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In a day when Buick doesn't even build cars like they used to, a few car companies have gone against the grain, gone a bit retro. Buick's no longer about softly tuned suspensions and effortless acceleration--but cars like the Hyundai Azera still prize those attributes, and pay homage to their American ancestors with cushy comfort and plain looks.
The 2011 Azera draws to a close the "Buick" era at Hyundai--a new car is coming for 2012, and its styling is considerably more exciting. The Azera still represents a perfectly fine driving experience, of a kind, and represents a huge value to shoppers who need lots of interior room, good fuel economy and an extensive warranty.
The front-drive Azera is conservative, but not to a fault. The sheetmetal's tidy and fault-free; the interior's a bit less cautious, without being the least bit provocative. The same goes for the Azera's choice of V-6 engines, and for its handling: you'll never get there too fast, or too riled up from a hot set of corners. You'll get there relaxed and calm, exactly like the Azera will get there.
The trump card in the Azera's hand is cabin space. The front seats are cozy and wide, with lots of knee and head room for even taller drivers. The back seat's huge, so huge an adult male can cross leg over knee, seated behind another adult male, and barely make contact with the front seat back.
Safety scores are a bit disappointing, and Hyundai's missed out on some new high-profit technology: the Azera doesn't offer a rearview camera or parking sensors, and its Bluetooth and navigation systems leave something to be desired. In the case of the GPS, that's a lot--opting for it means losing the USB port. You know, the thing the kids' iPod needs to play?
Hyundai's exceptional warranty coverage, the vast back seat, and the Azera's relentless respectability put it in good stead for a pool of buyers who can appreciate the way things used to be. It's not quite up to the Avalon's par, but it's aged remarkably well in the past five years--and no one's going to fault you for paying just $26,000 for this much car.