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Driven: 2014 Hyundai Azera sets sail for value

Today the full-sized sedan market is just as hot as ever. Hyundai now having moved well up market, handed us the keys to their Azera sedan for a week to see how it compares to rivals like the Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, and Buick LaCrosse.

2014 Hyundai Azera sets sail for value
2014 Hyundai Azera sets sail for valueSam Haymart
2014 Hyundai Azera sets sail for value
2014 Hyundai Azera sets sail for valueSam Haymart

At first sight, Hyundai's Azera has a handsome and artistic design with a well balanced silhouette. It almost has the presence of a luxury speed boat in its details and presentation with sleek lines and flourishes that bring motion with them.

A look at the slender chrome line originating from its Xenon headlights which flows back into the green house or the rear hip line that sails gracefully into the rear deck, you just see it all comes together naturally and without pretentiousness.

Inside, the cabin offers up the same theme of flowing lines and sculpted forms which surround a spacious and comfortable environment for five passengers. The dash, doors and console all flow together, telling you the designers really put in the effort.

There are a variety of unique finishes and soft touch materials come together well to set a relaxing mood, which even has accent back-lighting at night. Our Limited had all the popular features like touch screen infotainment and navigation, heated and cooled seats, and a large two-panel panoramic roof that really lights up the space.

The cockpit is pleasing to the eye and offers up most controls within easy reach. A center stack with a winged design has traditional controls for HVAC and audio functions to go along with touchscreen menus.

While the cabin is very well executed, the console storage doors and trim around the shifter are uncharacteristically flimsy and cheap in their feel and execution. They seem very much out of place with the rest of the interior which has much higher quality materials.

The infotainment screen offers up an “I Agree” button that must be pressed every time you start the car to see your radio stations, navigation screen or menus. It's a disclaimer that the company's lawyers no doubt require, but it's a bit of an annoyance most other brands don't foist upon you.

Once past the legal disclaimer however the touchscreen infotainment and navigation system is one of the more easy to use with intuitive menus, clear readable graphics, and responds well to your touch.

The seating surfaces have rich leather with perforated center sections to aid in the ventilation feature which worked exceptionally well here in our Arizona heat. Both driver and passenger enjoy power seats adjustable with a door mounted panel shaped like the seat.

Rear seat room is commodious with generous leg room as well as head room. The door opening is large enough for ease of entry without hitting your head despite the fast roof line. Missing on this top level model is rear controls for HVAC however.

The trunk's cargo volume is one of the smaller in its class with some 16.3 cubic feet, the competition offering up to 20 cubic feet. Rear seats do fold down with a 60/40 split, offering a pass-through area for longer items.

Under the hood is a DOHC 3.3 liter V6 with direct-injection making 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. It's teamed up with a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode.

Power from the V6 is good but requires high revs to really dip into, the torque coming on at a relatively high RPM level. This makes spirited driving a bit of a noisy experience as the engine get a bit grainy when pushed.

The Azera rides on a long 112” wheelbase, is 73” wide and weighs in at 3,825 lbs, making it a substantially sized car by today's standards all of which contribute to its solid feel on the road.

The ride is as expected very quiet and smooth. The only exception is the occasional tar strip, man-hole cover or pot hole can feel somewhat brittle due to the larger 19” wheels on our tester. A lesser trim level with 18” wheels would provide a softer ride.

Starting at $31,000, the 2014 Hyundai Azera isn't the least expensive in its class but makes the value play by offering more power, the most interior space as well as standard features like leather seats and back-up camera just to name a few.

The EPA rates the 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited at 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. We achieved a combined observed fuel economy of 25.6 mpg which was a good deal more than expected, which is always a bonus.