If you could buy a $1,000 designer suit for a quarter of the price at a bargain clothing store, would you buy it? Most likely, yes. That’s basically the Hyundai Equus in a nutshell. That and the ubiquitous saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Although in the case of the Equus, don’t judge a car by the badge it wears, because with this full-size luxury sedan, you’re getting everything that you would in a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW, but at a fraction of the price.
It competed with the greats
The Hyundai Equus was introduced to the U.S. market 2011 and when it debuted, it was hard for just about anyone to wrap their heads around the fact that it came from the same manufacturer that produced the Accent. After a few years, it gained a little more acceptance, but not that much more as it was eventually discontinued after the 2016 model year, which is when Hyundai started the Genesis brand.
But the Equus was something to write home about as it competed with the likes of the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. As you can imagine, the full-size luxury class has some tough competition, considering the type of amenities that those cars have as well as the level of luxury that buyers would come to expect. However, Hyundai gave it their best shot with the Equus and it turned out pretty well. The Equus looks the part, acts the part, and drives just like its rivals, but it’s not without its flaws as the interior quality and layout still looked Hyundai-esque as opposed to German.
When the 2011 Hyundai Equus debuted, its mid-size Genesis stablemate had already been out for a few years, so it’s safe to say that the public was primed and ready for something more luxurious, or maybe they weren’t. Hyundai took the gamble and stuck with the “more for less” theme with the bigger offering and it put a good foot forward.
On the exterior of the Equus, you’ll find badges adorned with an imprint of a Pegasus – as opposed to the normal “H” logos that appear on the regular models – and you might notice it’s elegant curves and subtle character line running along the side as well as the distinct chrome grille upfront. Yes, it looks largely like an S-Class, and sitting in the back seat will make continue the illusion as well. The rear seat is able to seat up to three passengers with the entry-level Signature trim, while the higher Ultimate trim could only seat two.
Opting for the ultimate luxury in one of these cars did away with the center seat in favor of a large center console that housed a mini-fridge, storage compartments, and most importantly, the rear-seat controls for the radio, heated and ventilated seat switches, and controls for the 8-inch screen just ahead of the rear passengers. Those lucky enough to sit in the rear passenger-side seat were treated to a massage function and a retractable footrest while all occupants could revel in the bargain opulence of a Lexicon premium sound system and plush leather seating.
Float like a cloud
Front-seat occupants weren’t exempt from the luxurious amenities as the Hyundai Equus offered the same tech-savvy features like adaptive cruise control, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, and an easy-to-use infotainment system with an 8-inch screen. Driving the car feels just as luxurious as the interior entails.
Car and Driver once noted that the Equus drives comfortably, thanks to its air suspension, and it “hustles through tight bends more graciously than you would expect.” Doug Demuro also noted how quiet the engine is and was pleasantly surprised at how well the car behaves compared to its German rivals.
The forgotten luxury sedan
The Hyundai Equus actually went through two different generations while it was around. The second generation started in 2014 when Hyundai spruced up the Equus’ interior with a digital instrument panel and a cleaner button layout. Under the hood was a 385-horsepower V8, which was then upgraded to a 429-horsepower V8 that competed better with the S-Class.
The Hyundai Equus was priced at $65,000, which was easily $15,000 less than its competitors, but in today’s used market you can find them for $20,000 and under, complete with its executive seating accouterments. And just like an expensive suit, although the Equus may have been forgotten, it still holds all the same luxury that you come to expect from a car in its class, just at a much lower price.