While the larger, rear-wheel-drive Genesis only offers larger V-6 and V-8 engines, and the slightly smaller Sonata offers an all-four-cylinder lineup, the 2012 Hyundai Azera gets one powertrain: a 3.3-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission.
The new 'Lambda' engine—now with gasoline direct injection—is an all-alloy engine, incorporating dual continuously variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder, and double overhead cams, plus a three-stage variable intake system. It makes 293 horsepower, as well as 255 pound feet—on regular gasoline—and has a roller timing chain for durability and lower maintenance cost. In this latest-generation engine, Hyundai has worked to increase cylinder block rigidity, which reduces engine wear in various ways.
The V-6 has a dual personality of sorts. It's a high-revver—with a higher specific output than other engines in this class—and makes its peak power at 6,400 rpm, just short of redline, but it also feels considerably more torquey at lower rpm compared to Hyundai's past V-6 efforts. According to the automaker's power and torque chart, it's already making about 200 pound-feet at just 1,500 rpm.
Altogether, it's 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 electric power steering system in the Azera felt much better-tuned than that of the Sonata, or other recent Hyundai front-wheel drive products. It has a good sense of center, with weighting that builds predictably, and should be everything that comfort-oriented buyers expect.
There's a MacPherson strut-type system, and a multi-link setup in back, but Sachs amplitude-selective campers not only help filter out minor bumps without leading to less body control. Also, in front, special attention has been paid to side loading, and to reduce early loading going into corners—one of the key aspects that makes cushy luxury cars a damper on confidence and fun when you're on a curvy road. And while we actually had no curvy roads in our drive route, near Las Vegas, the front end of the new Azera does feel tighter, with fewer floaty body motions, than an Avalon, for instance. There's far less fore-and-aft motion under hard acceleration and braking, as well, compared to other softly sprung luxury cars.