First Look: Hyundai Equus Ultimate

First Look

The Hyundai Equus makes me think of 1989. Not in the sense that it makes me want to listen to Like A Prayer or anything like that, but '89 was the year that the Lexus LS hit American shores, and the Equus is just begging to be compared to the LS. This is not an entirely bad thing. It was not so long ago that nothing made by Hyundai deserved to have been mentioned in the same sentence as Lexus, so think of this as progress.

Hyundai is trying to take a share of the LS's market, and they are planning to do this by making a product as similar to the LS as possible, after all, it is supposed to appeal to the same customers. This is exactly the strategy Lexus used in '89, by making the LS as much like the BMW and Mercedes (especially Mercedes) products it was competing with as possible, Lexus was able to grab enough customers to start building a name for themselves. The Equus is, therefore, very like the LS, just not quite as good. The exterior certainly has a knockoff look to it.

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The overall styling is basically LS, but with some tweaks to the proportions and the addition of entirely too much chrome. The chrome problem is worst on the wheels, which have a Pep Boys slap-on wheel cover look to them. It would still manage to be a good-looking car if you had never heard of the Lexus, but in a world where the LS exists, the Equus will continue to suffer from the comparison. The interior also bears a strong resemblance to that of the LS, but here it is better executed. The interior is both spacious and comfortable, and is largely up to the standards of the segment.

The Ultimate trim level also gives you two executive-style rear seats with a center console, rather than the three seat bench found in the base model. This option is definitely recommended, as the fully-loaded Ultimate still comes in at about $5,000 less than an LS, and quite a bit less than one of the German rivals. Next year, the Equus will be getting a 429 horsepower 5.0-liter direct-injection V8. For right now though, there is a 4.6-liter 385 horsepower V8, but the Equus doesn't suffer from a lack of power. The Equus does suffer from a lack of feeling; numb steering, numb brakes and soft suspension make for a very disconnected feeling while driving.

The soft suspension makes for a comfortable ride, but it does seem that in general, comfort was a much higher priority than the driving experience for the designers. The Equus does have a few things going for it that the competition can't touch. The price, which I already mentioned, is certainly one of them; the other is that when your Equus needs a service, it can be scheduled right from the iPad that comes with the Equus and also doubles as an owner's manual. Hyundai will then pick up the car from your home or office and leave a loaner in its place.

When the service is completed, they will swap the cars back. Nobody else in this segment offers anything like that. The Equus isn't a bad car, and the advantages it offers does make it worth looking at, but it has some evolving to do before it can truly be called a contender.