Hyundai took another step forward with its bold ambition to gain a foothold in the U.S. luxury market on Wednesday as it revealed an updated Equus.
The Korean automaker said the 2014 Equus, introduced today at the New York International Auto Show, has a completely redesigned interior and updates to the front and rear.
The interior features a new instrumental panel and center stack, a new center console and shift lever design, and a new ivory leather environment.
Industry veterans were skeptical of Hyundai's plans to sell a luxury car when the automaker first introduced the Equus in late 2010 as a 2011 model. The original Equus -- which looks a lot like the Lexus 460 -- was praised for its smooth handling, quiet ride and for its value because of a plethora of standard equipment.
It's interior, however, was criticized as not up to par against competitors such as Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
With the 2014 model, Hyundai says it fixed that flaw. The new model is adorned with leather upholstery, a microfiber suede headliner and leather-wrapped French-stitched instrument panel.
The exterior of the Equus also has been updated with new 19-inch turbine-blade alloy wheels, a redesigned front chrome grille and new LED headlamps.
The Equus continues to be powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine that produces 429 horsepower and 376 pound feet of torque.
Hyundai, with an image as a lower-priced value brand, faced a number of hurdles to convince consumers that it can produce a true luxury sedan that starts at $59,250.
Another challenge was the automaker's decision to sell the Equus at Hyundai dealerships rather than creating separate luxury showrooms. Hyundai's experiment has been modestly successful thus far.
In 2012, Hyundai sold 3,972 Equus sedans, a 24.4% increase over the prior year. Lexus, meanwhile, sold 8,291 LS 460 sedans
Hyundai also said Wednesday that it will offer a complimentary three-year emergency support service program for the Equus as well as all of its models.
The Assurance Connected Care program, which is similar to General Motors' OnStar, includes automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance and enhanced roadside assistance. Hyundai delivers those services through its Blue Link infotainment system.
According to Hyundai, the automaker will become the only manufacturer to offer built-in emergency and car care support services for three years at no charge. Hyundai said it will begin to provide service beginning with cars sold May 16.
GM, in contrast, provides OnStar free for six months to those who buy new GM vehicles and charges $18.95 per month after that or $28.90 for a premium package.
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