With the 2012 Hyundai Azera, the Korean automaker is once again surprising and delighting the marketplace.
To start with, this thing is gorgeous. While it might look similar to the handsome Sonata in pictures, it’s a significantly larger vehicle in person, with long sweeping lines and undeniable presence that make a lasting impression. Our tester, in Smoke Gray Metallic with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels had a sleek Jaguar-like quality to it, and we caught ourselves doing a double take several times after parking and walking away.
We wouldn’t expect a $32,000 Hyundai to drive like a $73,000 Jaguar, but we doubt that the affordable luxury buyer will be disappointed. Power is supplied by a 293 horsepower, 3.3L V6 engine, and while it takes a little more push on the throttle than you might expect to get it to hustle, acceleration is quite good when you let it wind out a bit. The standard 6-speed automatic is very smooth in operation, but sluggish if you try to use the Shiftronic manual mode.
The message is clear: this is not a sports car, or even a sport sedan, so sit back, and let it waft you along. If you do, you’ll enjoy fuel economy in the low to mid 20’s, which is very reasonable for such a large vehicle.
Ride and handling reinforce the Azera’s cushy mission in life. Comfortable and quiet, the ride is very pleasant, and you wouldn’t hesitate for a moment taking the big Hyundai on a cross-country jaunt.
And you’d have room to bring plenty of friends or family as well. Hyundai says the Azera has the most interior room in its class, and we believe it. A 6-foot tall passenger can sit behind a 6-foot driver comfortably.
Those in front will find exceptionally comfortable seats, with Mercedes-like power controls on the door panels. A nice touch, our tester had the optional 12-way power driver’s seat with lower cushion extension, a real plus for longer-legged drivers. The rear seats are also comfy for two, and the Azera’s trunk is one of the largest in its class as well.
The layout of the switches is much like the Elantra and Sonata – thoughtful and well placed – with a feeling of higher quality materials that befits the Azera’s status. Again like other Hyundai products, the audio/navi/Bluetooth is notably easy to use. We especially liked being able to load in destinations by voice on the navi system while on the move.
Our tester had the Infinity premium audio system that sounded terrific, although we wonder why it needs what must be the world’s largest volume knob mounted in the center console. Well, at least it’s hard to miss.
As Hyundai’s luxury flagship before you enter the Genesis lineup, the Azera comes comprehensively equipped to start, with all the usual goods, plus nice surprises like front and rear heated leather seats, navigation, dual-zone climate control and Blue Link telematics. For $32,000, it’s an impressive value.
Hyundai offers one package for the Azera, the $4,000 Technology Package, and our tester was so equipped. It features the 19-inch alloys we mentioned, a panoramic sunroof with power sunshades, High intensity Xenon headlights, Rear parking assistance sensors, Infinity audio system, ventilated front seats, power rear sunshade and manual side window sunshades, power tilt and telescopic wheel, driver’s memory system and interior ambient lighting. Pretty darn luxurious!
All told, our tester came in at just over $37,000. Compared to most entry-level luxury cars like Lexus and Acura it’s significantly less expensive. Perhaps its greatest competitor would be an entry level Genesis sedan. We think the Genesis would appeal more to a European car buyer, though, and the Azera more to those who like a more American interpretation of luxury.
So Hyundai continues to impress us, from making excellent small, affordable cars, to its premium Genesis and Equus lines. The Azera is the flagship for the Hyundai label, and it is one sweet luxury sedan. Now if you’ll excuse us, we want to take another long look at that beautiful design.