2011 Hyundai Equus Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2011 Hyundai Equus Long-Term Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (3)
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.

See all of the blog posts on this vehicle.

Hyundai has made a name for itself by offering huge value. The 2011 Hyundai Equus is certainly huge, but it's harder to call it a value given its nearly $60,000 price tag. That's what made it such an intriguing long-term test. Well, that and the fact that the Equus is yet another attempt by Hyundai to beat the Japanese at their own game.

Executive Editor Michael Jordan explained, "The Equus is the quintessential Hyundai, a round-up of affordable technology in a package that's an excellent imitation of something else. In this case, we're talking about a kind of entry-level Lexus LS sedan, which is no bad thing, believe me. Luxury at the right price is the message of the Equus, just as it was for Lexus 20 years ago."

So it was with this perspective that our long-term test of the new-to-North America 2011 Hyundai Equus began. Was this the next LS? Should the luxury sedan arms of BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz be concerned? And how will value-priced luxury hold up to 12 months and 20,000 miles of testing?

We Want That One
Hyundai offered just two versions of the rear-wheel-drive Equus: the base Equus Signature and the loaded Equus Ultimate. Both trims shared a 385-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. One of the more notable differences between the two is the rear-seat configuration. The Signature uses a standard five-passenger setup while the Ultimate foregoes the middle seat for a four-passenger setup. We chose the Signature over the four-passenger Ultimate largely for convenience. Most standard features spanned both trims anyway, so we were able to maximize the test without compromising passenger space.

Included in the $58,900 MSRP of our Signature was an extensive list of standard equipment that delivered on the luxury theme. Creature comforts ranged from the 17-speaker Lexicon sound system to seat massagers. There was an Alcantara headliner, leather and wood trim throughout. Some elements we were especially eager to test, such as the proximity-sensing cruise control, dual-mode electronic air suspension and perhaps above all, the full-service valet for our maintenance needs.

Interior Reflections
In Black Noir Pearl our Equus looked sharp. It had staggered 19-inch wheels and tires. The front grille was understated yet stylish. But if your eyes missed the lone Hyundai badge on the trunk, seeing only its Equus-specific monikers, they may be deceived into believing it was anything but a Hyundai. As the new niche player to an established luxury market, this wasn't a bad approach.

Inside the cabin the Cashmere leather seats caught our attention first. One editor quipped, "A light interior. I hope this wears better than some of our past long-termers." We would keep a close eye on it during the test.

Automotive Editor Dan Frio said of the first time he drove our 2011 Hyundai Equus, "I kept pressing the Back button on the multimedia pad as though it were a home button (it's not) until it got stuck. Once parked, I managed to jam a credit card into a gap and pry it back to its normal springy position. A small reminder that the Equus, nice as it is, isn't prime-time luxo just yet."

Some felt the secondary buttons and dials on the dash and console were also of the bargain variety. Another editor added, "I find the controls to be appropriately organized and easy to use. I've heard complaints that they're not substantial to the touch but I have to disagree. They work for me." So a little disagreement over the materials quality out of the gate, but nothing noteworthy.

Smooth Operator
The V8 in the 2011 Hyundai Equus fires up with little fanfare. Much like the Lexus sedan it's mistaken for, the Equus isolates the vehicle's occupants from engine noise. Even during track testing, Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton noted that the engine is quiet at wide-open throttle. "Power builds rapidly as engine speed climbs. It has a good top end and was still pulling hard as it completed the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds @ 96.7 mph." Acceleration from zero to 60 mph took a respectable 6.4 seconds.

Much like the silky-smooth engine, the suspension in the Equus is tuned for complete isolation. Edmunds.com Editor Ed Hellwig wrote, "Sure the Equus has a Sport button and all, but I think it feels just fine in the normal setting. Everything on the freeway melts away underneath the air suspension in the standard setting and road noise is minimal. It reminded me of the last Lexus LS I drove. The Equus may not have the brand recognition of the big LS, but it sure feels like one from behind the wheel."

Hyundai calls it Smart Cruise Control, and it was one feature we looked forward to testing on the Equus. Senior Editor Josh Jacquot blogged, "Perhaps you've read my praise of our Infiniti M56's Intelligent Cruise Control. If not, the Cliffs Notes version follows.

"Although not a substitute for simply paying attention, the Infiniti's system does eliminate a great deal of pedal pushing. Same goes for the Equus' Smart Cruise Control. I relied on the system to bring the car down to about 5 mph and then return to speed. It's also a bit better in certain traffic situations than the Infiniti. Say, for example, when someone jumps out of their lane and reduces your space cushion to the car in front. The 2011 Hyundai Equus is less prone to heavy braking here when it's not needed, but will still use the brakes enough to reestablish the gap."

