While Hyundai's rear-wheel-drive Genesis and Equus pursue the mid-level of the import sports sedan market, the front-wheel-drive Azera aspires more modestly to compete with entry-level luxury rides such as the Lexus ES and Acura TL.
This four-door, five-passenger sedan is powered by a remarkably efficient 293-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 driving the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transaxle outfitted with the Shiftronic manual shift feature.
Azera was redesigned and re-engineered from the pavement up for 2012. The 2013 Azera benefits from further refinement that has improved fuel economy a bit more. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Hyundai Azera is now 20/30 mpg City/Highway.
Hyundai Azera is larger and more luxurious than a typical midsize sedan. Azera compares well with the Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, and Ford Taurus, all large, front-wheel-drive sedans typically loaded with leather and all the bells and whistles. Hyundai claims that 61 percent of Azera buyers trade in other brands, so it would seem that the Azera is luring customers away from the other cars on this list.
Our test drive revealed the Azera to be comfortable for long distance cruising and economical for urban transport. Azera is smooth and quiet, it gets excellent fuel economy, and its cabin is nicely furnished with quality materials and controls that are easy to operate.
There's only one trim level, one powertrain, one price and one option, so picking the Azera you want is very easy. Azera comes standard with features often optional in this class. Heading the list is a full-featured navigation system with rearview camera and automatic, dual-zone climate control. Leather is standard as are HD Radio and XM Satellite Radio, a 10-way power driver's seat and 8-way power front passenger seat. The seats are heated, front and rear. The single option package includes ventilating fans for the front seats, a 550-watt premium sound system, a two-pane panoramic sunroof, and a power rear sunshade complemented by manual sunshades on the rear side door windows.
Azera also gets Hyundai's Active ECO system that reins in throttle response and alters the transmission's shift points to eke out more miles per gallon. Under the right conditions, Hyundai's engineers say this system can boost fuel efficiency by more than 5 percent. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 20/29 mpg City/Highway.
The second-generation Azera's styling presents a less flamboyant iteration of the Fluidic Sculpture motif that debuted on the 2010 Sonata. Where the Sonata's arrays of flowing curved lines flowed strongly and consistently from grille to trunk, the Azera presents, shall we say, an interesting blend of subdued echoes of the marque's motif, with a stately front view, a sporty side view and a classy rear view. The lineage is indisputable, but the Azera's visions are unique. Not all car makers can carry this off, but Hyundai manages to do so with panache.
Interior treatment, materials and finishing are top end. It's everything that's needed, with nothing that isn't, and all where it should be. Controls are well marked and easy to operate. Instruments communicate needed information as does the 7-inch, touchscreen navigation system with rearview camera display. The interior is roomy, too, and ahead of the competitors in a number of measurements, not the least being all-important front seat head room and leg room.
Ride and handling are well mannered. It's tuned for comfortable long distance cruising and economical urban transport, not sporty handling. Automatically adjusting shock absorbers smooth high-mileage interstates and urban streets. Capping it off, the Azera adds to Hyundai's recent string of strikingly quiet cars, attributable in part to well placed sound deadening but also to sophisticated vibration isolating and motion counterbalancing underhood structures.
The 2013 Hyundai Azera ($32,250) comes standard with automatic, dual-zone climate control; touch screen navigation system; power driver and front passenger seat; heated front and rear seats and outside mirrors; leather trimming on all seats and on the steering wheel and shift knob; keyless proximity lock and unlock and push button engine start and stop; 450-watt, multi-media audio system with HD Radio, XM satellite radio with a 3-month trial subscription and iPod/USB and auxiliary inputs; and Bluetooth capability with Blue Link telematics.
The Technology Package ($4000) adds a power tilt-and-slide, two-pane, panoramic sunroof; power adjustable, tilt-and-telescope steering column; two-setting memory for driver's seat, outside mirrors and steering column; fan-ventilated front seats; Infinity premium speaker system with subwoofer and 550-watt external amplifier; power rear sunshade and manual rear side window shades; and parking assistance sensors.
Safety features comprise front, side and curtain airbags, plus a driver's knee airbag for a total of nine airbags; rear-impact reducing front seats; electronic stability control with traction control; antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist; tire pressure monitoring system; and a rearview camera.