Base Price: $58,750

Price as tested: $59,650

This week we're driving Hyundai's luxury class effort, the 2012 Equus Signature. This is our second drive of an Equus, and I'll admit this car impresses me more and more every time I drive one. Hyundai continues to market Equus in a "rethink everything you know about luxury" wrapper, and the theory is starting to work.

However, as I mentioned in last year's column, changing a consumer's view of Hyundai from its core philosophy of "lower price" automobile to "luxury extraordinaire" is still a challenge.

Built in Ulsan, Korea, Equus indeed plays in the "quality and handling" ballpark of the competitors, including Lexus, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti. I still feel, nevertheless, Hyundai needs to distance its Equus branding as far as possible from sibling Hyundai offerings, similar to what Acura (Honda), Lexus (Toyota) and Infiniti (Nissan) did with its marketing premise.

Granted, Hyundai is not yet ready to roll out a new dealer network based on one quality luxury car, but future Equus-style smaller cars could allow Hyundai the same options as Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. Until then, Equus will share dealer showroom space with its Hyundai kin while generating a successful implementation into this very competitive, and finicky, high luxury market. It may take several years to accomplish, but the wait may be worth it for Hyundai's bottom line.

As for the car, Equus is a remarkable effort and the best "under $60K" full size luxury car I've ever driven. The exterior and interior are exactly what luxury owners demand from higher priced cars, and then some. Our Equus had no options on the added feature list, meaning when you plunk down the $58K for the Equus, everything a luxury consumer demands comes with the deal.

Without going into every amenity, Equus owners will enjoy a driver's seat massage system (very nice), lane departure warning system that tugs on the seatbelt if you don't correct (Equus will know if the driver is falling asleep!), pre-collision warning system, power reclining rear seats, smart cruise control with automatic braking logic, rear back-up camera, wood trim interior, six disc 17-speaker 7.1 discrete Lexicon 608 watt surround sound system, navigation and numerous other high tech bells and whistles. I love the lane departure system, as it truly can save lives by waking a driver who nods off for whatever reason.

Under the hood a new, larger, 5.0 liter V8 pumps out a stunning 429 horses, quite a bit more than last year's 4.6 liter V8 that powered our 2011 Equus. Additionally, a new eight-speed automatic transmission replaces last year's six-speed, allowing excellent 23-mpg highway fuel mileage and respectable 15 city from a powerful 429 horse engine. The increase in power and engine size follows suite with the other big luxury manufacturers, where high horsepower and good fuel mileage are the norm.

Equus' ride is excellent thanks to an electric air suspension dual mode continuous damping control independent setup that allows traction administration via 19-inch tires and beautiful chrome alloy wheels.

I especially like the expansive back seat with reclining seats and enough head and leg room for taller adults. Power wise, the new 5.0 V8 does "rock the world," especially up top in the RPM range. We timed our Equus to 80 mph in 9.6 seconds on a timed 660 ft. dragstrip. As for safety equipment, everything from nine air bags to excellent 4-wheel disc ABS traction control brake system is included.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 119.9 inches, 16.7 cu. ft. of cargo space, 4,486 curb weight, 20.3 gallon fuel tank, 16 city and 24 highway EPA numbers and a 37.7 turning circle.

Want a surprise? Drive an Equus and you'll find a new world of luxury for less than $60K. Yes, it's that good.

Likes: Interior, engineering, price, design, safety.

Dislikes: Still trying to explain to your neighbor why you paid $58,900 for a Hyundai.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)