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2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate Review: More Luxury Means a Bigger Bargain

The changes made to the 2014 Hyundai Equus might be fairly subtle but when combined with the long list of features that makes the Equus one of the most impressive – and least expensive – large luxury sedans sold in American, those subtle changes help to make the best bargain in the luxury segment even better.

In the budget minded, fuel friendly lineup of the Hyundai brand, the Equus stands apart from the rest of its siblings with a high performance V8 and a price tag nearing $70,000 but when you consider the fact that this Hyundai is designed to compete with cars that cost closer to $100,000, the premise of the Equus becomes much more clear. This large luxury sedan shows that while Hyundai is focused on affordability and efficiency, the Korean automaker has the capacity to turn out one incredible full size luxury sedan and they can do so for tens of thousands of dollars less than comparable models from BMW, Mercedes Benz or Audi. This has been the case since the Equus was introduced a few years back and while there has been a very modest price increase over the years to match some of the new features of the 2014 model year sedans, this plush Hyundai is still $20,000-40,000 less expensive than some of the top competitors in the segment.

The 2014 Hyundai Equus test car was fitted with the Ultimate trimline package which means that this big sedan is fully loaded with literally every feature Hyundai currently has to offer. There is so much content included in the Equus Ultimate package that when you build one online, there are no options, packages or accessories available – everything is standard from the high performance V8 to the adjustable suspension setup to the super premium cabin that is packed with just about everything a luxury buyer could want. Best of all, everything in this car comes with a price of just $68,920. I know what you are thinking…it is hard to say “just” before a price nearing $70k and it is even harder to call a that car a bargain but when you consider how much you would pay for a comparable European luxury car with this kind of power and a similar list of features inside and out – the Equus Ultimate is truly a bargain luxury sedan with little compromise.

The Exterior
On the outside, the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate is clearly a high end luxury sedan. In a segment where many competitors have shifted their design towards aggressive sportiness and away from opulent luxury, the Equus stays the course with a big, bold, high riding design that takes more of an old school luxury sedan approach with some high tech features that bring that design to the modern era in a very tidy way. Were Hyundai to follow the trend set by many other luxury automakers, the 2014 Equus would have looked similar to a stretched out version of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe but as the case has been since this model was introduced – the Equus stands apart from the rest of the brand in terms of styling as much as it does its goals in the industry.

Equus front

Even though the 2014 Hyundai Equus continues on with a similar exterior styling to the previous models, the company has made some changes that cut down just a touch on the in your face luxury approach. Most notably, the front end of the 2014 Equus is without the chrome trim pieces that underlined each of the headlights and while I liked the look of those unusually placed chrome bits, the new front end is a little cleaner so buyers likely won’t miss them. Additionally, the openings in which the fog lights are mounted have been revised a bit with the black inner portion extending all of the way out to the lights where the previous models had a strip of body colored material separating the two segments. Again, not a big change but one that does give the Equus a bit sportier look across the front. Other than those changes, the front end of the 2014 Equus still wears the same large headlight housings with HID projection and a row of bright LEDs tracing the bottom edge for a sport yet distinctly luxurious feel. I liked the previous front end but I like the new front end even more.

Equus side

Along the side of the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate you won’t find many changes but you will find big change that I consider to be a huge improvement for these new models. The original Equus had large, kind of oddly contoured chrome wheels that fit the luxury segment but they didn’t really seem to fit the car itself…kind of like wearing a very expensive tuxedo with really expensive boots rather than proper dress shoes. The 2014 Equus features a set of new turbine style 19 inch alloy wheels in a satin silver finish that are a thing of beauty and with this addition; the Equus has a set of wheels that perfectly fit both the modern luxury segment and the car. These wheels are sporty and aren’t covered in chrome but this simple wheel change really makes the side view of this brawny luxury sedan pop. Other than those new wheels, the side profile of the 2014 Equus remains unchanged with a long, sloping roofline that gives the car a very elegant form while also proving great aerodynamics and excellent interior headroom for rear riding passengers.

