When I discovered how cheap the Hyundai Equus has become, I felt like I had just stepped into a bizarro universe — a place where you can buy a heavily depreciated used luxury car with an unbelievably impressive array of features … but also have a reliable, practical mode of transportation. Sure, you can flex on a limited budget with a used BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but usually the high maintenance costs end up canceling the initial cost savings. With the Equus, it’s just a Hyundai in the mechanical department, but it still manages to have features that rival (or even beat) my Rolls-Royce Phantom.
The Equus I pitted against my Phantom in the video above is a 2013 model with the Ultimate package, and when I posted a few interior pictures on a car group’s Facebook page, a few actually thought it was a Maybach. That’s pretty impressive for a Hyundai, but the car really is a chameleon. The exterior design has reminders of Acura, Lexus and Mercedes — and with the Equus’s vague badging, most people have no idea what it is. With only 3,500 cars sold in 2013, it’s a much rarer sight than most of its European rivals, as well.
There’s one obvious reason for the slow U.S. sales, and that’s the original sticker price — $70,000 for a Hyundai, which many found to be ridiculous. It seems Hyundai finally realized overcoming their economy brand perception was going to be impossible, so Hyundai rebadged the Equus under the new Genesis moniker in 2017. For the remaining Equus models, massive depreciation has followed, and this 2013 model with 80,000 miles sold recently for only $15,000. A quick look on Autotrader shows 14 "Ultimate Package" Equus models available for less than $20,000 — and for that pittance, you get an insane amount of luxury.
When I say that it rivals my Rolls-Royce Phantom in some ways, I wasn’t joking. Of course, there’s no way a Hyundai could match in the quality of the interior materials and the daunting presence, but from a purely analytical standpoint, a few nods must be given to the Equus. In the horsepower department, the 429-horsepower Equus annihilates the heavier Phantom with its 453-hp V12, but, of course, nobody buys a top tier luxury sedan to drag race. What really impresses me is the fact that these totally different cars have the same approach to luxury — and they’re equally smooth, quiet and comfortable.
Like the Phantom, Hyundai had no desire to make their Equus double as a sports car, a common trap with most other luxury cars, and the active air suspension is tuned primarily for comfort. It has features like adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled seats and seat massagers, which is something found in German luxury rivals — yet lacking in the Phantom. Of course, the Phantom still has a few party tricks, like the disappearing "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood ornament as part of the security system, as well as the hidden rotating iDrive display, but the Equus has a few surprises, as well.
Sitting in the back passenger seat is like wandering around a Brookstone store at the mall and settling into a $10,000 massage chair. Not only does the rear seat recline, folding the front passenger seat into the dashboard in the process, but it also has a remote with a vast array of massage settings. The center seat is removed in favor of a giant center console, which hosts a small refrigerator, as well as controls for the stereo and infotainment system. Like the Maybach, the Equus simulates a luxury airliner’s business class experience, but unlike a used Maybach, all of this can be purchased for under $20,000.
I found it all to be really impressive, so much so that I actually bought this car. With my Tesla Model S recently sold, I was looking for another modern luxury car to add to the stable — and I stumbled across this by accident while looking for another S-Class. At only $15,000, the value was just too irresistible, and it softened the blow of losing the Tesla with my fiancee, who, despite the constant range anxiety, ended up driving it the most. Now all she has to worry about is which massage setting to try during her commute, and how to coax me into being her a chaffeur on the weekends. Amazing for a $15,000 Hyundai …