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Comfort and luxury don't have to go hand-in-hand with the Novocaine school of design. This past year Hyundai rolled out an all-new 2012 Azera and showed that it is possible to have a premium sedan that's stylish but also practical, well-equipped, and spacious.
Hyundai has positioned the Azera toward 'design-minded consumers,' and based on what we see outside and in, the Azera definitely hits an aesthetic high water mark. Like many of Hyundai's recent models, designers looked to build on the 'fluidic sculpture' theme, but there's been a lot of attention paid to the details, with nicely sculpted LED taillamps, side mirrors with build-in turn-signal indicators, and HID xenon headlamps. Inside, the layout is definitely more cockpit-like than in most other large sedans, but the dash pushes outward at the corners to help free up a little more space than you might expect. And there's a very distinctive two-tier layout, with some combinations pairing a lighter-tone lower tier with a darker upper tier that matches the upholstery. Brightwork is kept to a minimum, and cool-blue accent lighting keeps with the ambiance.
For what shoppers looking for style and comfort want, the Azera should have offer plenty of performance. The 3.3-liter 'Lambda' V-6 makes 293 horsepower, as well as 255 pound feet—on regular gasoline—and is smooth and responsive, thanks in part to the six-speed automatic transmission, which includes a Shiftronic manual mode. The transmission has a wide range of gear ratios to allow quick takeoffs, strong passing ability, and relaxed cruising. The well-tuned electric power steering is confidence inspiring, and special Sachs amplitude-selective campers not only help filter out minor bumps without adding floatiness.
Whether you're carrying family or business colleagues, the Azera has the seating space, smooth ride, and luxury-car feel, overall, to keep everyone comfortable. In terms of seating, ride, and interior appointments, it's a luxury car. Front seats are adjustable to a wide range of sizes, and Tech Package models, in addition to heated seats, include heated-and-cooled ventilated functions. In back, there's lots of sprawl-out legroom, as well as just enough headroom for adults—just enough, thanks to two carved-out headliner recesses. Although the middle position isn't quite as spacious, and the roofline makes getting in and out a little too challenging than it should be.
The Azera hasn't been rated by the federal government yet, but from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety it earned top 'good' scores in frontal, side, and rear impact testing, plus roof strength, and in all subcategories of frontal and side testing. In the roof-strength test it withstood 4.76 times its weight. And it comes with nine standard airbags, including separate rear side-impact bags.
There are just two builds: Azera, or Azera with Technology Package. The base Azera includes the navigation system and backup camera system, push-button start, proximity-key entry, Bluetooth connectivity, power front seats, full leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, and heated front and rear seats. And the standard 450-watt Dimension sound system includes XM satellite radio, HD Radio, iPod/USB connectivity, and an auxiliary input jack. Even at the base level, the Azera includes a navigation system, along with a number of other features that are optional on most luxury-brand models.
The Technology Package adds HID headlamps, larger 19-inch wheels, a big panoramic sunroof, a power rear sunshade, manual rear side sunshades, ventilated front seats, 550-watt Infinity premium Logic 7 sound with subwoofer, power steering-wheel adjustment, interior ambient lighting, and a keyfob-integrated memory system for settings.
The only things missing are the ones that are bound to impress any friends who might already drive high-end luxury-brand cars; advanced-tech features like active parking, blind-spot systems, a head-up display, or active cruise control aren't to be found here.
- Strong, efficient engine
- Well-weighted steering
- Refined ride
- Design details
- You get 'the works'
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- Center position in back seat is tight
- Rear doorline isn't friendly for ingress/egress
- Short on leading-edge tech