2012 Hyundai Azera First Drive

The New Azera is Restyled to Cruise with the Improving Competition

What It Is/Who It's For
A distinctly styled full-size sedan, the 2012 Hyundai Azera is meant for executives, families, and the golf set alike.

Best Thing
Reflecting the latest Hyundai design language, your kids won't be embarrassed to hop in the back. The new interior is also one you'll want to show off.

Worst Thing
If you want any semblance of a sporty ride, look elsewhere.

Snap Judgment
Hyundai has elevated the Azera with bold exterior styling and an elegant interior. With all the competition in the large sedan market these days, that's a good thing.

Introduction

The large sedan market was once a staid affair, with automakers offering styling as safe as the cars themselves. In recent years the segment has evolved to offer a sporty, elegant aesthetic. Cars like the Toyota Avalon have stiff competition from the more aggressively styled Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, and Chrysler 300. Not to be left out of the party, Hyundai has bestowed its fluidic sculpture design language on its latest iteration of the Azera. And it's not just the outside that's gotten the treatment. Inside the Azera offers a cabin replete with premium accents and solid craftsmanship.

Hyundai sent us out to Las Vegas to check out its latest front-wheel-drive sedan (and dry our skin out, feed us yummy things, and put us in a hotel where the lighting and curtains were controlled by an iPad-like tablet). We got just enough time on our drive from the Spring Mountain track (where we drove the 2013 Hyundai Genesis) back to our hotel on the Las Vegas strip to make a few initial observations about the 2012 Azera.

The model we drove had a Technology Package that added $4,000 to the base price of $32,000, bringing our model to $36,875 after delivery. The entry-level Azera is already well equipped with: heated front and rear leather seats; 18-inch alloy wheels; Bluetooth; and Hyundai's Blue Link Telematics System all as standard features. With the package added, we got: bigger tires at 19-inches; a full panoramic sunroof; Xenon headlights; rear-parking sensors; premium audio; a cooled function for the seats, and a few other goodies. Needless to say, there was a lot of car to evaluate.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Walkaround

We're just going to come out and say it: the last generation Azera was a yawn-inducing, slightly depressing car. But, like Hyundai itself, things have changed, and not just a little. The all new 2012 Azera brings a fresh, aggressive and welcomed aesthetic to the class. The sophomore features all of the sculpting and body work that is defining Hyundai's new crop of cars. The chrome grille is as commanding as the large Xenon headlights and fog-lights are dramatic. The sloping beltline is assertive and sporty. The doors are sculpted and bulge towards the rear. The wraparound taillights and dual-pipe exhaust in keep things lively in back, too.

The change is inspiring, as if an Azera driver might rush to the airport to make that afternoon flight to the other coast, while the driver of say, a Toyota Avalon might be mulling the senior matinee at the local AMC. Taste aside, if nothing else, the Azera can now compete with the restyled Ford Taurus, and Buick LaCrosse, which are pretty good lookers as well.

Getting Inside

No matter what options one might add to the Azera, you're going to end up with a fresh, premium feeling car. Heated leather seats are standard, for both front and rear passengers. That sentence is worth reading over again. Bear in mind these features come on an entry-level $32k model. If nothing else, the interior is airy and modern, comfortable and stylish. The center console has lots of brushed metal and a couple of piano-black knobs that make everything look and feel new and current. Leg room and headroom is abundant for both front and rear passengers. The instrument gauges look clean and fresh, and the steering wheel is suitable for the car. About the only thing we could find that wasn't agreeable was a new car stench, not smell, but a harsh chemical odor that resembling paint finish or perhaps something sprayed on the leather.

Driving

There's only one engine option for the Azera, and really, that's half the reason this car exists. The Hyundai Sonata, which slots just below the Azera, features an all-four-cylinder powertrain lineup. The Genesis sedan, which slots just above the Azera, has bigger engines to match the bigger price tag. So Hyundai gave Azera customers a 3.3-liter V-6 engine, which produces an ample 293-horsepower. Fuel economy estimates, at 20 mpg city and 29 mpg on the highway, match the competing Toyota Avalon and surpass the Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus. On the road, the 2012 Azera is a comfy cruiser. We reached triple-digit highway speeds with barely a peep from the engine. Road noise was minimal, and it's clear Hyundai tuned this ride for comfort. The road we drove on didn't afford much in the way to evaluate handling and cornering, but with the mostly straight smooth road, the Azera was much in its element. For jaunts in the city or long road trips, the Azera will provide a pleasurable ride.

Summary

The 2012 Hyundai Azera is all-new, and is priced aggressively to stake claim on the large sedan market. With bold, aggressive styling, a premium, streamlined interior, and many features as standard, the Azera is a comfy cruiser to be reckoned with. The Azera's 3.3-liter V-6 engine offers ample power, while boasting good fuel economy at the same time. With its newest sedan, Hyundai shows us it aims to be a player in the segment.

We're anxious to get behind the wheel again on our familiar roads where we can really gauge road noise, maneuverability, tinker around with the stereo, and see what real-world driving in the 2012 Hyundai Azera is like. For instance, what kind of mileage will we average in our Southern California commute? We're also curious to see if the new styling will turn many heads around Los Angeles, which is notoriously car-conscious.

Basic Specs
3.3-liter V-6 six-speed automatic transmission, 293-hp, starting $32,875 including delivery, 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view
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