What is it? Just at the time most other manufacturers are previewing their 2013 models at the LA Auto Show, Hyundai is introducing its redesigned 2012 Azera, a large sedan that competes with the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, and Lexus ES, among others. Think of it as a stretched version of the very good mid-sized Sonata with a larger rear seat and abundant upscale accoutrements, enshrouded by a swoopy exterior styling that has become Hyundai’s hallmark. As a Sonata derivative, it’s a conventional front-wheel sedan rather than a rear-driver like Hyundai’s upscale Genesis coupe and sedan. The outgoing car was easy to live with, quiet and well finished, but unexceptional in ride and handling.
Unlike the Sonata, which makes do with four-cylinder engines, the Azera is powered by a new 3.3-liter V6 rated at 293-hp, which is about par for this class. Hyundai claims that this new direct-injection engine produces a combined 23 mpg, which would be good for a big car. Safety gear includes nine air bags, including one for the driver’s knees.
What’s new or notable: The Azera includes as standard equipment a GPS navigation system and rear-view camera, features that many automakers still charge up to $2,000 for. Other standard amenities include heated leather seats, HID headlights, cooled glove box, and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system with voice command. On the options list is a panoramic glass sunroof, a feature we’ve come to like a lot.
When will it be available? Early 2012.