Full 2012 Hyundai Equus Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Hyundai Equus gets a new 5.0-liter V8 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Power rear side-window shades now come standard on the Ultimate.
Just a few years ago, the idea of Hyundai launching a full-size premium luxury sedan in America seemed whimsical. Yet the 2012 Hyundai Equus, with its refined manners and notable value, will likely make you a believer.
The Equus carries over into 2012 largely unchanged. There's still a wholesale list of standard features and interior refinement on par with the best from Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. But there are two welcome changes for this year's Equus: a new 5.0-liter V8 engine and an eight-speed transmission. The former makes more power than nearly every other V8 from the German and Japanese rivals, and the new transmission helps the 429-horsepower V8 achieve 18 mpg in combined driving.
Inside you'll find creature comforts and tech that includes a massaging driver seat, adaptive cruise control, a 17-speaker sound system and even a rear passenger footrest. It's enough to make the Hyundai Equus a legitimate challenger to similarly priced (but smaller) luxury cars like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, as well as similarly sized (but pricier) flagship sedans like the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class.
Against the flagships, the Equus does come up short in a couple areas. The quality of the interior materials, for instance, isn't as high, and the V8, even though it's more powerful this year, still doesn't quite provide the low-end muscle that's often expected for this class of car. Some other shoppers might be put off by its bland styling. Still, the Equus represents a high water mark for Hyundai. Whatever it may lack is made up for with solid engineering, comfortable indulgence and an earthly price. You don't normally buy a Hyundai to impress your friends, but that just might happen with the 2012 Hyundai Equus.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Hyundai Equus is a large luxury sedan available in Signature and Ultimate trim levels. The Signature seats five and includes 19-inch wheels, an adjustable air suspension with adaptive dampers, a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, a windshield wiper de-icer, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, a sunroof and keyless ignition/entry.
Within the plush cabin you'll find dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats (12-way driver, 10-way passenger) with driver massage and memory functions, a heated and power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, wood and aluminum accents, a microfiber faux-suede headliner, heated and reclining rear seats, rear-seat audio and climate controls, a power rear window shade and manual rear side window shades. In terms of electronics, the Equus comes standard with a navigation system with real-time traffic, Bluetooth and a 17-speaker Lexicon surround-sound system with an iPod interface, satellite radio and six-CD changer.
The Equus Ultimate seats four, as the rear bench is replaced with a pair of reclining bucket seats with heating/cooling/massaging functions and a passenger-side power footrest. A rear center console includes storage bins, a mini refrigerator and separate controls for the climate and rear seat DVD entertainment systems. A power trunk lid, power rear side window shades and a forward-view cornering camera are also included with the Ultimate.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive 2012 Hyundai Equus comes standard with a 5.0-liter V8 making 429 hp and 376 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic transmission is also standard. According to EPA estimates, the Equus returns 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Equus went from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, which is average for a V8-powered luxury sedan.
The 2012 Hyundai Equus comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, active front head restraints, a lane-departure warning system, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a driver-side knee airbag, front and rear side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the Equus came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet, which is about 10 feet longer than average.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Equus its highest rating of "Good" in frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing, as well as roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Equus quiets skeptics by packing nearly every luxury and convenience found in other premium-badged cars and wrapping them in a first-class design. Interior quality does fall short of the high-end cabins of flagship luxury sedans, but is every bit as good as that of less expensive Acura or Infiniti cabins. One minor question mark is durability; we've noticed stretched and sagging leather seat upholstery in an Equus test car of ours with fewer than 20,000 miles on the meter.
Overall interior room is quite impressive, and both front and rear passengers are treated to sky-high levels of comfort. For the full VIP experience, we recommend the Equus Ultimate for its unique four-passenger configuration. The extending La-Z-Boy footrest will impress your friends, but it isn't really long enough for most full-size adults to enjoy. In terms of trunk space, the Equus is pretty respectable, with 16.7 cubic feet available.
The Equus features a knob-based multimedia controller that operates the navigation, climate, vehicle and entertainment systems (there are also simple, redundant climate controls in the center stack). Overall, it works OK, with certain tasks like Bluetooth phone pairing made particularly painless. However, commonly used functions like selecting a radio preset or controlling your iPod take too much effort. This is a shame, since the Lexicon sound system is one of the best available in any car, period.
Silence. That's one of the first things you notice after taking the wheel of the 2012 Hyundai Equus. At idle, it's about as quiet as a hybrid with the engine shut off. Things aren't much louder once underway, with the engine just a whisper and only a slight tire howl from the four corners. Still, the Equus isn't some sleepy-handling limousine. It floats a bit in default suspension mode, but hit the Sport dynamic button and the Equus firms up over bumps and road irregularities. It doesn't have the speed or reflexes of luxo-sport sedans like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series or Jaguar XJ, but the Equus remains stable and predictable when pushed.
While rated power from the new 5.0-liter V8 meets or beats most of the competition, the Equus still lacks the low-end thrust of the German flagship nobility. It's one of the few traits that keeps the Equus from the ranks of elite luxury sedans. But if history is any indicator, this may be a short-lived deficiency.