But the underlying theme is image, or a lack of it. What this means can be seen in the face of anyone I meet who asks what I’m driving – sometimes, they look over my shoulder to see if they can identify the big white whale behind me (the Equus). When I say, “it’s a Hyundai,” they may say, “a Honda?” or they may say, “Hyundai?” or they may just look vague. Again, it’s perception – for many people, what you drive is who you are.
So the best advice may be: get over it. If you want a big luxury car, with all the safety gizmos and the luxury appointments and the hushed cabin at 70 miles an hour, you owe it to yourself to try all of them – the German Three, plus Jaguar, Cadillac, Maserati, Lexus, Infiniti and Hyundai. This is probably a losing battle – the die is cast when it comes to high-end cars, and people will continue to follow the herd into those Audi, Benz and BMW showrooms.
Since this review is about the 2014 Hyundai Equus, sit still for a few minutes and eat your Hyundai oatmeal. It’s not gonna hurt.
What we have here is a nearly two-and-a-half ton four-door sedan that has plenty of room in front and plenty of room in back. The rear seat passengers in this Ultimate edition (there is also the less costly Signature edition) are treated almost as well as their peers in front – dual rear screens for watching the navigation do its dance or watching movies; the rear center console through which you can control almost every function of the car, save driving it; the chilled seats.
The rear-wheel-drive Equus is Hyundai’s top of the line. It sports a 5-liter V8 engine that puts out (and this is a curious stat) 429 horses when fueled with premium and 421 horsepower when it’s drinking regular. All this is driven through an eight-speed automatic that has the requisite manumatic option that lets you saw through the gears. For 2014, the car got a mild facelift – they tweaked the grille and the front bumper, added LED foglights, and played with the taillights a bit. The 19-inch wheels are now thin-spoked aluminum and the two-zone HVAC is now three zone (the two front areas and the rear.) I’ve always felt this divvying up of temperature zones was a bit of a marketing gimmick; it’s a small cabin, guys, and there isn’t much room to make distinctively different climates in there.
Being a super car means there are all the high-end electronic driving aids to help you down the turnpike. The Equus is nothing if not replete with these, most of them standard, some of them added with the Ultimate package: lane departure warning, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert (it beeps when a car is crossing your stern), power sunshades in the rear, head-up display (speedometer readings show up in the windshield, imitating a fighter jet’s display), smart cruise control (it will bring the car to a dead stop, if necessary) and a 17-speaker stereo that will blow you out of your leather seats. When your car needs servicing, Hyundai will send someone to pick it up (at home or office) and leave you with a loaner.
On the road, all this becomes a small symphony of svelte motoring. It’s not much different from all its competitors: the Equus is quiet, supple and, frankly, feels a bit heavy. When you compare their sizes, the three Germans are all within three inches of the Equus’s 203-inch length. When it comes to pricing, however, they are leagues apart.
The Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S550 and BMW 7-series can range from the low seventy thousands into well over $100,000 and, in some cases, $150,000. The Equus Ultimate (the fancier of the two Equus models) is $68,920. That’s it.
In the future, of course, Hyundai may well raise the price of the Equus, but for now they have to get those customers in the door and have them pull out a checkbook and start writing, rather than just walking around the car and then heading for the (name the well-known brand) dealer next door.
Luxury car sales for 2013 compiled by goodcarbadcar.net show that Mercedes sold 13,303 S-class cars; BMW retailed 10,932 of the 7-series; Audi did 6,300 of the A8; and Hyundai sold 3,578 Equuses.
Maybe it’s the name. If they found a new name for their upscale cars, as Toyota did with Lexus and Nissan with Infiniti, things might change.
For now, however, what’s nice is the fact that you can go out there and buy a car that in many respects is the equal (Equus equal?) of the German troika but you don’t have to pay those prices.
There are worse deals in the auto marketplace.
For more consumer information on cars, check these Web sites:
Safety data can be found at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Fuel mileage figures are available at this site, maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy.
For trivia lovers: the sticker you see on the window of every new car for sale in the United States is known in the auto industry as the “Monroney.” It is named for U.S. Senator Almer Stilwell (Mike) Monroney, the Oklahoma Democrat who sponsored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958, which required all new cars to have labels that detail the price of the car and its options.