- Strong, smooth powertrain
- Refined ride
- Nicely detailed design
- Good feature list
- Tight center position in back seat
- Tough ingress/egress in back
- Lacks some leading-edge tech features
The 2015 Azera is the big, stylish, luxurious Hyundai for folks who don't want the Genesis's bulk or price tag.
A dramatic redesign was given to the Hyundai Azera, the automaker's comfort-oriented full-size sedan, just a couple of years ago. Yet it faces an unprecedented level of competition, and the cars it's designed to compete with have all undergone major redos in the time since this generation of the big Hyundai made its debut.
Those alternatives include better-than-ever versions of the Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala, both bringing at least as much style and refinement to the party as the Azera. And Hyundai's own Genesis looms larger in the foreground.
Seemingly in answer to this, for 2015, Hyundai is attempting to inject some freshness into the Azera once again with a styling refresh and a raft of new equipment.
Changes to the 2015 model include a new lower fascia, which is more angular than it is swoopy, with straight lines replacing the softer creases of the old front end. The fascia also houses new five-element LED fog lamps on Limited models, as well as a grille that has lost some curvature in places for more straight lines, although its bottom edge has been smoothed out into a gentle arc; changes to the grille are subtle, to be sure, but help the front end look more polished when taken along with the other tweaks.
Hyundai has made improvements to the standard blind-spot monitors so that they now include Rear Cross Traffic alert and Lane Change Assist. New to the standard-features list are illuminated door sills, a hands-free Smart Trunk opener—just stand near the trunk for a few seconds with the proximity key in your pocket and the trunk opens itself—and an eight-inch color LCD navigation display. That new screen sits within a redesigned center stack, and Hyundai is including the latest version of its Blue Link system, which works with a smartphone app and can allow for parental controls to be set for vehicle use.
Overall, the Azera remains one of the better efforts in this class—a half step down from luxury brands, but a solid step up from mass-market mid-size sedans. Thankfully, automakers have realized that vehicles in this segment don't need to be so floaty and motion-sickness-inducing. Hyundai has positioned itself toward 'design-minded consumers,' and Azera definitely hits an aesthetic high water mark for the brand. Designers looked to build on the 'fluidic sculpture' theme, and there's been a lot of attention paid to the details, with nicely sculpted LED taillamps, side mirrors with built-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. Cool-blue accent lighting keeps with the ambiance, 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.
The Azera offers more than adequate straight-line performance from its 3.3-liter 'Lambda' V-6, which makes 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque—on regular gasoline. It's smooth and responsive, thanks in part to a 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. In previous drives we've noted that the electric power steering is confidence inspiring (although Hyundai notes that it was retuned for 2014), and special Sachs amplitude-selective dampers not only help filter out minor bumps but provide the comfortable ride that most large-car shoppers are after.
This big sedan has the seating space, smooth ride, and luxury-car feel, overall, whether your passengers are fussy family you need to soothe or business contacts you'd like to impress. It's a luxury car, in terms of seating, ride, and interior appointments. Front seats are adjustable to a wide range of sizes, and you can get heated-and-cooled ventilated functions. In back, there's lots of sprawl-out legroom, as well as just enough headroom for adults—thanks to two recesses carved out of the headliner. Getting in and out of the back seat isn't as easy as some might hope, though.
Based on Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Hyundai Azera offers great safety and security. It earned top 'good' scores in frontal, side, and rear impact testing, and in the roof-strength test it withstood 4.76 times its weight. The IIHS has not yet subjected the Azera to its tougher front small overlap test, so it can't be considered for the current Top Safety Pick status. The federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not put an Azera through its test regimen. A rearview camera system is included, as are those improved blind-spot mirrors this year, and dual rear side-impact bags are among the nine standard airbags.
The Azera is offered in two models: Azera and Azera Limited. The base Azera includes push-button start, proximity-key entry, Bluetooth connectivity, power front seats, full leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, heated front and rear seats, and a six-inch audio display system with six Mobis speakers. Limited models upgrade to the 450-watt Dimension sound system, which includes XM satellite radio, HD Radio, iPod/USB connectivity, and an auxiliary input jack, along with a navigation system, eight-inch touch-screen display, rear reading lights, a power-adjustable steering wheel, a power sunroof, rear parking assistance, and power-folding side mirrors. A Premium Package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking assistance, a power rear sunshade, and manual rear side-window sunshades.
Fuel economy is decent for the class, with ratings of 20 mpg in the city and 29 highway. That puts it just behind the Impala and non-hybrid Avalon, but all of them are nowhere near the gas-electric Toyota, which hits a highway rating of 40 mpg.