I have learned my lesson with Hyundai. Don’t doubt them.

When the Korean automaker announced a few years ago it would build a $40,000 premium luxury rear-wheel drive car, I scoffed at the idea. No one is going to pay that much for a Hyundai.

But then, the Genesis arrived and it blew critics, like me, away.

This year, Hyundai said it was going to redefine its midsize entry, the Sonata. That car continues to blow consumers away.

There’s a reason so many people can now pronounce the carmaker’s name correctly: Hyundai, rhymes with Sunday. This carmaker knows how to leave an impression.

The 2011 Equus, a high-end executive sedan, is everything it was billed to be: luxurious, stylish and downright beautiful — though we’ll get to that front end grille in a moment.

Rarely do $60,000 cars feel like a deal, but the Equus does. The exterior is stunning and the interior lush. This car exudes luxury without flash. It’s understated in all the right ways. When people look at it, they know it’s a stunning sedan, but they may not know exactly who created it. Contrary to the popular notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a classic look is appreciated by everyone and the Equus is classic.

It offers everything a high-end customer might want without the pretentiousness of other brands.

The Equus is more than a trophy car, though those who own one are obviously rewarding themselves for a life well lived. It is a car that provides an elegant ride on an air suspension system that feels both soft but pliant. It’s just as rewarding to drive as it is to sit in the back seat while talking to your broker. “Buy, buy, buy.”

Big V-8 gives Equus a smooth ride

Stretching more than 200 inches, the Equus is a big machine. But its 4.6-liter V-8, with 383 horsepower (when run on premium gasoline) provides lots of muscle. The V-8 produces that glorious deep base that pushes you back in the seat and reminds you even big cars can be fun. V-8s may be disappearing from regular use, but nothing will ever replace their sound.

Switch the air suspension to sport mode and feel the Equus stiffen up and hold its line through big sweepers. On the open highway, the Equus feels most at home, gliding along the road, eating up all of Detroit’s bumps and concrete seams with nary a sound penetrating the cabin.

The steering is nicely weighted and overall this big car is a pleasure to drive. However, it feels more sedan than sports car, which is both a fault and a positive. Some of its more expensive, European competitors, such as the BMW 7 Series and the Audi A8, have a more dynamic and sportier all-around feel.

Interior loaded with first class amenities

However, that doesn’t take anything away from Equus; once you sit inside this car, you feel as if you almost cheated the dealer out of a good deal. The Equus comes with everything and it’s usually covered in leather.

Overall, the interior is simple and well defined. There’s a machined, modern quality to it. The interactive owner’s manual was developed for an iPad.

Every creature comfort feature is included, from the 12-way electric adjustable driver’s seat (with massage) and tilt-telescopic steering wheel to the heated front seats (and steering wheel) and 608 watt Lexicon 7.1 Discrete surround sound stereo system with 17 speakers.

The audio system sounds better than the surround sound in my living room and is adjustable to focus its sounds on any passenger — a great feature for when the owner doesn’t drive.

In fact, the second row is just as wrapped in leather and wood as the front and proves there is no coach seating in a first-class vehicle.

The Equus Ultimate model, the top of the line Equus, includes a two-seat second row with heated and electronically reclining seats. There a command center of sorts between the two seats that allows the occupants to allow you to raise the foot rest, turn on the heated massage and watch a DVD through the 8-inch LCD monitor. The only thing the back seat is missing is aroma therapy.

Grille is minor irritant to exterior lines

Of course, if you’re concerned with safety features, the Equus comes complete with nine air bags throughout the cabin.

The exterior is just as elegant with the car standing on 19-inch wheels in a well proportioned stable stance. The HID headlights sparkle on the front as they stretch around the corner of the car’s front end. From every angle, the Equus’ lines are clean and well rounded.

Now for that grille. The original Equus, the one sold in Korea, not here, comes with a beautiful hood ornament, but here it’s been replaced with one flush to the hood. (No one wants to have their hood ornament become someone else’s key chain.)But that hood ornament helped pull your eye from the four-bar grille, which looks oversized and a little dangerous. The four bars create eight blades and all of them look like they might cut you. Gillett razors don’t even have that many.

Also, the grille curves back and creates a seamless line with the hood. From the front, the face looks powerful and aggressive, but the profile cuts off the face and makes the front end look a little too short.

Still, it’s a minor complaint for a fantastic car.

When you’re riding in an Equus, you’re truly riding in luxury. The fact that you didn’t take out a second mortgage to buy it, makes the ride that much more enjoyable.

sburgess@detnews.com (313) 223-3217