2013 Hyundai Azera Ride and Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Hyundai Azera

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2013/2012 Hyundai Azera

Hyundai is aggressively gaining market share in the best way -- by not only meeting its competition, but beating it on price, standard equipment, and build quality. And not just in the sub-compact, compact, and midsize classes, but in near-luxury and luxury as well.

Case in point: the second-generation Azera, new for 2012. The Azera fits neatly into a rather wide gap between Hyundai's midsize, middle-class Sonata and larger, mid-luxury Genesis sedan. If the concept of "luxury Hyundai" seems odd to you, it's no longer the late 1980s. Then, Hyundais were bottom-feeder cheap in the most pejorative sense of the word. Now, "value" is the key word, with distinctive looks for all models, and in the Azera, the expected upscale driving experience as well. The Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, and upper levels of the Ford Taurus are prominently targeted as competition, and the Azera has absolutely no problem holding its own against any of those worthy automobiles. Or some a class higher…

The Azera nameplate debuted for model year 2006. 2012 saw introduction of the second generation. It's a touch larger, with more power from a smaller and more efficient engine. There is no "base" model with cloth upholstery and lacking in upscale amenities -- leather-appointed seats, power in front and heated all around, proximity key access with push-button stop/start, a navigation system, backup camera, audio system with all of the expected format choices including XM and HD radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and Hyundai's "Blue Link" telematics system are standard in all. As is a 3.3-liter V6 that uses continuously-variable cam phasing and direct fuel injection to make 293 horsepower, driving the front wheels through Hyundai's own six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic® manual mode. The only option package is the comprehensive "Technology Package" with 19-inch wheels and tires, a double-pane panoramic moonroof, HID headlights, backup sonar, cooled and ventilated front seats (in addition to heat, still for all), power adjustment for the steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, and rear sunshades, power for the back window and manual for the sides as the key components.

Which makes for a car that is very much a contemporary entry-luxury automobile, as I found during a recent week with a 2012 Azera so equipped. It has the quiet comfort expected in a luxury car, and all of the accoutrements. Build quality is at least as good as any vehicle in the class, if not better. There's no shortage of power. ECO mode modifies engine and transmission response to improve fuel economy, with little drawback. The suspension is tuned for, and delivers, comfort, as is appropriate to a luxury car. As with other current luxury sedans, handling response is far better than the class standard of a generation, or even decade, ago. If you're looking for a spacious luxury sedan with all the trimmings and don't have a need for a designer label, the Hyundai Azera is a good choice.

2013 update: The example I tested was a 2012 model. As I started writing this review, I got notice of the availability of 2013 information from Hyundai. Since the Azera was new for 2012, I wasn't expecting much change. And there isn't much besides a slight improvement in fuel economy ratings from 20 mpg city, 29 highway, 23 combined to 20/20/24, making the Azera the first V6 Hyundai to best 30 mpg highway.

APPEARANCE: The "Fluidic Sculpture" design language seen most prominently on the Sonata is further developed on the Azera. It's curvaceous and distinctive, very busy but well-integrated. A wing-shaped chrome grille is flanked by LED-trimmed headlights, with large foglamps in the fascia below. The hood edges are sharply-raised, with twin cutlines at the center visually banishing any boring expanse of sheetmetal. Chrome trim surrounds the side windows, a typical stylistic trick denoting luxury -- but here the lower strip extends forward all the way to the junction with the hood. The rear quarters get an interesting treatment -- is someone at Hyundai paying tribute to American tailfins of the 1950s? Or is it merely parallel evolution? A highly-raked windshield and backlight extend the passenger cabin and give it a near-fastback shape; there's no hint of a formal sedan roofline. LED taillights in a full-width appliqué and oversize exhaust tips through the rear bumper fascia make the Azera distinctive from the rear.

