Hyundai’s 2014 Equus a premium car without the snob value

No matter what, the name Hyundai might never be associated in some people’s minds with luxury cars. But those minds could be considered narrow.

Hyundai dipped its toes into U.S. luxury waters six years ago with the introduction of the classy, attention-grabbing Genesis sedan. A few years later, the company took a confident dive from the springboard, bringing out the larger and more luxurious Equus sedan.

Equus has received styling and tech tweaks since then, but for 2014 the car is more significantly different. The exterior and interior have been redesigned, driving dynamics are improved, and the list of advanced safety features is longer.

The rear-wheel-drive Equus, powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission, is intended to compete against big sedans bearing Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and BMW badging. Equus comes close to or exceeds the performance specifications and standard equipment lists of these competitors, but undercuts their pricing by thousands of dollars.

The brawny Equus V8 produces 429 horsepower when fed premium fuel and 421 horsepower when consuming regular. Its torque output is 376 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm and the EPA fuel economy rating is 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway.

Manual shifting is possible via the eight-speed’s gearshift lever, but there are no paddle shifters. The lack of paddles isn’t likely to be an issue for anyone except the intractable complainer who finds fault with everything. The Equus automatic is unerring without driver input, and paddle shifters are no longer a symbol of premium high-performance; they’ve become standard on many cars whose pricing and performance are modest.

Suspension has been retuned to top up ride comfort and handling during both Normal and Sport driving modes, and a Snow mode has been added to the mix.

There are two trims levels of the 2014 Equus: Signature and Ultimate. My tester was the Ultimate version. It comes with so many comfort, convenience, connectivity and infotainment features that the heading above the standard-equipment list could be “Embarrassment of Riches.” I luxuriated in all of them, with one exception: the overwrought audio system controls. Sound quality produced by the 17-speaker surround-sound Lexicon audio system is a different matter altogether: exquisite.

New for 2014 on the Ultimate model is a 12.3-inch fully digital TFT (Thin-film Transistor) LCD center cluster display. Also on the Ultimate, the former single entertainment monitor for rear-seat passengers has been replaced with new dual high-resolution 9.2-inch versions. These items are among the tester’s optional features ($7,000) which include heads-up speed display, multi-view camera system, forward-view cornering camera, four-way power lumbar for rear outboard seats, cooled rear seats, power rear side-window sunshades, power trunk lid, and steering-wheel haptic dial control.

Exterior styling tends toward conservatism but stops far short of dullness. However, my tester’s White Satin Pearl paint wasn’t very flattering. For one thing, I don’t associate white with elegance except at a formal wedding: the bridal gown, reception table centerpieces, flawlessly smooth frosting on a tall cake. For another, Equus is a bit slab-sided, no offense, and dark paint would give it some depth.

New 19-inch turbine-blade alloy wheels with a polished silver finish accessorize the car beautifully.

The 2014 Equus is unquestionably worthy of competing against the formidable luxury brands mentioned above, but there’s no denying the hobbling effect of its being a Hyundai. Premium-car customers willing to forgo the snob value of those other brands can gain satisfaction in the true value offered by the Equus. If consolation is needed, it helps that the Equus logo, not Hyundai’s, is on the hood, steering wheel, shift knob and wheels.

2014 HYUNDAI EQUUS ULTIMATE

Base price, including destination charge: $61,920

Price as driven: $68,920

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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