Hyundai introduced its XG300-the predecessor to the Azera-in North America for the 2001 model year. Larger and more luxurious than the existing Sonata, the XG300 was actually a third-generation, Korean-market Grandeur XG sharing a platform and engines with the Kia Amanti. In 2002, Hyundai increased the displacement of the standard V-6 engine to 3.5-liters, and the name changed to the XG350. In 2006, Hyundai dropped the XG350 nameplate and called its all-new model the Azera (it is still sold as the Grandeur in many parts of the world).
Introduced in 2006 as a replacement for the XG350, the midsize Azera fits into the Hyundai lineup above the Sonata and below the flagship Genesis sedan. Like other Hyundai offerings, the automaker has equipped the Azera with a long list of standard features and a lengthy warranty-both sure to entice buyers. To sweeten the deal, Hyundai has treated the Azera to a mild interior and exterior refresh for 2011. In addition, both V-6 engines have been re-engineered for improved power and efficiency. The 2011 model is expected in showrooms in spring of 2010.
The 2011 Hyundai Azera is sold in two trim levels: GLS and Limited. The standard powertrain on all models is the 3.3-liter V-6 engine mated to an automatic transmission. Other standard features include cloth upholstery, power driver's seat with lumbar support, automatic headlamps, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, as well as heated mirrors. The standard audio package includes an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 head unit with iPod and USB auxiliary inputs. The wheels are 16-inch alloy. The Azera GLS with the optional Premium package adds leather seating surfaces with heated front seats, power sunroof, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The Limited model builds on the GLS Premium package equipment list by adding a 3.8-liter V-6 engine and 17-inch alloy wheels. It also receives standard dual-zone climate control, in-dash CD-changer with speakers by Infinity, power rear sunshade, woodgrain-trimmed leather steering wheel, automatic-dimming mirror, and more. The Limited model is offered with a DVD-based navigation system that is bundled with a Logic 7 sound system with 12 speakers by Infinity.
In updating the Azera for 2011, Hyundai significantly revised both V-6 powerplants, improving power and fuel economy and lowering emissions, the company says. The standard engine-offered on the GLS model-is a 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 250 horsepower and 233 lb.-ft. of torque. For 2011, it has been fitted with Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (DCVVT) to improve engine breathing on the intake and exhaust camshafts, resulting in better fuel economy and reduced emissions. Compared to the 2010 model's 3.3-liter, the new engine returns 11 percent better fuel economy in both EPA cycles. The EPA rates the 3.3-liter V-6 at 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. The 2011 Azera Limited models receive a reworked 3.8-liter V-6 engine rated at 272 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine also features DCVVT to improve power and efficiency. According to the EPA, the 3.8-liter is rated at 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway-an improvement of 6 percent in the city, and 8 percent on the highway. Both engines are mated to an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission.
According to Hyundai, the company engineers benchmarked the best cars in the category before designing the Azera's double-wishbone front and multi-link rear 4-wheel independent suspension system. They used high-tensile steel in critical unibody areas to ensure resistance to flexing while improving the ride and handling; as an added benefit, it lowered interior noise levels. The suspension features twin-tube, gas-charged shocks. The bushings have been softened for 2011 to improve the ride, Hyundai says. The Azera also has front and rear stabilizer bars. There are anti-lock disc brakes at all four corners. Standard wheels are 16 inches in diameter, while the Limited model receives new 17-inch wheels and 235/55VR17 tires.
All 2011 Hyundai Azera models come equipped with electronic stability control, traction control, eight air bags, and active front headrests. The anti-lock brake system includes Brake Assist, which boosts braking response in a panic stop, and electronic brake-force distribution, which provides stable stopping despite changing vehicle load conditions. An anti-theft engine immobilizer and remote keyless entry with an alarm are standard. The 2011 Hyundai Azera has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top crash-test ratings for frontal offset impacts.
While 3-speed transmissions were popular in the 1970s, today's fuel-efficient vehicles utilize state-of-the-art transmissions with up to 8 gears. In general, an increased number of gears will improve smoothness and efficiency. With that in mind, Hyundai is offering its Azera with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission-a unit engineered and developed completely in-house (Hyundai has used 6-speed automatic transmissions on its vehicles before, but they were always sourced from another supplier-e.g., Aisin supplies the transmission for the Genesis). Developed over a four-year period, the new transmission is 26.4 pounds lighter than the 5-speed unit that it replaces, according to Hyundai. It is shorter, and it has 62 fewer parts-making it simpler and maintenance-free. The manufacturer claims that, with the 6-speed automatic, shifts are smoother and the new transmission helps the company meet toughening fuel efficiency and emissions goals.