LAS VEGAS -- Hyundai is asking a hefty $6,600 more for the redesigned 2012 Azera, but for the extra cash shoppers get more upscale features, horsepower and style than the outgoing model provided.
The base Azera starts at $32,875, including shipping.
The Azera slots between the Sonata and Genesis sedans. The 2012 model is the first redesigned version since U.S. sales began in 2005.
The basics: A gasoline direct-injection 3.3-liter V-6 is the Azera's only engine, replacing a 3.3-liter V-6 and optional 3.8-liter V-6 on the outgoing model. The new engine's 293 hp outmuscles the 2011 Azera's bigger engine and gets slightly better fuel economy than the older 3.3-liter.
The front-wheel-drive Azera rides on a longer wheelbase than the Sonata and is longer and wider. The Azera also has isolated front and rear subframes to create a quieter cabin; only the rear subframe is isolated on the Sonata.
Notable features: Standard are heated front and rear leather seats, a navigation system with a 7-inch touch-screen and a rearview camera.
Hyundai contends that good interior packaging gives the Azera more passenger room and total interior volume than the Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL, while its exterior dimensions are roughly in the middle of that group.
What Hyundai says: "We now have 1.25 million Sonata owners," says Mike O'Brien, vice president of product planning for Hyundai Motor America. "Azera's core role is really as a good move-up step from Sonata buyers."
The market: John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, says vehicles in the Azera's segment account for about 600,000 annual U.S. sales, of which about half go to fleets. Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai's U.S. sales boss, said in November that early company planning anticipated about 15,000 units would be available for U.S. sales in 2012. In 2011, Hyundai sold 1,524 Azeras in the United States.
The skinny: The outgoing model had no marketing support, plain looks and was Hyundai's worst-selling U.S. vehicle. Hyundai hopes the Azera will be a solid competitor in the upscale sedan segment.