For the first time since its late 2010 introduction, Hyundai's flagship Equus luxury sedan is subtly restyled for a more premium appearance and adds more safety equipment, more amenities and a retuned suspension for improved ride.
Thankfully, notable elements of the Equus are not changed — including pricing that's thousands below competitors and a warranty package that includes 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage and free scheduled maintenance with valet car pickup-and-return and free loaner vehicle during the first three years/36,000 miles.
Also not changed: Consumer Reports' endorsement of the full-size, V-8-powered Equus as a recommended buy. Reliability is listed as average.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for the base, rear-wheel drive, 2014 Equus in Signature trim is $61,920.
While this sounds like a lot for a Hyundai, Equus buyers get a lot.
The base Equus comes with premium leather interior, real wood trim, light-emitting diode (LED) headlamps and fog lamps, moonroof, navigation system, three-zone climate control and adaptive cruise control that automatically manages the distance of the Equus to the vehicles in front.
Other standard items: Heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, lane departure warning system, rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and soft-to-the-touch, suede ceiling cover.
The upper Ultimate trim version of 2014 Equus carries a $68,920 retail price, including destination charge.
The Equus Ultimate adds, among other things, standard multi-view camera, rear seats that cool as well as warm passengers and a rear entertainment system with 9.2-inch display screens built into the backs of the front-seat head restraints.
All Equus models continue with last year's 5-liter, double overhead cam V-8 that delivers 429 horsepower. It is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Note the Equus' 429 horsepower is more than the 386 horses in the rear-wheel-drive, V-8-powered, 2014 Lexus LS luxury sedan that has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $73,050.
The base, 2014 LS 460 does not include standard lane departure warning system, blind spot monitoring, dynamic cruise control, LED headlights or heated steering wheel that are on the base Equus.
In addition, the Equus has a full 45.1 inches of front-seat legroom compared with 43.7 inches in the front seats of the LS 460.
Meantime, the competing 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 delivers 449 horsepower from its biturbo V-8, which is 20 more than the Equus' naturally aspirated V-8.
But the base, rear-wheel drive S550, which has a starting retail price of $93,825, comes with dual-zone climate control and has less front-seat legroom than the Equus.
Plus, heated and ventilated rear seats, heated steering wheel, blind spot assist and lane keeping assist that are standard on the Equus are options on the S550.
sales of the Equus grew to a high of 3,972 in calendar 2012, then fell 10 percent last year. Not all Hyundai dealers carry the premium Equus.
Also, buyers in the luxury, large sedan segment aren't pinched for money. Many demand a premium badge on their luxury car, not a badge from South Korean automaker Hyundai which is known value-priced, mainstream vehicles.
The Equus is the first $60,000-plus vehicle that Hyundai has sold in the .
Still, the test Equus Ultimate attracted attention, even when parked curbside. Onlookers walked around the car and kept staring at the Hyundai badge.
They couldn't resist looking inside at the eye-catching, new-for-2014, light-colored, ivory interior.
They asked about the pull-down, rear-seat, center armrest that was stocked with buttons that control ventilation, rear seat warmth and cooling and even the nav system.
The improvements to the Equus ride were evident as there now are three ride "modes" activated by push button.
The normal mode is a comfort ride, with good cushioning over road bumps. It afforded pleasant, low-fatigue cruising for six hours on mostly straight highways.
The sport mode is more differentiated, buttoning down the ride for twisty mountain roads where the eager-to-perform V-8 propelled the car in swift fashion.
Yet, the sport mode still allowed body roll in corners and wasn't overly firm. Note that the air suspension was recalibrated for 2014 and sport mode damping is more controlled than before.
The third mode, "snow," is new and provides greater control and safety in inclement conditions.
All Equus models have standard antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control, plus nine air bags.
The V-8 and transmission provided smooth power delivery, and the Equus could be driven leisurely without fuss.
It also responded to demanding driving with strong acceleration. Zero-to-60-miles-an-hour time is some 5.5 seconds.
Torque peaks at 376 foot-pounds at 5,000 rpm, and the engine uses either regular or premium gasoline.
Large, luxury sedans that aren't hybrids or diesels aren't known for great gas mileage, and the federal government rating for the 2014 Equus is 15 miles per gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway.
But the tester averaged 21.6 mpg in travel that was 65 percent in city traffic.
All-highway travel, especially with downhill runs in the mountains, gave an impressive 25.2-mpg rating.
New amenities like the sizable, colorful center display screen and the larger, bright instrument cluster that changes color based on driving mode were easy to manage and use.
But the automatic distance management of the cruise control system caused sudden, unsettling slowdowns in the tester rather than gradual speed reductions.
And the nav system had snafus, such as when it insisted a church was on the right side of the road when it was on the left.
Rear-seat legroom of 38.8 inches isn't as generous as that in other large sedans, and the tester seemed to be less insulated than an earlier-model Equus as wind noise and sounds from nearby vehicles were readily heard inside.