Soft, almost pillowy suspension tuning makes today's 2011 Hyundai Azera perform like the big Buicks of the past. That's more a compliment than you may think.
The 2011 Azera is offered with a choice of powertrains. The Azera GLS comes with a 3.3-liter V-6 making 260 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque. The numbers are perfectly respectable, and so is acceleration--particularly now that the Azera comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, which boosts its fuel economy numbers from mid-pack to near-head of the class.
The optional 3.8-liter V-6 makes 20 more horsepower and 30 additional pound-feet of torque, and yet at 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, it's matched by the smaller 2011 Chrysler 200. The Azera carries significant weight, too, but the bigger engine still delivers 0-60 mph times of about 7.1 seconds, Hyundai predicts. That makes it feel a bit more lively than the base 3.3-liter Azera, and possibly worth the premium price. Fuel economy doesn't dip much, either--just a mile per gallon in the city cycle, two on the highway.
Handling is where cars like the Azera lose out to smaller, more sporty entries. While Hyundai's new Sonata wins raves for a taut ride and fast steering, the Azera's default settings are dialed down into the Metamucil zone. It's predictable, secure, and set up to understeer all day long--but the Azera also has plenty of body roll, and plenty of looseness in its steering feel. Toyota's Avalon probably is a bit better at controlling itself in hard corners, but both vehicles aim for a ride/handling feel from a less recent vintage--and in truth, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the way they track down the highway silently, unruffled, and in the Azera's case, with just a touch of bouncy rebound over highway bumps taken at an 80-mph cruising speed.