Hyundai Azera perfect sedan for a road trip


By Jim Meachen

(March 21, 2013) We were impressed with the totally redesigned Hyundai Azera during a short driving event earlier this year. Our admiration increased after a 1,300-mile road trip that included long stretches of interstate highway as well as miles of winding, narrow mountain roads between Lynchburg, Tenn., and Goldsboro, N.C.

It delivered everything we want and expect in an entry-level luxury sedan  — comfort over long stretches of road, a quiet cabin, pleasing performance for all eventualities, respectable gas mileage, and generous room for four adults and luggage.

The Azera is a stylish and well-equipped sedan for the person who desires to move up from the standard family mid-sized Camry, Accord or Malibu, but who does not want to drop a large chunk of disposable income into personal transportation by moving into the full-blown luxury ranks.

Hyundai offers all the luxury — and performance — many people will ever need or desire with the Azera, which was reworked from the wheels up for the 2012 model year. It slots between the hot-selling Sonata sedan and the more upscale Genesis. In addition to a plethora of standard equipment, the Azera is more stylish, inside and out, than competitors such as the Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300 and Infiniti G Series.

Azera came to market in 2006 as a replacement for the XG sedan, positioned as the automaker's flagship vehicle. It was replaced at the top of the Hyundai food chain just three years later by the rear-drive Genesis, and there it languished relatively unchanged until its all-new replacement finally arrived.

The second-generation Azera is a bold stroke with a starting price of $32,875, which includes standard navigation, leather seating and dramatic new styling inside and out.

The exterior styling follows Hyundai's fluidic sculpture design theme. It features a unique, undulating beltline allowing for a long, sleek roofline accented by the third window and wraparound LED taillights. The face is masculine with a large powerful chrome grille and HID headlamps that integrate precise details. The sedan is accented by available 19-inch multi-spoke wheels. At the rear is a pair of the best-looking exhaust tips in the industry.

The lone engine is a performance-infused 3.3-liter V-6 pumping out 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque returning not only mid-6-second 0-to-60 time, but 29 mpg highway and 20 mpg city on regular gas. Our mileage was an eye-popping 29.5 mpg, a commendable number considering the lead-footed automotive journalists behind the wheel.

The Azera soaked up road imperfections on the back roads of Tennessee and on some well-worm interstate highways like a big luxury car, the interior was luxury-car quiet even at 75 mph, and the 10-way power front driver's seat with lumbar support proved comfortable even at the end of the driving day leaving us unusually refreshed.

The standard navigation system — which worked flawlessly — comes with rearview camera and a 7-inch touch screen. Also standard are segment-first manual side window sunshades, dual automatic climate control, cooled glove box, second row air vents, a wealth of advanced connectivity and Bluetooth hands-free phone system.

Azera’s standard front leather seats (heated and cooled) offer more than 45 inches of legroom and 40 inches of headroom. The standard heated leather rear seat comes with legroom of 36.8 inches and 37.6 inches of headroom. The trunk has 16.3 cubic feet of space, about average for the segment.

The instrument panel has two large dials and a digital information screen located between them. Lighting is a combination of blue and bright white — making the gauges beyond legible. No red-lighted blur from the Koreans. The dashboard has a sweeping design right out of Star Wars.

The steering wheel is loaded with redundant controls. As if driving the new Azera isn’t entertainment enough there’s a standard Dimension AM/FM/Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system with seven speakers and iPod/USB/auxiliary input jacks. If that doesn’t satisfy your eardrums there’s an available Infinity 550-watt, Logic 7 audio system with 12 speakers, including an eight-inch subwoofer and external amplifier.† XM-Sirius stations never sounding better.

Azera addresses safety with a host of standard features such as nine airbags (including a knee airbag), an impact-reducing seat system, Vehicle Stability Management, Electronic Stability Control, four-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock braking system including brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. The only major item missing in our opinion is a Blind Spot Information System, and in talks with Hyundai executives they’ve indicated they’re working on that.

While we’re not big fans of the “packaging” our test car came with including a $4,000 Technical Package that included the up level audio system, 19-inch wheels, Panoramic sunroof, rear parking assistance sensors, power rear sun shade, interior ambient lighting and HID Xenon headlights. We would have avoided the sunroof if we would have had a choice. But in fairness to Hyundai, there are few options and very few are needed in the well-equipped Azera.

The Azera is back offering high style, comfort and performance for a relatively affordable price. And we can attest, it's supremely comfortable for a 1,300-mile round-trip visit to Jack Daniels country.