The Hyundai Equus known as the Hyundai Centennial in the Middle East, is an upscale full-size luxury car that serves as the flagship model of Hyundai Motor Company worldwide, named after the Latin word for “horse”. The Hyundai Equus is the largest and most expensive sedan in the company’s lineup. In 2009, the company released a new version on a rear-wheel drive platform aimed to compete with the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and Lexus LS.
In 1999, Hyundai Motors and Mitsubishi Motors presented their full-size sedan. Hyundai said that it was making a full-size sedan to compete with Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series in the Korean market. In reality it was competing against its domestic competitor SsangYong Chairman. Hyundai had great success with this car in Korea, but very few were exported to foreign countries.
The first generation was designed by Mitsubishi Motors who had their own version called the Proudia. It was jointly manufactured by both companies.
The first generation car was introduced in 1999 as a front wheel drive car measuring 5.1 metres (200.8 in) long and 1.9 metres (74.8 in) wide. A long-wheelbase limousine model was available exclusively for the Korean domestic market, and at 92,510,000 South Korean won for the 2008 model with a V8 and no options, was the most expensive model in the company’s lineup. The first generation Equus extended length limousine was also mechanically related to the Mitsubishi Dignity limousine for the Japanese market. The first generation Equus were sold in South Korea, China, and the Middle East.
A very limited number, badged as the Centennial, were made available for some western European markets in the early and mid 2000s. At first, there were two engine types – a 3.5 Sigma V6 and 4.5 8A80 (Omega) V8 engine. After a few months, the 3.0 Sigma V6 engine type was added. Two versions were available: a sedan (3.0, 3.5 and 4.5) and limousine (3.5 and 4.5). In Japan, under the name of Mitsubishi Dignity (limousine version) and Mitsubishi Proudia (sedan version), about 2,000 units were sold. Specifically, the 4.5 8A80 (Omega) V8 engine was a GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) type engine which was designed and developed by Mitsubishi Motors. This engine was optimized with premium unleaded gasoline fuel, but there was little opportunity to get this type of fuel in Korea at that time. So, most of these engines used normal unleaded gasoline fuel, and then had significant performance issues, about which drivers of this engine-type complained. Finally, Hyundai Motors modified this engine from a GDI Type to a MPI (Multi Point Injection) type to solve the issue.
In 2003, Hyundai presented their ‘New Equus’, changing the hood design and some of interior. A 7 inch screen for the rear seat, Xenon headlamps, front parking sensors, etc. were newly offered. Mitsubishi Motors ended the production of Mitsubishi Proudia and Mitsubishi Dignity, unlike Hyundai. From 2005, 3.0 and 3.5 Sigma V6 engine types were changed to 3.3 and 3.8 Lambda V6 engine types which were designed and developed by Hyundai Motors. But the automatic transmission was not changed. Hyundai officially ceased the production of 1st generation Equus in November 2008. A new bigger, rear-wheel drive Equus was launched in March 2009.