Owning a flagship means you practically owned the world. Yet, paying for one means paying a King’s ransom for the privilege of ownership.
Let us say you are a CEO of a major corporation, or an influential business owner, lawyer, doctor…and so forth. In essence, you own a piece of the world and the king or queen of your destiny. To fulfill that part of exuding affluence, you select the finest model in any given premium brand. You have checked the prices, have you not?
Then, you start shopping for one. Everyone’s first choice is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It is a superb machine and a feast of technology, but a close examination of the sticker has you wondering whether the big Merc actually costs $109,000-plus with options. You head over to the Lexus dealer to check out the LS 460. Since you selected the short wheelbase model with its best package, you felt satisfied with the sticker price of around $78,000.
If you balked at the sticker of the Lexus LS, fear not. There is a more reasonably priced flagship to consider.
Enter the Hyundai Equus. It is the lowest priced flagship sedan in the market. Certainly, it has the look that trumpets its arrival in advance, pure limousine space both front and back and performance that will amaze even the safest chauffeur.
Why does all of this matter? Perhaps a closer look would explain the reasons for the Equus’ attraction to budget conscious luxury car buyers.
The first look is worth another. Many necks turned to see how well the Equus was received as a unique offering in the segment. Every inch is measured with style that would remind you of other flagships past and present. The grille has the presence reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The headlamps might be from a Lexus LS. The rear end also had an S-Class quality with a touch of Audi on the decklid.
Where the Equus becomes distinctive is in the side profile. The glasshouse and the side creases alone distinguish the Equus from some of the more slab-sided sedans out in the flagship market. Perhaps it is the unique brown-black paint that gives the Equus absolute elegance in the way it presents itself on the road – or just sitting at the driveway. To finish this bespoke look, this Equus Signature model wears nineteen-inch alloy wheels adorned with Continental tires.
Bespoke also describes the Equus Signature’s cabin. Ivory leather seats with black wood and contrasting leather trim invite both driver and passenger to simply experience a level of luxury unknown to Hyundai. This is the stuff normally reserved for more expensive flagships – soft leather surfaces, a plethora of controls and switches to ensure everyone is comfortable. Rear seat room is massive – part of a cabin that measures out to an enormous total of 126 cubic feet.
On this Signature model, the passenger side rear seat has a recline feature. Press the “Relax” button and watch the front passenger seat slide away for the rear seat to slide out. It does not offer a foot rest, but you have more than enough leg room to stretch out and enjoy the ride.
The Equus also exudes control. The instrument panel and center console exemplify this notion. The instrumentation offers a center TFT screen for vehicle and trip functions, two good-sized dials for the speedometer and tachometer, and digital fuel and temperature gauges. The center screen is large enough for the rear-view camera, navigation and audio readouts.
Lexicon provided 17 speakers of unmatched and balanced sound from either Bluetooth connected audio files, SiriusXM satellite and HD radio, and USB connection for your phone or MP3 player. There are plenty of buttons for logical controls, along with a knob that manages most of your infotainment options. In all, there is an honest feel to the Equus in terms of ease of use amongst flagship sedans.
Hyundai’s Tau 5.0liter V8 is a powerhouse under the Equus’ hood. With 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque, there is nothing but smooth power coming from under the hood. Attached to the Tau V8 is Hyundai’s first eight-speed automatic sending power to the rear wheels. This driveline is nothing but exceptional – unobtrusive shifts, fluid acceleration and solid traction. Step on the gas pedal and it will fly. You not only feel the power, but the Equus is very quick off the mark – especially when you consider that the Equus weighs 4,553 pounds.
The ride of the Equus is exceptionally smooth. Though an “electronically-controlled air suspension,” there is just the right level of dampening to keep things even and any road imperfections absorbed from shocking any of the occupants. You could also adjust the ride height for the instance you need to get through some rougher surfaces or to lower the air for better aerodynamic control at higher speeds. Handling is on the soft side, but there is minimal roll and lean in the corners. Steering feel is on the soft side, also. On-center feel is a bit loose, steering response tended to be a bit vague, and the wheel itself is on the large side. Braking response and control is quite good during both normal and panic stops.
To resolve these soft feels for the ride, handling and steering, you can switch into Sport mode. This changes the response from the accelerator pedal, translating into quicker shift changes, a firmer suspension, and a heavier steering feel. New for 2014 is a Snow mode that assists in providing better traction for the rear-drive system during winter conditions.
Considering the weight and performance of the Equus sedan, great fuel economy is not generally expected out of this big flagship. The Equus did manage an average of 18.6MPG – which is above Hyundai’s stated average fuel consumption for this car. The 20.3 gallon fuel tank requires at least Regular gas to fill up, though Hyundai recommends Premium for better performance.
The Signature model tested represents the lowest price to be paid for an Equus – $61,920. If you must have more, the Ultimate model provides a few more enhancements for $69,420. For the extra $7,500, the Ultimate adds power door closure, rear power-assisted enhancements, a rear entertainment system with dual screens, a full LCD TFT screen for the instrument cluster, a heads-up display, and power side window sunshades.
Hyundai created a flagship that trumps its more expensive competition. Hyundai claims it has more engine power than the Lexus LS 460 – which I can confirm. They also state it has more interior room than the S-Class – which I can also confirm. It is not just a fine and worthy flagship – it might as well be the best car to employ in a livery or car service. That rear seat area would wow a lot of customers used to Lincolns, Cadillacs and other cars they end up being chauffeured in.
The Equus exudes an air of confidence and splendor that had been reserved for other brands. You do not necessarily have to pay a King’s ransom to get one, but driving an Equus will make you feel that you would actually rule the world.