Up until last year the Hyundai Azera made very little of a lasting impression; its design was somewhat upscale, but also anonymous. Then last year the automaker repositioned it toward 'design-minded consumers.' And within the constraints of practicality, the new Azera is now one of the best-looking cars in this class.
Like many of Hyundai's recent models—and building on the 'fluidic sculpture' theme that made its debut in the Sonata—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.
Nicely sculpted LED taillamps, side mirrors with build-in turn-signal indicators, and HID xenon headlamps all serve to round out the impression that all the details have been covered. Transitions that are clear in the grille continue on the hood as subtle extensions, while lower airdams get smooth contours rather than the aggressive look that's so common. In back, the Azera is at it's least distinctive; it's a bit slab-like, but the wrap-around taillamps help save the look.
Hyundai targeted a look that would be authoritative, elegant, and powerful, it says, so the design aims to be dynamic and assertive yet reeled in a bit, with an element of discipline and restraint.
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. It's a natural extension of the look in the compact Elantra and mid-size Sonata, with its Y-shaped center stack offering a screen top and center, flanked by vents and with audio and climate controls just below. And there's a pinch point that lines up about where you might splay your knees, to offer just a little more space.
Beyond that, the Azera feels more like a luxury car in that it has a very distinctive two-tier layout, with some combinations pairing a lighter-tone lower tier with a darker upper tier that matches the upholstery. With the soft-touch and matte surfaces within reach of the driver and passenger. It's all kept tasteful, with interior brightwork kept to a minimum, and done in a cloudy matte-metallic instead. Blue ambient lighting, in models with the Tech Package, is tucked under that top tier of dash and door trim, as well as in footwells.
Otherwise, the colors and themes inside quite conservative--think more along the lines of true luxury cars. 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. And of the three interior schemes Chestnut Brown is in our opinion the best-looking.