It is a pleasure listening to the Lexicon system in the Equus. It treats music very well, producing a well-balanced sound with a dynamic feel at all frequencies. There's a quiet detail in the audio quality that encourages you to get lost in music, potentially missing freeway exit ramps. It is also a flexible system that can be tuned for bombastic bass or the leftmost keys on a piano.
Hyundai provides a basic list of audio sources, including good iPod integration and a six-disc CD changer. HD Radio is also included, along with satellite radio, but there is no internal hard-drive storage for music and no Bluetooth audio streaming.
Riding on air
Contributing to the pleasure of listening to the Lexicon audio system, the Equus keeps external noise to a minimum. An air suspension helps keep the ride comfortable, smoothing over potholes and bumps. Hyundai doesn't make the mistake of tuning the air suspension too soft, so the car never goes into heavy up-and-down oscillation.
The aforementioned Sport button sets the suspension for a more rigid ride, helping keep the Equus stable in the turns. But this suspension doesn't incorporate active antisway technology. The car handles as well as any big, rear-wheel-drive sedan, but doesn't invite high-speed high jinks.
Under the hood sits a 4.6-liter V-8 producing 385 horsepower and 333 pound-feet of torque. Those figures may not sound like much, as other automakers exploit forced induction and direct injection to wring more power out of less displacement. Hyundai only uses variable valve timing to boost this engine's efficiency, although the company has begun to use more advanced technologies in its Sonata.
And unlike in the competing Lexus LS 460, the Equus' automatic transmission only has six gears. EPA fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, a range we find realistic as CNET's car turned in an average of 18.5 mpg over varied driving conditions.
The power train may not be the best for efficiency or sport driving, but it moves the Equus comfortably. Hit the gas and the car steps up, ready for passing maneuvers, freeway merges, or whatever else is required of it. Playing with the transmission's manual shift mode shows that it is mostly suited to descent control. Gear changes show too much torque-converter sluggishness for power maneuvers.
Hyundai fits the Equus with a combination electric-hydraulic power steering unit that manages to give a good amount of boost, making it easy to turn the wheels when stopped, without sacrificing road feel. The steering provides a good sense of engagement with the road, even if the car overall feels like a luxury roller.
The Equus' adaptive cruise control system can bring the car to a complete stop when traffic stops ahead, without driver intervention. This system provides the usual three choices for following distance. The forward-facing radar for this system is also used to initiate precrash prep, with the seatbelts tightening up if the car thinks a collision might be imminent. However, this system was fooled by a mere rise in the road.
A lane-departure warning system chirps when the Equus crosses a lane line, as long as the turn signal isn't on. However, the chirping isn't particularly loud, so it might not wake up a sleeping driver. The car lacks blind-spot detection, which would have been a nice feature in a big sedan like this.
For parking assistance, the Equus includes a rearview camera, complete with trajectory lines. But an unexpected feature is a front-view camera. Its view is wide enough to see cross traffic when exiting a blind alley or garage. This camera turns on automatically, even when not needed, but can be deactivated with a button on the console.
The 2011 Hyundai Equus compares very favorably with its target, the Lexus LS 460, especially in terms of price, but it misses a cue here and there. The air suspension is an excellent feature, but a few more gears in the transmission would increase fuel economy from the big V-8 a little. The Equus would be a good candidate for either a hybrid system or a smaller engine with forced induction to maintain power.
The Lexicon audio system is the stand-out cabin tech feature. The driver assistance features are good; so are other electronics, but there isn't anything that hasn't been seen before. What the Equus really lacks are connected features, an area that is rapidly growing in the automotive sector.
The car looks good, and makes a statement with its unique Equus icon. Large windows offer added practicality to the big sedan. The cabin tech interface is clean and practical, but Hyundai will have a difficult time adding new functions, as the hard-button paradigm limits flexibility.
|Model||2011 Hyundai Equus|
|Power train||4.6-liter V-8, 6-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||18.5 mpg|
|Navigation||Hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||6-CD/DVD changer|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Lexicon 17-speaker 608-watt 7.1-channel surround-sound system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, front-view camera, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$64,500|