Hyundai has positioned the 2012 Azera toward 'design-minded consumers,' and based on what we see outside and in, the Azera definitely hits an aesthetic high water mark for the class.
According to the company, it targeted a look that would be authoritative, elegant, and powerful—dynamic and assertive yet reeled in a bit, with an element of discipline and restraint.
Like many of Hyundai's recent models—and building on the 'fluidic sculpture' theme—the Azera has two distinctive side creases in the sheetmetal, which don't quite meet but together form a strong expression. In the Azera, one of them starts just behind the headlamps, flowing along the top of the fender and upward to the back of the front door; meanwhile, another starts just ahead of the rear door handle, flowing upward, then across and forming the actual decklid crease around the back.
On the outside, 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. The hood has a subtle extension of the grille's detail, lower airdams smoothly contoured but crisply detailed. The rear view—actually out least favorite, as it's a little slab-like—is saved in part by the wrap-around taillamps do play a part in making.
The layout inside the Azera is definitely more cockpit-like in front than in most other large sedans, but with the dash pushing far forward at the corners, it does afford some of the airiness that you'll find in some of the other more open designs. It's a direct interpretation, in a lot of ways, of the interior design we've seen developed in the Elantra and Sonata, with a Y-shaped center stack featuring a screen top and center, flanked by vents, with audio controls beneath that and climate controls just below. As in those other Hyundai models, there's a pinch point for the center console that, functionally, lines up with where you might splay your knees.
Throughout the instrument panel, and the rest of the interior, the Azera has a very distinctive two-tier layout, with some combinations pairing a lighter-tone lower tier and darker upper tier that matches the upholstery. We like the look, and appreciate the level of soft-touch and matte surfaces within reach of the driver and passenger. Interior brightwork is used sparingly, and when it is, it's a cloudy matte-metallic. Instead—in Tech Package Azeras, there's ambient lighting tucked under that top tier of dash and door trim, as well as in footwells, to bathe the interior in blue light.
The colors and themes inside and out remain quite conservative, though; of the eight exterior hues available, seven of them are hues of white, black, or gray—but we were impressed with the Venetian Red Pearl of our test car during a first-drive opportunity. Three interior schemes are available: Camel, Graphite Black, and Chestnut Brown, with the latter the more flamboyant of the three.