COMFORT: Inside, the Azera is as complexly-shaped as out. But fashion doesn't intrude on function. Materials and fit and finish are first-rate, and there are multiple textures and colors to prevent visual boredom. The electroluminescent main instruments are protected from glare under a hood directly in front of the steering wheel, while the center stack, with a hard button and touch screen interface for the navigation and audio systems, is also shaded at its top. The nav screen doubles for the rear-view camera when backing. Interesting "3D Carbon" panels surround the iconic seat controls on the front doors. Brightly-lit main instruments and controls ensure ease of use, day and night. Seat comfort is as good as expected, with the bonus, with the Technology Package, of both heating and cooling for front occupants. Included with that package is power adjustment of the steering wheel, which has cruise, information, phone, and auxiliary audio controls. The glovebox locks, and there is further storage in the doors, with bottle holders. Hey, upscale people need to stay hydrated too! Rear passengers have spacious accommodation. The rear seat is contoured for two, but a low central tunnel makes a third person in the center at least a short-term possibility. Only the front panel of the panoramic moonroof opens (tilt and slide) but separately-controllable shades allow either or both to be open to the view above as desired. The trunk opening is a bit small, but there's plenty of room within, and a space-saver spare under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: The expected safety features -- including a full complement of airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, integrated electronic stability control and traction control, front and rear crumple zones, three-point safety belts for all passengers -- are further enhanced by impact-reducing front seats that use an optimized seatback structure to eliminate the need for active head restraints.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Interior quiet and a smooth, comfortable ride are what's important in the luxury class, and that is what passengers in a Hyundai Azera will find. It has a very European feel, with moderate spring rates and good damping in its fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension. The Azera is light for its size and class, which helps response to driver inputs, whether for a quick pace down an indifferently-paved road or to avoid an accident.

PERFORMANCE: Nowhere does Hyundai's march to the front show as well as under the hood. The second-generation Azera bests the old model in power, economy, emissions, and refinement -- with a smaller engine. Power -- maximum 293 horsepower (at 6400 rpm) and 255 lb-ft of torque (at 5200 rpm) is from 3.3 liters, versus the old 3.8. Thank direct fuel injection for that, as it allows a higher compression ratio for increased power and efficiency. Further improvement comes from continuously-variable phasing of all four camshafts in the 24-valve, dual overhead cam design, and a three-stage variable-length intake system. It drives the front wheels through Hyundai's own six-speed automatic transmission, which shifts quickly and smoothly, making the "Shiftronic" manual-shift mode mostly moot. There is absolutely no power shortage, even in "ECO" mode, which reprograms engine and transmission management systems for more efficient operation. EPA figures for the 2012 model are 20 mpg city, 29 highway, and 23 overall. I got an easy 22, with mostly city and secondary road driving.

CONCLUSIONS: The new Hyundai Azera is a serious contender in the midsize/large near-luxury sedan class.

SPECIFICATIONS
2012/2013 Hyundai Azera

Base Price			$ 32,000 (2012)
Price As Tested			$ 36,875 (2012)
Engine Type			DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with
				 variable cam phasing and direct fuel
				 injection
Engine Size			3.3 liters / 204 cu. in.
Horsepower			293 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			255 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		112.0 in. / 193.3 in.
Curb Weight			3825 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.1
Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
				 recommended
Tires				P245/40 R19 94V Hankook Optimo H426
				 (opt)
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 ABS, EBD, BA, TCS, VSM standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multi-link
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 29 / 22
0 to 60 mph				6.4  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Technology Package -- includes:
  19" Hyper Silver wheels with P245/40 tires, panoramic
  tilt-and-slide moonroof, HID Xenon headlights, rear
  parking assistance sensors, Infinity® audio system,
  ventilated front seats, driver's seat cushion extension,
  power rear sunshade and manual rear side shades,
  power-adjustable tilt-and-telescope steering column,
  integrated memory system for driver position,
  interior ambient lighting				$ 4,000 (2012)
Destination charge					$   875

Complete specifications on the 2012 Hyundai Azera 3.3L and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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