The Hyundai Equus is the Korean automaker’s flagship luxury sedan. Introduced to the lineup for 2011, the Equus is a step above the sizable but less-posh Genesis. The Hyundai Equus cannot match the merits of the finest luxury sedans, but it delivers plenty of power and a driving and riding experience that keeps its occupants largely insulated from the imperfections of the road.
Little has changed for 2016, apart from the addition of a hands-free trunk opener. Refreshed two years back, Equus remains largely based on the first-generation Genesis, which fell well short of luxury status.
Nothing is particularly striking about Equus design, which is essentially derivative. Overall, the sedan aims more toward luxury than crisp, capable handling, or even a fully comfortable ride. Each Equus has an air suspension with Sport and Normal modes, and there’s a noticeable difference between the two. Interior space is comparable to that of a Lexus LS sedan.
Clearly, Hyundai made interior space and comfort a primary goal, especially in the back seat. Even though a four-passenger model isn’t available anymore, and the rear bench seats three, Equus could easily be defined as close to limousine-like in its overall demeanor.
Performance is an Equus strong point. You’ll pay a price at the pump for its strength, but the burly, direct-injected 5.0-liter V8 generates a hefty 429 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque. The smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission incorporates a manual shift mode.
Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes about 6 seconds, accompanied by a somewhat throaty exhaust note that’s a pleasant surprise in a car of this class. As for economy, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates an unappealing 15/23 mpg City/Highway, or an EPA-estimated 18 mpg Combined.
Nine airbags are standard, including a knee airbag for the driver. Blind-spot monitors are standard, but a lane-departure warning is optional, and adaptive cruise control comes only on the Ultimate edition. Replica instruments on the Ultimate model’s 12.3-inch TFT screen substitute for traditional-type gauges.
The Equus is not adventurous or bold or even distinctive in appearance. Yet, it’s handsome enough, and looks the part of a competent, spacious, serious automobile.
Truly fine leather and high-grade wood decorate the Equus interior, imparting a sense of plushness and sincerity. Although back-seat space trails long-wheelbase versions of some German-made luxury sedans, it’s quite comfortable. Both headroom and leg space are bountiful, and the rear bench easily seats three-across.
Outboard rear seats deliver more comfort than those of similarly-priced rivals. Seatback-angle adjustment lets passengers find the just-right position for comfort.
Front seats aren’t so firmly upholstered, and aren’t as staunchly side-bolstered as some competitors. Instrument panels are trimmed in walnut or birch, while the dashboard and door panels are covered in leather. The headliner is lined in suede, and the console is framed with wood. Overall fit and finish is particularly praiseworthy.
Most secondary controls may be adjusted using the Driver Information System, using a knob on the console. Hyundai’s setup is similar to the ones used by BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. The large LCD screen features high-resolution graphics. Rotating-wheel controls are available on the steering wheel.
Serene, pleasant motoring is the byword in an Equus, augmented by a sense of luxury. On a more practical level, Hyundai’s top sedan performs as swiftly as a Lexus LS. Comfort mode makes the Equus feel softly sprung, while Sport mode cannot match the tautness of a competitor like the Lexus LS F Sport.
Handling ranks as similar to that of a Lexus LS, well short of the best in its class. Requiring only a light touch on the steering wheel, Equus behaves gracefully and quietly in straight-line motoring. When the road starts to wind a bit, however, it cannot keep up with European sedans. Ride softness translates to a lack of total control, though switching to Sport mode yields greater driver confidence. Otherwise, expect considerable body lean in tight corners, as well as nosedive during hard braking. Better to slow down to where the Equus imparts a sense of precision and poise.
Ride quality is good and road and wind sounds seldom seep into the cabin. Electro-hydraulic steering likely helps in that department. Even with 20-inch tires, harsh reactions are rare. Equus is not a sports sedan but performs admirably as a refined luxury sedan.
Acceleration to highway speed is brisk, courtesy of the powerful 5.0-liter V8. Gear changes from the 8-speed automatic are smooth but lingering, rather than crisp and quick.
The Hyundai Equus offers value in terms of its feature content and plush luxury, not to mention its excellent warranty.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.