2012 Hyundai Equus Ultimate

Matt Tierney

It's difficult for me to wrap my head around the Hyundai Equus. I certainly appreciate the enormous cabin and plethora of technology and convenience features. Unfortunately the cabin is trimmed in materials that are just nice. Yes, the Equus undercuts the price of the competition by tens of thousands of dollars, but cars this big are supposed to have over-the-top materials quality. It makes sense to offer a fairly basic mid-size sedan or crossover. I don't fully understand the appeal of a car this big that has all the luxury features of the competition with a downmarket interior.

What I did really appreciate about the Equus is how easy it was to drive smoothly. Although a BMW 7-series is far better dynamically, the Equus is much easier to drive smoothly because the engine and transmission are well matched, and accelerating briskly from a stop doesn't result in tossing the passengers' heads back against the headrests like it does in a BMW.

Hyundai is selling more copies of the Equus than it ever expected to in America. Perhaps this is a result of the Equus packing the majority of the features of a true luxury flagship sedan in a rather anonymous exterior with a shockingly low price. No matter what economists say, we're still grappling with an economic slump and it's not that tasteful to be rolling in a brand-new $100k+ sedan.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

From the unique badge on the hood (which oddly resembles Acura's logo) to the chime that welcomes you as you enter the Equus, you know that this is no ordinary Hyundai. All the luxury hallmarks are there -- supple leather upholstery and real wood trim, gadgets such as a power rear sunshade and a heated steering wheel, and a back seat that is as inviting as your favorite La-Z-Boy, especially with this test vehicle's Ultimate package, which adds a power legrest, and massage system, a refrigerator in the center console, and an entertainment system with an eight-inch monitor.

The Equus is no BMW 7-series, but that doesn't mean it's lacking. This is a luxury sedan that emphasizes the luxury part of the equation more than the driving part, as you waft along in speed and comfort if not with much feeling of communication between the car and the driver. You also get a lot for your money, comparatively speaking, as this car costs tens of thousands of dollars less than the full-size luxury offerings from Germany. In fact, the Equus is probably better compared with the Lexus LS, and it's doing pretty well in that head-to-head competition, as its sales for the year are only slightly behind those of the highly successful luxury sedan from Japan. We wondered when it first came out if the Equus would have a problem overcoming the perception of Hyundai as a bargain brand, but it looks as if those concerns were mostly unfounded.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

Like its slightly smaller and cheaper stablemate, the Genesis sedan, the Hyundai Equus receives a bump in power and little else for 2012. More power certainly doesn't hurt the Equus, but it also doesn't address its principle weaknesses: a harsh ride and indistinctive styling. Admittedly, the Equus' poorly damped suspension is probably less of an issue in parts of the country where the roads are not ravaged by winter weather, but on Michigan roads it's far too rough for a full-size luxury sedan. When it comes to its exterior styling, not only is the Equus totally devoid of any distinguishing features but Hyundai takes the anonymity a step further by using a meaningless birdlike emblem on the wheels, hood, and trunk instead of the Hyundai "H" badge. I'm guessing that Hyundai is trying to distance the Equus from the rest of the Hyundai lineup, but I think it only serves to further muddle the vehicle's identity.

If you can overlook these two issues, the Equus makes a decent case for itself. As Phil mentioned, the cabin lacks the material quality and style of the vehicles it is trying to emulate, but it's still a very nice place to spend time. What's most notable about the cabin is its refreshing simplicity. All the controls are clearly labeled and oversized so they are easy to find and use while driving. But while it's lovely up front, the most indulgent place to kick back is definitely the rear seat, where this Equus Ultimate really cranks up the cosseting. For $7000 more, the Ultimate adds, well, the ultimate comfort and convenience features for back seat passengers this side of a limousine: a rear-console refrigerator, a rear seat entertainment system with eight-inch monitor, and a foot rest and massaging system for the right rear seat, among other features. It may seem a bit pricey, but for a grand total of less than $67,000, the Equus Ultimate is thousands of dollars less than its nearest competitor.

That being said, the Equus is hardly a threat to the players from Germany and Japan. It may have many of the ingredients necessary to create a true luxury sedan, but the recipe as a whole still needs some work -- namely on the suspension and styling -- before the Equus will be truly competitive.

Jennfer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

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