- 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.
2015 Hyundai Azera
The Azera is contemporary and dynamic in appearance, and it fits right in with today's expectations for how an upscale large sedan should look.
The latest Hyundai Azera sheds its bland visage for something much more style-oriented, and subtle updates for the 2015 model year help make it just a little more attractive.
This model year brings a new front 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.
Like many of Hyundai's current 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.
The Azera's interior feels more like that of a luxury car in that it has a very distinctive, cockpit-like two-tier layout, with some combinations pairing a lighter-tone lower tier with a darker upper that matches the upholstery. There are soft-touch and matte surfaces within reach of the driver and passenger. It's all tasteful, with interior brightwork kept to a minimum, and done in a cloudy matte-metallic finish. Models with the Tech Package include blue ambient lighting tucked under that top tier of dash and door trim, as well as in footwells.
Despite the exterior design, colors and themes inside are quite conservative--think more along the lines of true luxury cars. Of the eight exterior hues available, seven of them are shades of white, black, or gray; but we were impressed with the Venetian Red Pearl. And of the three interior schemes, the warm Chestnut Brown is easily our choice.
2015 Hyundai Azera
Comfort is the priority; although the 2015 Azera is a confident performer.
The 2015 Hyundai Azera is only slightly larger than the brand's mid-size Sonata sedan, but it does have one potentially important powertrain difference: a standard V-6 engine. The front-wheel-drive Azera has a refined, quick attitude with relatively responsive handling and a very comfort-oriented suspension.
The Azera's 3.3-liter V-6, the only engine available, makes 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. It's an all-aluminum engine, and it incorporates direct injection, dual continuously variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder, double overhead cams, and a three-stage variable intake system. It also has a roller timing chain for durability and lower maintenance costs. It is hooked to a six-speed automatic that shifts pretty smoothly.
The V-6 has a dual personality of sorts, revving high and eagerly, making its peak power at 6,400 rpm, just short of redline. Yet it already makes 200 pound-feet at 1,500 rpm, so it's also quite torquey at low revs--at least compared to Hyundai's former V-6 engines. Hyundai likes to point out that it has a higher specific output than other engines in this class, but that's mostly offset by its smaller displacement.
The Azera's driving character is easygoing first and foremost, yet responsive enough for most drivers' expectations. The transmission includes a Shiftronic manual mode, although it's responsive in 'Drive' and has a wide ratio spread for relaxed highway cruising or quick takeoffs. The electric power steering system in the Azera feels more comfortable and better tuned than what's used in other Hyundai front-wheel drive products, with a good sense of center and predictable weighting. That said, Hyundai claims to have made improvements in feel and precision for 2014, so that may no longer be the case. We'll have to update you once we drive an updated version.
The Azera uses a MacPherson strut-type front system, and a multi-link setup in back, while Sachs amplitude-selective dampers help filter out minor bumps without reducing body control. Special attention has been paid to side loading, to help increase confidence on curvy roads, and body motion is better controlled than in other luxury cars with a soft ride.
2015 Hyundai Azera
Comfort & Quality
With spacious seating, a smooth ride, and real luxury-car ambiance, the Azera meets or exceeds most expectations.
Like several other large sedans in its class, the Azera nears luxury-car status in every way but brand name. It offers the design, size, comfort, and amenities expected of more expensive cars, just without the price tag and the last level of refinement.
With a wheelbase just a couple of inches longer than Hyundai's own Sonata, the Azera sits in between the Sonata and rear-drive Genesis in the brand's lineup. The Azera's overall length is just 3.5 inches longer than Sonata, but it's wider and offers nearly as much space as big luxury-brand flagships.
Adults will find plenty of sprawl-out legroom in front or in back. Front seats are adjustable to a wide range of sizes, and we like how Hyundai has assembled the power-seat controls, Mercedes-Benz style, along the upper door trim. As for the back seats, headroom is the limiting factor, although there's just enough for taller adults, thanks to two recesses carved into the headliner. If anyone ends up in the middle, they might not be as happy, as the headliner's lower there and the bench position is notably harder (the back of the center console is there as well). Ingress and egress is disappointing, and it's the only real price of the fashionable exterior. Taller folks will have to lean forward and duck their heads under the curved-down roofline when getting in.
