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2012 Hyundai Equus Signature Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Hyundai, Test Drives

When Hyundai entered into the premium full-size luxury spectrum with the Equus in 2011, many were skeptical. What was mostly uncertain was the idea that a Korean luxury vehicle could rival the likings of the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S Class and even the Audi A8. The new 2012 Hyundai Equus continues to surprise the full-sized luxury car segment when pitted against what the best of the mainstream luxury car market has to offer.

My first impressions of the new 2012 Hyundai Equus, remaining mostly unchanged with the exception of an added rear sunshade, 5.0-liter V8 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission (replacing the outgoing 4.6-liter V8 and 6-speed automatic transmission), reminds me of the Lexus LS just one generation ago. Hyundai has followed a path much like Toyota and Lexus in gaining its new-found recognition and surprising reliability. The new 2012 Hyundai Equus builds off of that character aiming extremely high for a fight in the prestigious large luxury car segment.

There is no doubt from my perception that the Equus has aimed high to go up against the big dogs offering a much lower price and a full list of market-standard luxury features. The supple and silky smooth ride, from its electronically dampened air suspension system and vastly sized interior tend to overwhelm and convince you that the Equus is up to the expected standard just as the long-time luxury class leaders. Digging a little deeper into the Equus and you will uncover slight shortcomings that still pit Hyundai’s flagship vehicle as an unambiguous underdog.

For anyone venturing into the full-sized luxury car market from anything smaller would find the new Equus more than gratifying. Where the Equus falls short is when directly compared to other manufacturer’s luxury flagship vehicles. The interior, despite its plentiful space, isn’t up to par on the quality materials found in BMW, Benz, Lexus and Audi flagship vehicles. The other aspect of the Equus that may be considered to be an undermining component, is its powertrain. The Equus is powered by a new 5.0-liter 429 horsepower and 376 ft.-lbs. of torque V8 engine. Though no all-wheel-drive option is offered, power is directed through a new smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. On paper the power output is slightly behind the competition while others may also offer an all-wheel-drive system. Gas mileage figures for the Equus come in at an underwhelming 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. During my drive of the Equus on the highway I saw a steady 21.5 mpg traveling just 5 mph above the speed limit. 0-60 mph time for the new Equus is about 6.7 seconds, a little behind the competition.

Driving impressions of the new 2012 Hyundai Equus are up to par for anyone who does not mind piloting a large luxury appliance without a bit of excitement. Lacking excitement isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to a full-sized luxury vehicle, adding some sporty attributes could not hurt, though. The Equus never really feels slow but it doesn’t feel nearly as fast as its competition. The electronically controlled air suspension system is soft and tends to let the large Equus body literally float on a bed of air but with the consequences of a bit of extra unwanted body bounce. A sport mode stiffens things up only slightly still allowing the body to float with a restrained bounce at times. Sport mode also holds higher gears longer -while the transmission will only reach its 8th gear when under light loads at highway speeds.

The new 8-speed automatic transmission mated to a new 5.0-liter V8 mesh very well. The power band is well-adapted to the gear ratios while the shifts come on extremely smooth. The minor issue with the 8-speed transmission is its inability to quickly upshift when it requires skipping more than 2 gear cogs. Cruising along in 8th gear and stomping on the gas will take an extra second or two for the transmission to jump into the required gear. However, the transmission does not take too long hunting for the proper gear under most civilized driving conditions.

The new 2012 Equus rides on 19-inch chrome alloy wheels with offset tires, 245/45 front and 275/40 rear. The Equus’ cabin remains exceptionally quiet, even under heavy acceleration and during highway cruising. Steering feel is mostly numb and isolates the road from transmitting any harshness from imperfections in the road. An abundance of understeer ensues if you ever dare to push the Equus to its limit on twisty roads or turns. The traction control softly intrudes to keep all 4.468 pounds of Korean luxury civilized and out of the ditch. The wide rear tires really help to keep the Equus planted while limiting the transmission of ruff surfaces into the cabin.

The exterior design of the new Equus may come off a bit brash for those who compare it to the Lexus LS, Benz S Class and maybe the BMW 7 Series. Each of those vehicle’s exterior design seems to be somewhat mimicked in the new Equus’ sheet metal and rear fascia. The Equus is a good-looking car that wants to cleverly fit in with the rest of the crowd. The unique Equus emblems throughout the vehicle (found on the wheels, steering wheel, shifter and hood) are still somewhat of a mystery and possibly to signify some type of quintessential luxury branding of Hyundai.

Inside of the new 2012 Hyundai Equus is a spacious interior that appears to look better than it really is. The seating areas are comfortable and the standard driver’s seat lumbar-back massage system are excellent luxury features to have standard. Also standard, is a radar active cruise control system, lane departure warning, power tilt-telescoping heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, dual auto temp controls (w/ redundant controls on the rear armrest), HID auto level and cornering headlights, keyless proximity key, front-rear parking sensors w/ backup camera, GPS navigation integrated into a center toggle multimedia console controller (somewhat similar to BMW iDrive or Benz command control), auto dimming rearview mirrors, full interior/exterior LED lighting (except headlights), rain sensing wipers and active dampening adjustable air suspension (normal mode, high height mode and sport modes).

The new Equus really shines with the long list of standard features. Only two trim levels are offered to designate the feature set. You have a choice of the Equus Signature (my test vehicle) or the Ultimate. The Ultimate trim seats four due to rear reclining bucket seats with heating, cooling and massage functions. The Ultimate trim also adds rear passenger side window defrost, a mini refrigerator, separate controls for a rear DVD entertainment system and rear climate. Also included in the Ultimate trim is a forward-view corner camera system, power trunk lid and power rear side window shades. You can say the Equus Ultimate begs to be best full-sized luxury vehicle you can get for a bargain.

The new Equus Ultimate trim level adds $7,000 to the base Equus Signature price of $59,000, bringing a fully-loaded Equus’ total to $66,000. Still, the price point of the Equus undercuts its competition and remains to serve up true full-size luxury car amenities and arrangements.

The new 2012 Hyundai Equus is a slight disconnect from the rest of the lineup, even the new Genesis sedan, which can be had with the same 5.0-liter 429 horsepower V8 engine. Hyundai has its work cut out to keep up with the long-time residence occupied by what the best of the mainstream full-size luxury car segment has to offer. Though, the Equus is a valid attempt at a true full-size luxury-appointed vehicle. The Equus is most certainly ready for the mass American market begging for a look by those wanting to save several thousands.

Copyright: 2012


  • Price: Equus Signature Base/Final Price $58,750 / Equus Ultimate $66,000
  • Engine: 5.0-liter DOHC 32-Valves V8 429 horsepower @ 6400 rpm / 376 ft-lbs. torque @ 5000 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 119.9 in.
  • Total length: 203.1 in.
  • Total width: 74.4 in.
  • Total height: 58.7 in.
  • Track: f/r-63.8/64.1 in.
  • Headroom: f/r-38.7/37.7 in.
  • Legroom: f/r-45.1/38.9 in.
  • Cargo volume: 16.7 cu.ft.
  • Turning circle: 39.6 ft.
  • Fuel tank: 20.3 gallons
  • Curb weight: 4,486 lbs.
  • 0-60 mph: 6.7 seconds
  • EPA fuel economy: 15mpg/city, 23mpg/highway

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