2012 Hyundai Azera

LAS VEGAS — There’s a hit song by the Eurythmics called "Sweet Dreams" that has a line, “Sweet dreams are made of these.” After test-driving the all-new 2012 Hyundai Azera it sounds like lead singer Annie Lennox must have just driven one, too.

The front-wheel-drive, premium sedan is the fifth vehicle to adopt Hyundai’s signature Fluidic Sculpture design language. This is supposed to signify a modern, sleek, sophisticated style that creates the illusion of constant motion. Size-wise it sits between Hyundai’s upscale Genesis and its best-selling Sonata.

Azera has all that and more. The styling is long, low and light. Its unique, undulating beltline allows 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. Its muscular stance is accented by available 19-inch multi-spoke wheels. At the rear is a pair of the best-looking exhaust tips in the industry.

What good is styling if you’re not wrapped in safety and the second-generation Azera addresses that with a host of standard features like 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.

All 2012 Azeras are powered by a 3.3-liter GDI DOHC 24-valve V-6 that produces 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. It’s bolted to a 6-speed electronic automatic with OD lock-up torque converter, shift lock and SHIFTRONIC manual shift mode.

This powertrain is good for an EPA fuel economy estimate of 20 mpg city/29 highway for a combined rating of 23 mpg. Run the numbers and from Azera’s 18.5 gallon tank you could conceivably go over 535 miles. Its powertrain also has an Active Eco mode that modifies engine and transmission control for improved fuel economy that translates into more than a 5 percent improvement.

And with Azera’s improved ride there may be bumps in that road…but you’ll seldom feel them. Whereas the first-generation Azera road comfortably on the softer side the new Azera has a more solid feel. Driving on some of the “planet long” roads of the Nevada desert and at aggressive speeds on some curvy mountain roads, Azera was definitely in its element.

The interior must have been designed with a private club in mind. Standard are leather with heated front and rear seats, a segment-exclusive standard navigation system with rearview camera and a 7-inch touch screen, 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. Like wide-open spaces do you? Azera’s front seat offers more than 45” of legroom and 40” of headroom. Rear-seaters aren’t that slighted, either, with legroom of 36.8” and headroom of 37.6”. The trunk is huge, with 16.3 cubic feet of space.

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. HD Radio technology is standard as well.

The 2012 Azera offers a choice of eight exterior colors and three interior color choices. All this and the inclusion of Hyundai’s fabled 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable new vehicle warranty, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-years of complimentary Roadside Assistance.

It’s also targeted some of the toughest competition in the segment, like Avalon, Maxima, LaCrosse and Taurus. And don’t forget the Lexus ES 350 and the Acura TL.

MSRP for the standard 2012 Azera is $32,000, $36,000 for the Technical Package edition. Freight is an additional $875.

— Al Vinikour