It’s not often that a country’s leader fronts up for a new car launch – though Adolf Hitler was infamously present at the unveiling of the VW Beetle that he commissioned – but South Korea’s prime minister Han Seung-Soo was there for the reveal of Hyundai’s new top-of-the line Equus at Seoul’s Grand Hyatt hotel. The prime minister will doubtless be a regular occupant of the rear half of Hyundai’s biggest, travel arrangements that will afford him the chance to don a pair of Equus embossed leather slippers and get the massage feature of the reclining back seat kneading him just so.
Yes, the Equus is a car mainly about chauffeuring, although it looks athletic enough just, to tempt the curious into the driving seat. And they will not be disappointed, especially if the 361bhp, 4.6 litre V8 is installed. This super smooth device is potent enough to give the air suspension quite a workout, which like most of these systems, is good at absorbing long amplitude bumps and maintaining the car’s attitude, but less clever when it comes to absorbing short, sharp shocks. Slightly flaccid steering feel doesn’t help the Equus’s high speed handling, but the helm is accurate, and there’s more than enough grip and poise for an Equus occupant in need of a speedy getaway.
And any departure, fast or slow, will certainly prove club class comfort - the Equus is quiet and pampers wearers of its slippers with a 17-speaker stereo, heated and chilled seats, a sat-nav system that warns of speed cameras and enough wood and leather to furnish the living room of a country pile. All this is served in pretty contemporary style too, the only jarring details being a clock face that you wouldn’t pay 50p for on a back street watch, and curious strips of chrome that look as though they’re clinching the walnut in place. Olde Worlde materials or not, this is a very modern car, featuring lane-departure warning, pre-safety systems, intelligent cruise control, a parking guidance system, a thin film transistor information display and a potent CAN-BUS system to master it all.
As a rival to the Lexus LS 460 the Equus is not so far adrift, but Hyundai will be limiting exports to China and the Middle East. The previous Equus had a 10-year life – and that will be more than enough time for the next, seventh-generation Equus to reach a standard high enough to see it sold right around the world.