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2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate: Race Organizer Review

Thu, 10 Apr 2014

Welcome back to the Race Organizer Review series, in which I plunge new cars into the weird and demanding world of a traveling race official with the 24 Hours of LeMons road-racing series. A LeMons Race Organizer's ride must be able to haul large amounts of gear between airport, hotel, and track, while impressing the jaded and finicky racers in the paddock.

So far, we've seen the Mini Cooper S Paceman in California, the Mitsubishi Lancer GT in Texas, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in Wisconsin, and the Chevrolet SS in Texas, and a couple of weeks ago your Race Organizer brought the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate to Race Sonoma aka Sears Point in the upscale wine country of Northern California. Let's see how the big Hyundai fared.

Murilee Martin
It's a good-looking car, though it's nearly invisible on the road.

The first thing I noticed about the Equus was its invisibility. If you want the rabble to take notice that you're a high roller who doesn't blink at dropping nearly 70 grand on a car, the Equus Ultimate is not the car for you. If you want to enjoy Syngman Rhee-grade luxury and 429 horses under the hood while blending in with the crowd on the highway or the parking lot, then you can't beat a refrigerator-white Equus. I didn't detect a single admiring, envious or angry glance from other drivers during five days and nearly 300 miles with this car. A couple of radar-gun-wielding CHP officers didn't even bother to clock it in the fast lane on US 101.

Murilee Martin.
429 horses, but it feels like even more.

The 5.0 Tau DOHC V8 makes 429 hp, which gets the car's 4,616-lb bulk moving in near-muscle-car fashion. We truly live in the Golden Age of Engines, and Hyundai ought to drop the Tau in a fully customized Stellar, then take it drag racing.

I never drove the Equus hard, but it seemed most competent when pushed slightly around freeway off-ramps and the like. The Bay Area weather was warm and dry while I had the car, so I never experienced any of the scary snow-driving issues described by my Midwest-based Autoweek colleagues.

Murilee Martin
The 2014 Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons was one of the best LeMons events of all time.

The 2014 Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons had everything from a Harley-engined Prius to an IHC Scout to a diesel Porsche 911 on the track, and so I was hoping to make a big impression on the racers with my prestigious Korean Judgemobile. Unfortunately, nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to the Equus.

Murilee Martin
Miscreant racers in the Penalty Box were asked to identify the Equus from this perspective. None could.

The car's invisibility gave me an idea for a penalty to inflict on miscreant racers in the LeMons Penalty Box: Identify The White Mystery Sedan! The view in the photo above is what each driver saw when I demanded, "Tell me what this car is and I'll let you go right away." Exactly zero racers were able to identify the car as a Hyundai Equus (except for one, and he didn't count because he worked at a Hyundai dealership).

Murilee Martin
Here's a breakdown of the answers in the Name That Mystery White Sedan 24 Hours of LeMons penalty.

To their credit, some racers guessed that the Equus was the very closely related Genesis, and one thought it was a Sonata. The Taurus got a couple of votes, as did the Altima. It's worth noting that none of these fairly car-knowledgeable racers suggested a German make.

Murilee Martin
The car looked invisible from the outside, but many racers were impressed with the plush interior.

Once the race session was over, I invited some racers to take a closer look at the Equus Ultimate's fancy interior. Then they were impressed, as you can see on the faces of the Casual GT Ford Capri team.

Murilee Martin
The word "Hyundai" does not appear on the car's exterior.

After a few days with the Equus Ultimate, I came to believe that an invisible luxury sedan with big V8 power and a snazzy interior would be preferable—in the real world—to some flashy druglord-wagon. The build quality seemed extraordinarily high, though Hyundai hasn't been in its post-Excel period of building good cars long enough for anyone to be sure this machine will last as long as, say, a Lexus LS. I'd bet that it will.

Murilee Martin
Race Organizer verdict: Quite a car, doesn't impress racers.

The Race Organizer verdict? A very well-made, good-driving luxury sedan, but its exterior appearance doesn't impress anybody at a racetrack. I got 17.59 actual mpg in a mix of highway/city driving, which is impressive for a car of this size and power. It would be a fine choice for a 3,000-mile road trip or 10 years of daily commuting.

Base Price: $61,000

As-Tested Price: $68,920

Drivetrain: 5.0-liter V8; RWD, eight-speed automatic

Output:429 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,616 lbs

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined):15/23/18 mpg

Observed Fuel Economy: 17.59 mpg

Options: Ultimate package including full 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster display, head-up display, multiview camera system, forward-view cornering camera, rear seat entertainment system w/ dual 9.2-inch monitor, 4-way power lumbar rear outboard seats, cooled rear seats, rear seat power up/down head restraints with manual tilt, power trunk lid, power rear side-window, power door closure, steering wheel dial control ($7,000)

By Murilee Martin