2018 Hyundai Sonata Spyshots-04

It has been two years since the current Hyundai Sonata LF surfaced, and a facelift of the D-segment sedan is due soon. Right on cue, the 2018 Hyundai Sonata has been caught on camera for the first time, undergoing hot weather testing in the Mojave desert in the US.

This facelift is expected to be a relatively major one, as there have been talk about the the seventh-gen Sonata‘s relatively conservative design failing to excite the US midsize market.

In April, Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski confirmed the plans for the 2018 Sonata facelift, saying that “the front end looks completely different,” and the new look is “beautiful” and “very well executed.” He said that Hyundai needs to keep its styling edge, in reference to the bold and successful previous-gen YF, which introduced Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” to the world.

2018 Hyundai Sonata N Spyshots-14

“I told the story to our parent company (of driving the old Sonata) home, (and) people were rolling down their window at stop signs, following me, (asking), ‘What is that? Where can I get it?’ And I don’t get that (with the new one). That was free advertising, right? People would seek us out because we look different. And we don’t get that now,” Zuchowski said.

Let’s take a closer look at these shots, which give some pretty good clues. The current Sonata is handsome and classy, but we’re expecting a new face that’s bolder and more edgy for the redesign. It shouldn’t be too far away from the front design of the new Elantra, with a flatter and sharper full-height hexagon grille visible behind the disguise.

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The headlamps and LED daytime running lights should follow the same template – the former with a sharper gaze and the DRLs vertical instead of horizontal. The fresh Civic-rival has three scallops on each side as tail lamp signatures, and the 2018 Sonata appears to have the same layout beneath the covers. The Hyundai’s distinctive coupe-style roofline remains.

Our desert snappers spotted another Sonata on test, and this one had typical “sporty” cues that was missing in the standard car. Big black five-spoke wheels, a honeycomb mesh grille pattern in place of the horizontal slats and twin exhaust pipes (one on each side) hint at a performance variant. A Hyundai Sonata N perhaps?

Word is that the 2018 Sonata will get an eight-speed automatic gearbox to improve performance and efficiency. Hyundai is developing a high-output version (over 260 hp possible) of a 2.0 litre turbo four for the i30 N – could this also end up in the Sonata?

GALLERY: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Spyshots

GALLERY: 2018 Hyundai Sonata “N” Spyshots

GALLERY: Current Hyundai Sonata LF