Do you remember when Hyundai first came to the U.S. in 1986 and marketed its value-priced models, trying to gain the confidence of the American consumer? If you do, well, then enough said.
Those days are over as Hyundai has transformed itself from a "value brand" to a "valuable brand."
The latest version of Hyundai's Azera has greater horsepower than the Nissan Maxima and a larger interior than the Lexus ES 350. Along with increased potent power, it has gained more driving poise and is crafted with updated materials in the cockpit, along with LED accent headlights, LED wrapped taillights, integrated dual exhaust and 18-inch alloy wheels that grace the sculpted and swoopy exterior. The starting price for the 2012 Azera is $32,000.
Under the hood of the 2012 Azera is the same 3.3-liter V-6 from the previous generation, but this powerplant now gains Gasoline Direct Injection, which moves its peak power from 260 to 293 horsepower and torque from 233 to 255 lb.-ft. Its six-speed automatic transmission has Shiftronic for more precise and sporty driving when you opt for manual shifting. At the same time, it adds 1 mpg to its EPA highway rating. Fuel mileage estimates are 20 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined.
The 2012 Azera wears Hyundai's signature "Fluidic Sculpture" design elements, which incorporate a modern, sleek, sophisticated style that the automaker says is meant to create the illusion of constant motion. This new "slippery" styling, plus engineering to create a flat undercarriage, gives Azera the best co-efficient of drag in its class, aiding fuel economy and handling.
We motored the Azera on the surface streets of Las Vegas, which was our jumping off point to a nearby raceway, where we had ample opportunity to push this front-wheel-drive premium sedan close to its limits on a tight and twisty race course. The Azera was also driven through a water-slicked cone course, designed to showcase the vehicle's crisp handling in a more extreme maneuvers, simulating the Azera's response to evasive driving, inclement weather and limited-traction surfaces.
On the roadways, we enjoyed the ultra-quiet cockpit, the plentiful power and the tight steering that comes from the motor-driven electric power steering. We also took note of the smooth ride that mitigates imperfections in the road and bumpy surfaces with Hyundai's advanced front and rear suspension tuning that is maximized through Sachs Amplitude Selective Dampers.
We found a host of small pleasures during our Azera drive including the optional 12-way-power driver seat with the seat cushion extension, an aid for drivers of different sizes, as well as the optional integrated memory system with two memory settings for seat, steering wheel and side mirrors. Back seat riders get goodies that include a power rear sunshade, manual rear side-window. Also innovative is an interior lighting system that brings soft, ambient light at sunset.
Hyundai is known for a host of technology features and plethora of standard content. The Azera gets standard leather interior; a 7-inch screen for the navigation system; a rearview camera; heated front and rear seats; Bluetooth connectivity and Blue Link telematics (can help find gas stations, learn about a mechanical issues, get regular maintenance alerts, calls for help and other features); 10-way driver/eight-way passenger power seats; proximity key unlocking and starting; LED stop/turn/side-repeater lamps; dual climate control with rear-seat air vents, and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Onboard are nine standard airbags, including one for the driver's knees, to help prevent leg and foot injuries. Other safety features include a Vehicle Stability Management system coupled with Electronic Stability Control; an Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist.
2012 HYUNDAI AZERA
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger FWD large sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $32,000 (as tested: $32,875)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 24-valve DOHC V-6 w/GDI
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 293 at 6400 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 255 at 5200 rpm
TRANSMISSION________________ 6-speed automatic
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 193.3 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___ 36.5 ft.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,605 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 18.5 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway