The 2012 Hyundai Azera’s job is to fill the gap between the $20,000 Sonata
and the $34,000 Genesis
. Upgrading the outgoing Azera’s looks to fit in with Hyundai’s “fluidic design” language and packaging it with several competitive tech features has raised the price of the Azera by about $6000.
It’s a good looking car. Azera skates the thin ice between being a “bigger Sonata” and an all-out-clone of the Lexus ES very well, but, nothing here is as ground breaking as what Hyundai did with the Sonata.
blended a high-end design with a low-end price and became an overnight hit. The Azera’s $32,000 MSRP places it in an uncomfortable position with other brands that are considered more desirable or offer more to the enthusiasts among us. Audi’s A4 is right there. Acura’s TL or BMW’s 328i is a stone’s throw away. Ford, Chrysler
and even Buick’s
signature large cars cost less.
Hyundai is hoping you’ll choose Azera simply because they are including more standard features. AMENITIES
Hyundai continues to impress me with the level of technology they offer in their cars and they seem to have someone working for them that demands each of their models are technologically sophisticated. The Azera comes standard
with an easy-to-use Navigation system, a backup camera and even Bluetooth networking. Heated seats for both passenger and driver are standard.
A $4000 technology package
efficiently adds in all the goodies you’d need to make the Azera a long term keeper. Besides a higher end Infinity 550-watt speaker/subwoofer system, HID headlamps, rear parking sensors, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, power sunshades and ventilated seats, you’ll also get 19” alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof to sharpen up the car’s looks.
The tech package even includes a slide-forward cushion to increase driver thigh support!
I typically don’t get along with voice controlled Navigation units, but, the Azera’s is fairly easy to use if you speak clearly and mention line number commands rather than attempting to speak full words aloud. The premium sound system is loud and powerful, but, I noticed that all of the sound is concentrated above the front dash, rather than the back row. It’s generally better for subwoofers to be in the back window because under maximum performance you get more vibration of the mirrors.
Hyundai also includes its telematics system, “Blue Link”
, which I first used in the Veloster
. Similar to Onstar
, Bluelink alerts emergency services in the event of a crash or allows you to call for help at the push of a button. Blue Link will cost you $79 a year for these basic services, but, if you are willing to spend $179 per year, you get advanced features such as stolen vehicle deactivation (so pursuing cops can laugh at the thief who stole your car as they try to escape at 5 mph). There’s also remote door unlocking over the air.
Of course, at some point, technology becomes Orwellian. With the $179 package, you can receive messages from Hyundai warning you if the car has been driven past a preset speed (or illegally speeding), or if it ventures to someone’s house who you don’t want it venturing to. It can even be enabled to send “check in” updates to Facebook about your location. If you are willing to drop a whopping $279 a year, you get all the aforementioned perks, plus data services that will tell you weather, movie listings, a restaurant guide and navigation based traffic situational reports.
Just what the government and jealous husbands need: domestic spying programs! INTERIOR
The Azera’s interior looks a helluva’ lot better in pictures than it does in person. Though there is use of soft touch materials throughout the cabin, the overwhelming majority of Azera’s greenhouse is hard plastics or impact foam. There is a carbon-fiber trim (which Hyundai calls “3D-Carbon”), some brushed aluminum and luxurious-looking color contrasts, but, this car doesn’t escape rent-a-car feel like big brother Genesis. The feature that truly left a bad taste in my mouth was the Mercedes-like seat adjustment panel on the door… The headrest button doesn’t do anything at all because the headrests aren’t motorized. WTF?
What did impress me was that even sitting with my seat as far back as it would go on its track - tilted back in my usual driving manner - there was still plenty of room behind me for another adult - myself included. Azera offers a best-in-class 45.5” of legroom up front and 36.8” in back. Sometimes cars claim interior dimensions you can’t readily feel. Azera delivers on this. The coupe-like roofline is also very high allowing me to be more comfortable in the backseat than I am in either the new Toyota Camry
or the current Nissan Altima.
Azera also has a deep trunk which will swallow 16.3 cubes
. If that isn’t enough, the rear bench folds down offering a gaping pass-through for your Walmart scores. DRIVING THE AZERA
The Azera is currently only available with a 3.3-liter V6 which makes 293 horsepower/ 255-lb ft of torque on regular unleaded gasoline. Since the Sonata is only available with a 4-cylinder or a Turbo-4, Azera is targeting customers who wanted a more powerful V6, but, live in places where the rear wheel drive Genesis couldn’t serve their needs. Hopefully an AWD version will be offered eventually.
The Azera’s powertrain offers almost 50% more power than the Sonata’s, yet, it takes the Azera almost 7 seconds to pull from 0 – 60. Perhaps it’s the lazy 6-speed automatic to blame? Azera doesn’t feel slow, but, it doesn’t offer the same sense of thrust the V6 powered Genesis does. For people happy with the power provided in the Hyundai Sonata or Kia Optima, Azera will be more than enough. After all; speed limits around here have been arbitrarily changed to 40mph.
Where the Azera will leave a lukewarm impression is its handling and ride quality. I won’t even bother comparing this car to anything offered by Ze’ German’s because Azera in no way competes. I found the ride to be overly rough on the standard 18’s (and the upgraded 19’s) while wind noise aggressively permeated the cabin at highway speeds. The Sonata and Genesis, by comparison, offer much quieter experiences.
Azera offers a standard adaptive suspension to supplement its somewhat soft springs. Handling isn’t communicative at all. On center, the Azera's aestetically pleasing wheel is about as responsive as Sarah Palin
to a question regarding America’s missile defense systems. I’m used to this in FWD sedans. Of course, those of you who drive Camry
, Sonata, Prius or other “appliances” to get you back and forth to work probably won’t notice. What you may notice is the car’s inability to resist sway and yaw in high winds. This becomes painfully obvious when you compare its inclement weather composure to its previously superior performance in fair weather when it used to track straight. Even worse, to counteract torque steer, you’ll sometimes notice an artificial pulling sensation when you don’t want it.
At around just 3800 pounds, the Azera’s relatively light mass gives it a power-to-weight advantage over other full sized cars such as the Buick Lacrosse
and the Ford Taurus which are forced to carry excessive amounts of bulk. The only other full sized car values I can think of similar in size and weight that offer more zoom are the RWD 2012 Charger
with the ZF sourced 8-speed transmission driven Pentastar V6. Those cars are available with AWD and cost less than Azera.
Azera claims it can achieve 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. With a very light foot and a stretch of highway, I was able to see 22 mpg
(combined). It certainly stands to reason ticker statements of 29 mpg could be pulled off, but, you will have to drive the car in the boredom of “eco mode” – power is stripped away as the throttle slackens and the tranny seeks the highest gears. THE BOTTOM LINE
While I was initially excited about the new Azera, I’m slightly disappointed after having driven one over a multi-state long distance. Even though it carries the upscale look of a Lexus and as much technology as a car costing twice as much… it simply can’t escape its economy class underpinnings. It just doesn’t drive like a luxury car is supposed to drive.
Is the Azera worth the nearly $13,000 premium over a Sonata
? That depends on your needs. The major attraction here is the interior space and the more powerful V6 engine, but, without having optional AWD, it doesn’t clearly edge out the Genesis for buyers who live in slippery places.
Amount Paid (US$):
Model and Options:
Azera with Tech Package