By Arv Voss, Motor Matters

Hyundai is now competing on a global level with other premium carmakers on all levels: design, performance capability, amenities, advanced technologies, and the ownership experience as well. The competition includes the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Hyundai's 2014 Equus displays a kind of understated elegance with styling cues that are on par with those of other competitive Asian, British, and German luxury sedans. The updated sedan presents a showcase of tasteful elements that blend harmoniously, delivering a pleasing and appealing overall form that satisfies the senses in an emotional way.

Hyundai's large four-door luxury cruiser comes in both a four- and five-passenger seating configuration, with two distinct trim levels -- the base Signature Equus (five-passenger) and the Equus equipped with the Ultimate Package (four-passenger). Both models are essentially long-wheelbase vehicles.

Power for the Equus is delivered by a 5.0-liter 32-valve Tau V-8 (up from the former 4.6-liter) with gasoline direct injection and a tuned intake system that makes 429 horsepower while also generating 376 lb.-ft. of torque. Motive force is metered to the rear wheels via an eight-speed electronic automatic transmission with manual shift mode and lock-up torque converter. EPA mileage ratings are 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.

Suspension componentry consists of an electronically controlled air suspension with continuous damping control, along with height adjustable and driver-selectable Sport mode. Up front is a multi-link setup with a 29-mm stabilizer bar, while the rear features a multi-link set-up as well, but with an 18-mm stabilizer bar.

Highlights for the 2014 Equus include a new 19-inch, turbine-blade polished silver wheel design, new front bumper fascia and grille design, new side mirrors and taillamp graphics, and LED fog lamps are now standard. The interior comes with a completely redesigned instrument panel and center stack, a redesigned center console and shift lever design, revised steering wheel control layout with vehicle settings, a new ivory leather interior environment and ultra-premium genuine wood trim selections, and redesigned rear-seat center console controls.

My 2014 Hyundai Equus tester was an Ultimate model. It was finished outside in White Satin Pearl metallic, with the inside done in Ivory with genuine polished wood trim accents. The base price was set at $61,000.

The Hyundai Equus in Ultimate trim is truly a remarkable luxury sedan, with some sporty attributes, too. It is visually appealing, in a way that is difficult to describe -- some observers noted that certain of its design cues resembled those of a Mercedes-Benz S550, while others likened styling elements to a Lexus LS 460L. Neither is a bad thing, as the Equus comes across as stylishly elegant on its own.

Equus is not only appealing in the looks department, but also in the performance and creature comfort categories. The 429-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 cranks out more than enough horsepower and torque to please even the most discriminating driving enthusiast, while providing comfortable accommodations in a safe and secure environment. The speed-sensitive, electro-hydraulic power steering delivers crisp handling characteristics, and the ride quality is compliant without sacrificing stability.

The eight-speed automatic transmission allows for silky smooth gear changes when in the automatic mode, and when in the manual "Shiftronic" mode, delivers well-defined gear changes that are equally smooth.

Pressing the Sport button enhanced my driving experience even more, altering shift points, damping characteristics, and throttle response, and putting the Equus into more of a sport luxury sedan category. Gauges and instrumentation are well positioned for optimum user-friendliness, and driver seating is infinitely adjustable, allowing for the ideal driving position.

This latest Hyundai Equus is on equal grounds with other luxury sedan manufacturers which could cause the competition some alarm, given the long list of features provided and the sedan's svelte styling.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 HYUNDAI EQUUS ULTIMATE

VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 4-passenger RWD full-size sedan

BASE PRICE____________________$61,000 (as tested: $68,920)

MOTOR TYPE__________________32-valve V-8 w/DI

DISPLACEMENT________________5.0-liter

HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 429 at 6400 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 376 at 5000 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________8-speed automatic

OVERALL LENGTH_______________203.1 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___39.6 ft.

CURB WEIGHT__________________ 5,133 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY________________ 20.3 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway