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2012 Hyundai Azera: First Drive

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While cruising at 70 mph in the 2012 Hyundai Azera, it's what we didn't have to do that's especially telling.

My co-driver and I didn't have to raise our voices above normal, quiet conversation level to carry on a conversation in front—and the same held true in speaking with our two passengers in the back seat. We all were able to simply chat, without shouting.

In the Azera, passengers in the back seat not only have enough legroom and headroom, but the cabin is quiet enough so that you can carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice—and you can catch the nuance. For all four of the adults on board, there were no knees mashed against seatbacks, no heads pushing headliners; in those supportive seats, all of us could have been comfortable all day, I'd venture to say. And as a passenger in a low, long luxury sedan, like the Azera, you feel less side-to-side movements than in taller crossovers.

All the more impressive is that the Azera doesn't rely on active noise cancellation, a fancy active suspension, or other such technologies to achieve it; it's simply a good design, with the right damping and blanketing applied where it's needed.

Dressed to impress

The Azera is a car for double dates, or for carrying professional clients (or the mother-in-law). And yes, it now looks the part, too.

Taking a step back, the new Azera is no longer just a platform for interior space, comfort and lots of features for the money. It now performs better; and more notably, unlike the previous version, it's not just an innocuous lump; it's now impressive inside and out, and makes a design statement.

That's deliberate; Hyundai has positioned the 2012 Azera toward 'design-minded consumers,' and based on what we see outside and in, the Azera definitely hits an aesthetic high water mark for the class. From its evolved take on the 'fluidic sculpture' theme that we've seen in the recently redesigned Elantra and Sonata especially, to the fashionable interior, with its cockpit-style layout, double-tier design, and Volvo-like storage behind the center stack, it's now the sort of model that might catch your eye from across the dealer lot. Crisp airdam detailing, deeply styled wheels, nicely sculpted LED taillamps, side mirrors with build-in turn-signal indicators, and HID xenon headlamps all add up to the sort of detail you might not expect to find in a vehicle that doesn't attempt to be a sport sedan or all-out luxury sedan.

The Azera's coefficient of drag, by the way, is a class-leading 0.28—shared only with the Toyota Avalon, and a key to that quiet interior, as well as its 29-mpg highway rating.


 
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