It's a very thoughtful interior otherwise. Under the audio and climate controls, there's a large hinged bin with a felted interior housing auxiliary and USB ports, and a hinged compartment next to the shift knob containing a couple of cupholders. The space behind the center stack has also been used—a la Volvo—with a tray at the bottom, and the center console itself has the capacity to hide a camera or small purse. Cupholders and bottle recesses, along with map pockets, are included along all doors, too. And there's a useful pinch point that lines up about where you might splay your knees.
Ride quality is superb, with only the most jarring bumps heard heard and felt in the cabin. And inside, it's quiet—very quiet—with nearly all road noise filtered out; likewise, you hear engine noise only when accelerating hard. The Avalon also has the lowest coefficient of drag (tied with the Avalon, at 0.28) of any large sedan, which helps keep wind noise down (and aids efficiency).
2015 Hyundai Azera
The Azera has great crash-test ratings, as well as a good set of standard safety gear.
Like the last-generation with which it shares much of its structure, the 2015 Hyundai Azera has a strong safety feature set capped by good crash-test scores.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the Azera top 'good' scores in moderate frontal, side, and rear impact testing, plus roof strength. It did particularly well--withstanding 4.76 times its weight. The Azera hasn't been subjected to the Institute's small frontal overlap test, and so cannot be considered for Top Safety Pick status. Also, those scores apply to the 2014 model, which is mechanically identical, and we expect them to carry over to 2015. The federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, hasn't yet rated the Azera.
We don't think outward visibility is as good as in some rival models--although the rearview camera system helps make up for it. Perhaps to compensate further, Hyundai added a standard blind-spot mirror for 2014 and improved it for 2015, adding rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist functions.
The Azera includes a total of nine standard airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and separate rear side-impact bags. Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and an impact-reducing front-seat design are all part of the standard kit.
2015 Hyundai Azera
With a lower price of entry, Hyundai has brought more value back to the Azera.
Like most Hyundais, the Azera has made its reputation by offering a lot of features for less cash. To that formula, the Azera adds more luxurious trappings to challenge the near-luxury players in the large-car class. The 2015 Azera is available in two trim levels, base and 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.
The Premium Package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking assistance, a power rear sunshade, and manual rear side-window sunshades. Its contents have been made standard on the 2015 Azera Limited.
Hyundai has also increased the level of equipment across the board for 2015. 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. And the blind-spot monitoring system that was added for 2014 gets some new functions for 2015: rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist.
One side note: While the Azera offers a lot of luxury features, it's missing the heavy-hitting 'wow' features like head-up displays, active parking, or active cruise control.
All Azera models get Hyundai's subscription-based Blue Link system, which offers a suite of services like vehicle location; remote vehicle access; emergency and roadside assistance; turn-by-turn navigation; and traffic and weather updates. The system has been updated for 2015 and now includes a smartphone app for remote control.
2015 Hyundai Azera
The gas mileage for the 3025 Hyundai Azera is respectable but not class-leading -- and there's no hybrid.
The Azera returns fuel economy that's on par with the other nonhybrid V-6 models in the class.
EPA ratings are 20 mpg city and 29 highway, for a combined figure of 23 mpg. And there's no need to worry about premium fuel.
As with other Hyundai models, an Active Eco button dulls throttle response, changes transmission shift points, and runs accessories more conservatively, saving seven percent in real-world fuel economy, according to Hyundai.
However there's still no hybrid version, which both the Lexus ES and Toyota Avalon offer with ratings of up to 40 mpg highway. And even the Buick LaCrosse comes with an eAssist mild-hybrid system that helps it achieve a highway rating of 37 mpg. For now, if you want a hybrid from Hyundai, you'll have to move down a size to the Sonata.