An 800-mile road trip north gave Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh time to reflect on how the Equus drove. He wrote, "The path to Emeryville from Santa Cruz involves many twisting roads and freeways, some of which are somewhat bumpy. The Equus is definitely not at home on these roads, but probably not for the reason you think. Despite its size — and it is colossal — it actually doesn't feel as ponderous as its dimensions suggest since the steering is pretty quick. Instead, it's the steering's lack of feel coupled to laggardly throttle response and a discombobulated ride quality that gives the Equus fits here. The air suspension just isn't up to the task of dealing with managing roll angles while also absorbing bumps. Also, bump steer. Bump steer! In a luxury car! Weird."

Valet Maintenance
Mileage accumulation naturally led to our first service appointment. Hyundai's At Your Service valet had our attention from the start, as did the Equus' five-year/60,000-mile no-cost maintenance package. But things started off shaky.

Our first experience with the program was at 8,300 miles. Why not at the recommended 7,500-mile recommended interval, you ask? To our surprise, the 2011 Hyundai Equus does not have a scheduled maintenance warning light. So we missed it.

We whipped out our iPad (standard equipment on the 2011 Equus) and opened the Equus dealer locator app. We were unable to schedule an appointment via the app, which was the whole point, so we just picked up the phone. After two tries we found a dealer certified to service the Equus, South Bay Hyundai. The only real problem was knowing how long it would take, as the valet would later tell us, "This is our first time, so we don't really know what to expect yet." We respected the dealer for its honesty and the service was completed quickly.

In its second attempt, South Bay Hyundai redeemed itself a bit. Our loaner Genesis arrived on time and the Equus was returned to us when promised. As with the first time, a courtesy card followed the visit, thanking us for our business. At Your Service worked as proposed and we liked the gesture even if it was a bit rough around the edges at first. Also consider that neither our long-term BMW 528i nor Infiniti M56 offered anything like this, even though they carried similar sticker prices.

Comparisons and Conclusions
Comparisons between the Equus, 528i and M56 continued while they shared our garage. The Infiniti was $7K more expensive and considerably more powerful than the others, but aside from that the trio matched up well. A few areas of note were interior wear, fuel economy, cost to own and depreciation.

Hyundai started on the wrong note. The M56 won the interior wear battle, being that it was black, with the BMW a close second. Here the 2011 Hyundai Equus was a few steps behind, as the driver seat fabric showed significant signs of stretching and discoloration. Fuel economy was easily led by the six-cylinder BMW, while the Equus (18.1 mpg) and M56 (18.8 mpg) were nearly a draw.

As expected, two areas where the Hyundai excelled were cost savings. No-cost maintenance kept the Equus healthy for 12 months and 20,000 miles. By comparison the 528i ($900) and M56 ($1,500) both dipped into our wallet to keep road-worthy. Yes, the BMW also offered free maintenance, but the OEM choice of tires required replacement in the first 20,000 miles. And true, the Infiniti needed a new windshield during our test, but routine maintenance still cost $180.

Most significant of all comparison points between these vehicles was resale value. Based on a private-party sale, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator showed that the Equus depreciated just 17 percent from its original MSRP. Under similar conditions the 528i and M56 depreciated 22 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Hyundai products have not traditionally fared well in the resale realm. So this is a big step in the right direction.

Another Earnest Competitor
Our exposure to the 2011 Hyundai Equus generated one common conclusion from our editors that went something like this: "It's neither a game-changer nor a bust. The Hyundai Equus simply delivers top-notch luxury for buyers who can do without a prestigious nameplate or eye-catching design."

A direct comparison of cross-garage rivals earned the Equus a little more credibility. It isn't the best in any one category, but even at nearly $60,000, it's still a strong overall value. Try to find the same amount of features, performance and space in a European luxury sedan and you'll be looking at something closer to $90K.

Then again, the relative anonymity of the Equus might be a turn-off for some. Sixty grand is a lot to pay for a car that nobody will ever ask you about. It hasn't hurt Hyundai before, however, and judging by the first-year sales of the Equus it hasn't been a problem. This is a car that stands purely on what it can do and not what people think it can do. And judging by how it handled itself during our 12-month loan, it will impress more buyers than it disappoints.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: None (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Lube creaking center console lid
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 25.8 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 11.6 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 18.1 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $48,987 (private-party sale)
Depreciation: $9,913 (or 17% of original MSRP)
Final Odometer Reading: 20,796 miles

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests