and one that undercuts its main rivals by tens of thousands of dollars. Sure, it lacks the brand cachet of Lexus or BMW, and it may not be quite as nice as an S-Class but it’s still an excellent car and one that comes with service that cannot be topped. Watch out Sleipnir, Odin’s got a new mount.