Equus rear

As is the case with the front end, the rear end of the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate remains relatively unchanged from the previous model years with the most notable exceptions being more chrome removal and some gussied up taillights. The previous Equus had chrome trim pieces that started under the taillights and extender out around the side of the car and those have been removed for 2014 but like the front chrome trim, these shiny bits out back won’t be missed by those looking to buy a premium luxury sedan. In terms of rear end lighting, the basic shape of the 2014 Equus taillights has gone unchanged but Hyundai has injected some high tech love with an LED treatment that brings the Equus up to par with the rest of the luxury segment. They also look a little cooler than the previous taillights so when combined with the integrated exhaust tips and the deep reaching rear fascia, the 2014 Equus rear end is generally nicer looking than the outgoing models.
The 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate really hasn’t changed all that much from the previous model year but the few simple changes like the removal of the oddly placed chrome trim pieces and the addition of those gorgeous turbine wheels go a very long way in allowing the Equus to stand confidently alongside the best that BMW and Mercedes Benz have to offer in terms of exterior styling.

The Interior
The 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate looks great from the outside but inside is where this large luxury sedan really shines. The brown leather on the seats, door panels and center console offers a beautiful contrast against the predominantly black interior with high gloss wood grain trim on the steering wheel, door panels and dash face working with the brown/black design to give this interior a very upscale look and feel.

Equus front seats

We will take a look at the many amenities in a minute but first I want to talk about the spaciousness of the Equus. You expect a large sedan to have lots of space and the Equus doesn’t disappoint with an absolutely massive cabin. This interior spread offers enough leg, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder and head space for even the tallest drivers and passengers to sit comfortably. In fact, there is enough space that the driver and front passenger can practically lay down in their seats when they are adjusted right…and thanks to the reclining rear seats, rear riders can enjoy the level of luxury lounging as those up front. Not surprisingly, the truck of the Equus offers the same incredible level of space as the cabin and this rear storage space can very easily fit a couple golf bags or enough luggage for a whole family.

Equus rear seats

The 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate interior is so comfortable and so impressive that owners likely won’t find their friends or family arguing over who has “shotgun” since both the front and rear seats offer the same levels of comfort and amenities. The rear amaneities allow the Equus to serve as a limousine with the center armrest holding an expansive panel that gives rear riders the power to control the entire infotainment system from the back seat along with power side and rear sunshades for those who need added privacy from the outside world. This rear control panel works with the 9.2” touch screen mounted high on the dashboard in the same fashion as the front controls that are accessible to the driver but if the rear riders want a closer look at the infotainment screen can bring it up on either of the rear monitors that are mounted on the back of the front seat headrests. This rear control panel also allows people seated in the back to control the HVAC system, the heated/cooled rear seats, the rear seat reclining feature and even the front passenger seat – in case the person sitting behind that seat wants to move that seat for more legroom. Aside from rear seat gadgetry, the back seats also offer every bit as much comfort as the front seats with soft leather and deep, plush bolsters that make the rear seat feel more like a piece of living room furniture than an automotive seat.

Equus dash

The rear seating area of the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate is fantastic but no seat in this large luxury sedan is better than the driver’s seat for more than just the obvious reasons. One of the new features in the 2014 Equus that adds lots of high tech wow factor is the new 12.4 inch LED gauge cluster that includes a digital tachometer and speedometer with a driver’s information display in the center with a variety of useful information options. In front of that gauge cluster is a high tech steering wheel that includes controls for the cruise control, the sound system, the hands free phone system and a haptic control knob that the driver can use to customize the gauge cluster readout. The big 9.2” touch screen mounted high on the dash includes controls for the HVAC system, navigation, phone system and stereo with more controls for button lovers located below the touch screen that handle the sound system and HVAC setup without use of the touch screen. Best of all, the Equus also features a convenient control panel that is mounted just past the end of the central armrest that allows the driver to toggle from mode to mode with the turn of a knob and the push of a button. Finally, the front seats feature vast adjustability through the door mounted buttons to move these deep, plush leather seats into the exact position that you want for the best possible driving experience – with both heating and cooled surfaces, of course.

The 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate has everything that you could possibly want from a modern luxury car – a high end sound system with navigation and touch screen controls, super comfortable heated and cooled front and rear seats, reclining rear seats and rear controls for both the rear seat entertainment system and the front seat infotainment package so this is a car that can keep your kids happy on the way to grandma’s house or keep your boss comfortable and in control on the way to the airport – all for under $70,000.

