A much-needed redesign adds new style and new spirit to the 2012 Hyundai Azera, which made its U.S. debut in Los Angeles. This full-size, front-drive luxury sedan, which is marketed as the Grandeur in its native Korea, becomes the fifth vehicle to be recast using the automaker's expressive "Fluidic Sculpture" design philosophy. In addition gaining a far more contemporary appearance, the generational changeover brings a drivetrain upgrade that enhances performance and efficiency.
The Azera's new exterior is highlighted by a far bolder, highly contoured front fascia highlighted by a larger bright grille and more visually intriguing headlamps. An undulating beltline and tasteful side sculpting adds interest to the Azera's decidedly more wedge-like profile, which is further emphasized by a sweeping fastback roofline and prominent wraparound LED taillamps.
That evocative character also extends to the new Azera's comprehensively restyled and now even more lavishly appointed passenger compartment. Every key element -- from the all-new dash, main gauges and center stack to the restyled door panels, console and the seats themselves, now heated front and rear - has been endowed with a far greater elegance. This even-better-isolated inner sanctum also offers primo standards like leather upholstery, a touch-screen navigation system with backup camera, Hyundai Blue Link telematics and Bluetooth connectivity to complement its class-leading people space.
The Azera's lengthy roster of passenger protection features also gains a new item for 2012. Redesigned front buckets now incorporate an integral impact-reduction system into their seatbacks that eliminates the need for active front headrests. Hyundai claims the design is so effective it will reduce head and neck injuries by 17 percent compared to the seats in the current Azera.
The sole engine in the 2012 Azera is Hyundai's direct-injected 3.3-liter Lambda II V6, which replaces both the 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter sixes used previously. This new and extremely efficient motivator makes 293 horsepower - 21 more than the outgoing 3.8-liter -- but earns superior 20/29 mpg city/highways ratings when matched to the standard six-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission. A three-stage variable intake system helps broaden the engine's torque band for better response and quicker acceleration while a driver-selectable Active Eco mode can boost fuel economy by over five percent.
Hyundai also tweaked the chassis on the 2012 Azera, enhancing its recalibrated MacPherson strut front/multilink rear setup with new Sachs Amplitude Selective Dampers (ASD) that improve both ride comfort and control on any road surface. The new Azera also benefits from a larger wheel/tire fitment. Eighteen-inch alloys wrapped in 245/45 rubber will be the standard issue on all models while 245/40 tires on 19-inch rims will be optional.
Offered in only one fully-equipped trim level -- with or without the Technology Package that brings items like an Infinity sound system, xenon headlamps, a panoramic sunroof and ventilated front seats -- the new 2012 Hyundai Azera goes on sale next February. Pricing is set to start in the low-$30,000 range.