Monday, November 19, 2012

Hyundai Azera - The Korean "Avalon"

With the Azera, Hyundai has completed its 24/7 2.0 program. That means they delivered on their promise to bring out seven new or revised vehicles in just 24 months. Pretty darned amazing. The Azera takes off from the popular midsize Sonata and offers a little more room, power and style (and price, of course).

It's hard to remember sometimes where Hyundai was years ago. Odd, derivative, cramped, funny-smelling little transportation modules. But for the last, say, decade, things have really turned around. This new, second-generation Azera sedan offers a long list of standard features, enormous full-size accommodations inside, and, with another take on Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" design template, head-turning style.

The car comes only as a sedan and with just one engine--a 3.3-liter V6, with 293 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. That may be because it not only fits in size between the midsize Sonata and the luxury Genesis sedan, it reserves the four-cylinder engine for the Sonata and two V8s for the Genesis.

Despite its large-midsize proportions, the Azera gets decent mileage. The EPA says 20 City, 28 Highway, with an average of 23. I got 21.9 mph--still reasonable. Environmentally, the car rates 6 for Air Pollution and 5 for Greenhouse Gas - right in the middle. 

The Azera's body is attractive and energetic looking. The customer for this type of car isn't really looking to make a powerfully unique statement, but he or she does want to look up-to-date, and the car has all the right touches. The grille is chrome and prominent. The folds along the body sides are just like you'd find on an Infiniti or even a BMW. The headlamps and taillamps are chock full of jewelry. Hard to believe that not long ago the illuminated parts of cars were plain plastic bars.

Inside, it's a swirl of silvery trim--typical for today, but quite nicely laid out. The only place it looked a little busy was at the windshield pillars, where vents and seams seemed a little forced. At night, the gauges glow brightly and a slim line snakes across the dash and doors. The firm but comfortably padded seats are nice to look at too. Both driver and passenger get numerous get adjustment options--and the controls are right where Mercedes put them--on the door. You could select three levels of heating--and of cooling--for the seats in my tester.

Speaking of seats, Hyundai engineers have developed an impact-reducing seat system for the Azera. It eliminates the need for active front head restraints and is expected to reduce head and neck injuries by 17 percent over the front seats in the previous generation car.

All Azeras come with touch-screen navigation with backup camera standard. No other car in the segment offers this as standard equipment.

Prices begin at $32,000 more or less. That's in the range for cars like this.

My tester came with the Technology Package, for an additional $4,000. For that sizable investment you get 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, HID Xenon headlights, power rear sunshade, manual side window sunshades and the potent Infinity 12-speaker Logic7 audio system with subwoofer and external amplifier. There are several other comfort and convenience features included, too.  

I was impressed by the feel of the Azera on the road. It was smooth, quiet, and had an upscale feeling that Hyundai has figured out how to provide. The Genesis, you expect to be that way, but the Azera has it too, for an affordable price. Good work, Hyundai!

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