The Hyundai Azera is all new for 2012, with a wide range of enhancements that include more power, better fuel economy and sleek styling. We recently drove the updated Azera from Atlanta to Savannah - a 250-mile road trip across a bumpy, boring stretch of highway through the Georgian plains. The drive gave us plenty of time to explore all of the Azera's new features, and we came away thoroughly impressed with the improvements over the 2011 model.

The 2012 Azera comes in just one trim level, with only one real option, an upgraded technology package (for $4,000 extra). We drove the upgraded version, and it made for a comfortable, enjoyable ride, particularly with endless access to coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament on satellite radio. The Azera feels luxurious, with a lush, leather interior that's easy to sink into and a huge glass roof that allowed us to enjoy the sun during a gorgeous spring weekend. While it was comfortable in the driver's seat, I would've been just as happy in back, which features heated seats and generous legroom.

Perhaps the Azera's best feature, though, was its ability to traverse the potholes, construction and uneven pavement that plague the roads around Macon. I typically dread the jagged, four-hour drive between north and south Georgia, but the Azera conquered the rough patches beautifully. And the Azera matched its EPA fuel economy ratings, getting 29 mpg on the highway and keeping our fuel costs low, especially for such a big sedan.

The 2012 Azera receives an updated 3.3-liter V6 engine with direct-injection technology for better power and efficiency. With 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque, the Azera has plenty of power but 'doesn't feel particularly fast. It's more of a laid-back, family sedan designed for comfortable cruising.

The attractive interior does have some quirks. The navigation and entertainment systems weren't very intuitive, which caused some confusion when trying to input and change destinations. The seat adjustment controls in the Azera are similar to those found in a Mercedes- you move the seat by pushing a small version of it on the door panel. That feature certainly adds some clout to the Hyundai model, however, the headrest button was immovable and as a result, perplexing and unnecessary.

Additionally, when skipping tracks on an MP3 player or CD, the first half-second of songs are cut off, a small but highly obnoxious peculiarity that would make me hesitate if I were a prospective buyer.

The Azera starts around $32,000, a $5,000 increase over the 2011 model. With the technology package, the Azera is priced at just under $37,000, making it slightly more expensive than a loaded Nissan Maxima and slightly cheaper than well-equipped Toyota Avalon and Buick Lacrosse models. Interestingly, the Azera may also compete with Hyundai's 3.8-liter Genesis sedan, with the two models starting just $2,000 apart. But the Genesis is more performance-oriented, with rear-wheel drive and bigger engines, and adding options can push its price around $47,000.

If you're seeking road-trip comfort and aren't a stickler for hearing the beginning of songs, take an extra-long look at the all-new 2012 Azera. Its smooth ride, premium features and stylish design are sure to please a family, particularly on long journeys.

author photo

Whitney Homans is a writer and content designer at where she combines her lifelong love of words with the automotive industry. When she's not writing, Whitney enjoys practicing yoga and cheering for the Georgia Bulldogs.

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