2012 Hyundai Azera

Hyundai Las Vegas Media Launch
Hyundai Las Vegas Media Launch

The redesigned 2012 Azera is positioned between two popular Hyundai vehicles – the Sonata midsize sedan and the Genesis luxury sedan. The Azera is a blend of the two, making it a “move up” sedan for buyers who want more luxury without the high price. The front-wheel drive Azera is the seventh new vehicle launched by Hyundai in the past two years, following the Tucson, Sonata, Equus, Elantra, Accent and Veloster. The South Korean automaker is enjoying a run of good fortune thanks to these innovative and quality products, and Hyundai is now the sixth best-selling automotive brand in the United States.

The Azera sports what Hyundai calls a “fluidic sculpture” design. The company says the design, inspired by the mechanics of flight, creates a sense of constant motion even when the car isn’t.

Powering the Azera is a 293-horsepower gasoline direct injection engine. The 3.3-liter V6 sends 255 lb.-ft. of torque to Azera’s 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual Shiftronic feature. The Azera is estimated to get 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

Because Hyundai sees the Azera as a “move-up” sedan, engineers designed in upscale features seen more in luxury cars. A touch-screen navigation system with voice control and a 7-inch monitor are now standard, and so is a backup camera. The standard interior is leather, and heated seats are standard in the front and rear seats. Dual climate control is standard and so is a cooled glove box.

Another standard feature is Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, along with 90 days of free service. After the 90 days, buyers can select from three plans: Assurance, Essentials and Guidance. Assurance is similar to GM’s On-Star in that it connects with real people if you are in a crash, either automatically or through a button on the mirror. The Essentials plan adds really convenient remote features that can be accessed through your smart phone: text messaging, door locking/unlocking, vehicle diagnostics that can be transmitted to your dealer, and a teen-ager’s bane: notification that your car is being driven too fast or has gone too far away. The Guidance plan bundles navigation features like voice-activated points of interest, turn-by-turn directions and traffic information.

With a 112-inch wheelbase, an overall length of 193.3 inches, and a width of 73.2 inches, there is plenty of room in the Azera’s leather cabin. Front seat headroom (40.4 inches) and legroom (45.5 inches), both lead the class.

The Azera’s design theme is continued inside, where the center stack flares to resemble a bird extending its wings. Interior features include a Bluetooth hands-free phone system with voice recognition, manual side window shades, ventilated front seats, HomeLink, an auto dimming rearview mirror, a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat (8-way for the passenger), and second row air vents.

The Azera has MacPherson struts in front and an independent multi-link design in back. Steering was stable and responsive with good feedback. There are also two-stage dampers that allow the vehicle to float over minor road imperfections, but are stiffer when more damping is needed.

With nine airbags, ABS brakes, stability and traction control systems, impact-reducing front seats and other safety features, the Azera gets the top “good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The 2012 Azera starts at $32,000 plus freight. That’s a considerable price increase over the 2011 Limited model ($30,095), but the difference is made up by all the added standard equipment. Our test Azera did have an optional $4,000 Technology Package (19-inch wheels, a power sunroof, HID headlights, rear parking sensors, upgraded audio, a power rear sunshade and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel), which brought the price to $36,000. But if you ask me, the Azera’s list of standard features is already long without the extras.

In fact, if you’re looking for “move up” luxury, the Azera offers great bang for your buck.

2012 Hyundai Azera

Engine: 3.3-liter V6

Horsepower: 293

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic

Base model price: $32,000

As-tested price: $36,000