There aren't many Hyundai vehicles left untouched by the company's rapid transformation into a top-tier automaker. The Accent was all-new earlier this year--and now, the big Azera gets its day in the sun, appropriately enough, at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The 2012 Azera now wears Hyundai's current design theme, which they dub "fluidic sculpture." It's been applied to the Sonata and Elantra sedans and the Accent hatchback with good results, and with the Azera, it's much the same. The mix of crests and curves is a big departure from the current, anonymous big four-door, something that's bound to be played up in advertising against the Azera's most likely competitors, cars like the latest VW Passat, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus. Big 19-inch wheels and high-intensity discharge headlamps cap the exterior, while the interior carries through on the Sonata's look with some well-timed restraint.
Power for the new Azera comes from a direct-injection 3.3-liter V-6 that now puts out 293 horsepower, up 33 hp from last year, and 13 hp more than the larger 3.8-liter V-6 that was an option in the 2011 model. For comparison, it's 10 hp stronger than Chrysler's new Pentastar 3.6-liter six, and a few horsepower stronger than Ford's latest 3.5-liter V-6, but a bit shy of the 303 hp in the Buick LaCrosse. The Azera's six is coupled to a six-speed automatic with sport-shift mode actuated by the shift lever.
Since it's still a relatively light 3600 pounds, the Azera's gas mileage is estimated at 20/29 mpg, an increase of 1 mpg on the highway, but lower than the four-cylinder powertrain in the smaller Sonata. An economy mode tailors throttle and shifting for up to a five-percent economy boost, Hyundai says.
The Azera's handling hasn't been a big selling point in the past, but an upgrade could be in the works with the 2012 model. It's still independent all around, with struts in front and a multi-link rear, now with Sachs shocks and 18-inch wheels and tires, with an option for 19-inchers. Electric power steering is standard.
With a wheelbase of 112 inches and an overall length of 193.3 inches, the 2012 Azera has gained almost three inches between the wheels, while it hasn't grown from nose to tail. Front leg room is up almost two inches to 45.5 inches, and Hyundai says it's best in class in that dimension, as well as in front-seat head room.
Safety features include nine airbags, including a driver-side knee airbag and rear-seat side airbags. Rather than fitting active headrests to boost the Azera's crash-test scores, Hyundai says it's redesigned the seats with stronger frames to reduce the instance of neck injuries. A rearview camera is standard.
Other standard features in the new Azera include satellite radio, HD radio, and a USB port; Bluetooth with streaming audio; a touchscreen, voice-activated navigation system; leather upholstery; power front seats; heated front and rear seats; dual-zone climate control; and a cooled glove box. Options include a panoramic sunroof; ventilated front seats; and an Infinity 550-watt audio system.
Hyundai also includes its new Blue Link service for 90 days free of charge in the new Azera. The system works like GM's OnStar system, using live operators on call to bring information to drivers, from mapping destinations to making restaurant reservations. Blue Link can also turn voice messages into outbound text messages, and can also direct drivers to destinations found on the Web via Microsoft Bing search and turn-by-turn directions. Blue Link also lets owners set other controls to notify when the Azera has gone beyond a certain region, when it's driven outside of specified hours, and when it may need service--all customizable at the Blue Link website.
We'll have more on the new 2012 Hyundai Azera from the 2011 Los Angeles auto show.
This story originally appeared at The Car Connection