The Hyundai Azera is a four-door sedan with near-luxury features and an affordable price. Though not as up-scale as Hyundai’s Genesis or Equus, it is a logical larger alternative to the Sonata.
The Azera got off to a shaky start when first introduced in 2006 as a replacement for Hyundai's first attempts at premium sedans, the XG300 and XG350. Completely and impressively redesigned for 2012, Azera returns unchanged for 2013 in a single, well-equipped trim level.
Like the difference between night and day, body styling has gone from ordinary to exciting. The full-size Azera looks a lot like a larger version of the automaker's midsize Sonata, and that’s not a bad thing. As with many of Hyundai's recent models, designers have used the 'fluidic sculpture' theme and focused lots of attention on seemingly small details. Attractive sheetmetal with bold character lines in the flanks, integrated exhaust outlets HID xenon headlamps, nicely sculpted LED taillamps and side mirrors with build-in turn-signal indicators contribute to Azera's sporty, upscale personality.
The new interior continues the radical departure from Azera's formerly staid styling, with materials that are considerably better than before. The interior design is similar to that of the Sonata though the standard leather upholstery gives the cabin a feeling of luxury. The interior's main attraction is its roominess. The16.3 cu.ft. trunk is large enough for family travel.
Whether you're carrying family or business colleagues, the Azera has the seating space, smooth ride and luxury-car feel, to keep everyone comfortable. Front seats are adjustable to a wide range of sizes, and in back, there's plenty of legroom, as well as adequate headroom for adults. Although the middle position isn't quite as spacious, the roofline makes getting in and out a bit challenging.
The long list of standard features includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats with driver lumbar adjustment, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, heated front and rear seats, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, chilled glovebox, auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation system, touchscreen interface, BlueLink emergency communications and a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface and HD radio.
The only option is a Technology package, which adds 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, a power rear sunshade, manual side window sunshades, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver seat memory functions, power-adjustable driver thigh support, ventilated front seats, interior ambient lighting and a premium Infinity 14-speaker sound system.
The 2013 Azera uses Hyundai’s 3.3-liter ‘Lamda’ V6 that produces 293 hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque on regular gasoline. This all-alloy engine has direct injection and incorporates dual continuously variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder, and double overhead cams, plus a three-stage variable intake system.
Hyundai’s smooth and responsive six-speed automatic includes a Shiftronic manual mode and a wide range of gear ratios to allow quick takeoffs, strong passing capability, and relaxed cruising. During our test drive, a sprint from 0 to 60 mph took a respectable 6.7 seconds. Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway/23 mpg combined.
The Azera has a MacPherson strut-type front system, and a multi-link setup in back, but Sachs amplitude-selective dampers help filter out minor bumps without sacrificing body control. Contrary to what the so-called auto experts would have you believe, the suspension provides a pleasant balance between ride quality and handling dynamics.
The 19-inch wheels and tires that come in the Technology Package look good, but add some harshness without a big payback in performance.
Like just about every automaker, Hyundai has learned a lot about tuning electric power steering. Azera steering has good on-center feel and is properly weighted for normal driving. If you want something more sporty and involving, Hyundai offers several versions of its Genesis. You can drive an Azera all-day long and not feel beaten up by a stiff suspension and you can still have some fun driving twisty mountain roads.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price for the 2013 Hyundai Azera starts at $33,125. The $4,000 Technology Package is the only option.