Quick Drive: 2012 Hyundai Equus Ultimate

By John Beltz Snyder

June 26, 2012

—Ann Arbor, Michigan
The cabin of the Equus is big and roomy, as it appears from the outside. Interior materials are excellent, with leather and wood combined quite elegantly. The Ultimate trim includes such goodies as rear-seat entertainment, cooled rear seats, rear console refrigerator, and a “first-class” right rear seat with leg support and massage system. If you like a lot of comfort and convenience features and technology built into your car, the Equus offers a lot of content for a fair price, and anyone riding along with you will feel like royalty. Even without the Ultimate features, the list of included comfort and convenience elements is impressive.
[Click here to read our comparison of the 2012 BMW 750Li xDrive and 2012 Audi A8L 4.2 Quattro]
The suspension offers a really floaty ride, with a lot of vertical travel and rebound over bumps and undulations in the highway. It’s very much what you’d expect from a large limo-type car from years past, but the movement is still a bit much considering the stability of many of today’s luxury highway-liners.  The Equus offers a Sport button, though, which greatly reduces bounciness in the cabin without resorting to the sort of stiffness that increases unwanted road vibrations. Save Comfort for the really flat roads, and use Sport as your default, and we don’t think you’ll have much to complain about; neither will your passengers.
The car’s 5.0-liter V-8 its a superb engine, whether you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry, or just cruising in laidback comfort. The gas pedal offers some travel to play with, so you aren’t chirping the tires at every stoplight. Step hard on the pedal, though, and the Equus will happily launch forward with urgency. It accelerates smoothly, even when done fast, and the little bit of engine noise that makes its way to your ears sounds robust and sonorous, never harsh or loud. The attached eight-speed automatic transmission helps to change gears quickly and smoothly, without interrupting the linear feel of the acceleration.
Hyundai Equus Back seat
The steering in the Equus is not perfect. It reacts quickly from near on-center position, but as you turn further, the wheel feels artificial and somewhat elastic. It doesn’t offer much feedback (again, that Sport button helps here), but it does respond well, despite feeling somewhat vague. And while it may not be ideal for carving corners, it has good response on the highway and other nearly straight roads.
In essence, the Equus may not be the perfect driver’s companion; its soft suspension and artificial steering feel are to blame for that. For someone who simply wants to get from place to place quickly and comfortably, with plenty of room and amenities—especially for passengers—this is an apt car, particularly in Ultimate trim. It’ll do it’s job just as well as more expensive vehicles, but it won’t impress when its time to unwind on your favorite handling roads.
The Equus seems the perfect candidate for the fleet of a car service or as a company shuttle. Its big, roomy cabin and ample storage make it great for jaunts to the airport, or to speed several people and a week’s worth of luggage from their cruise ship to the resort. It would also be great for showing clients around town. It isn’t particularly priced to be a statement of opulence, so it could be easier to justify on the balance sheets. In the Ultimate, especially, passengers demanding the most comfort will have plenty to assuage them. The driver, with that nice V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission, has a good set of tools to work with, too.
Despite the fact that some people are still incredulous when it comes to the growing quality and popularity of the Hyundai brand, it’s clear that many take it very seriously (as they should). Even though it may not carry the brand cachet as its German competitors, the automaker is doing well in many segments, based on its sub-lux credibility these days. The Equus still needs a bit of refinement in terms of driving dynamics before it can punch above its weight like the rest of the brand, but it has it nailed when it comes to luxury value.
2012 Hyundai Equus Ultimate
Engine: V-8, 5.0 liters, 32v
Output: 429 hp/376 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 5.5 sec (est)
Weight: 4524 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 15/23 mpg
Base Price: $65,750