The Drive
The 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate is powered by the same 5.0L V8 as the previous models with an 8-speed automatic transmission sending a whopping 429 horsepower to the rear wheels. That makes the Equus one of the most powerful large luxury sedans sold in America (not counting high performance packages like the BMW M Series, the Mercedes AMG lineup, the Chrysler SRT 300C or the Audi S models) and all of that power equates to a large sedan that has some serious acceleration capabilities. When combined with the aggressive low end gearing of the 8-speed automatic transmission, the Equus will launch from a stop or pick up speed rapidly through the mid range (like when looking to blast around slower moving highway traffic) just as well as any large luxury car sold in America. Mind you, this is still a big, heavy sedan so that 429 horsepower isn’t going to put the Equus into the 12 second quarter mile range but relative to most cars on the road today, the Equus can flex some serious muscle thanks to that big V8. My biggest complaint is that I expect a 429 horsepower V8 to SOUND like a 429 horsepower V8 but the Equus 5.0 is whisper quiet in pretty much every situation. Even when running at wide open throttle on the highway, you can barely hear those 429 angry ponies in action and while many luxury sedan owners won’t mind not having the roar of a V8 – that is something that I find myself wanting very much while driving the Equus.

Equus drivers front

Even though every automaker doing business in the US is concerned with fuel economy to some extent, the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate sits in the one segment where fuel economy isnt all that important – and that is a good thing for the powerful Korean sedan as the fuel economy numbers arent all that great. The EPA expects that the Equus will offer 15 miles per gallon in the city, 23 on the highway and a combined average of 18mpg. In my time driving the 2014 Equus, I averaged a tick under 17 but I will quickly admit that I spent lots of time exercising all 429 horsepower so someone with less of a need for speed will almost certainly be able to hit the EPA numbers. I say this because I noticed that while driving the Equus more gently on the highway (staying within 5mph or so of the speed limit), the Equus is very capable of hitting that prescribed 23mpg highway number so those who spend lots of time cruising on the highway will almost surely see better fuel economy results than did I – especially if you’re not hard into the throttle. That is one of the nice advantages of the 8-speed transmission; it can offer aggressive gearing on the low end and very fuel friendly gearing on the top end and in addition to helping improve the MPGs, that 8th transmission gear helps to keep the Equus even that much quieter on the open road at higher speeds.

Equus V8

One area in which the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate does not match up well with the competition is in terms of hardcore handling. Many large luxury sedans have made strides to offer more sports car like handling but that can often translate to a rougher ride overall. The Equus doesn’t offer quite the same corner-carving capabilities but it does offer one of the smoothest, quietest rides Ive experienced along with road gripping qualities that make it a great car to drive – it just isn’t going to do much winning on road courses. Whether you are soaring along the highway or slipping through a back country road, the Equus is confident and feels very grounded but you will get more body roll and understeer than you will with some of the competitors. At the same time, what you lose in high performance handling capabilities, you gain in ride quality as the suspension system of the Equus translates almost no road noise into the cabin so even when driving around the Detroit area’s worst maintained roads; the Equus provides a smooth, quiet ride for the driver and passengers. Those who want a little better handling can click over to the Sport handling mode and while that does sharpen the responsiveness a bit without hurting the ride quality, this is still a luxury sedan that focuses on offering a more traditional “luxury ride” where competitors have gone to the more sporty side of things which in turn impacts their ride quality…even if only slightly.

Equus on road

The 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate is certainly not the best cornering car in the large luxury sedan segment but there is a good chance that many large luxury sedan owners will never need their car to handle like a sports car so for the buyer who wants a true luxury driving experience with a whisper quiet/smooth as glass ride and tons of power to put the competition in the rear view mirror - the 2014 Equus is one of the best options in today’s market. Living in the Metro Detroit area where curvy roads are hard to find, I found that the Equus performed beautifully in every driving situation. Best of all, with 429 horsepower on tap – the Equus provides the kind of power that will allow you to stomp a great many cars on the road today.

The Final Word
15 years ago, had someone told me that Hyundai would be making a large luxury sedan that would fit in comfortably in an executive parking area full of high priced European sedans, I would have called that person crazy but this newest Equus is a clear indication that Hyundai is capable of designing a state of the art luxury sedan. The exterior design is a bit understated compared to some of the aggressively designed models in the segment but I actually applaud Hyundai for going that direction and not just following the direction of the competition. The interior is as loaded up as any car sold in America and the 429 horsepower V8 allows this big, roomy Korean super sedan to accelerate as hard as a great many performance cars sold in America.

Equus wheel

If you are in the market for a large luxury sedan that has tons of power and every luxury amenity that you could ask for – with a price that is tens of thousands less than the competition – the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate should most certainly be on your short list. While some luxury buyers will insist on paying $20-30k more so that they can say “I drive a BMW” – Equus owners can enjoy all of the amenities (if not more) for a fraction of the price and that simple fact makes this Hyundai the best bargain in the luxury segment today.

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