Pros: Ultra-modern styling inside and out, buttery ride, great front seats, limo-like back seat, features galore.
Cons: V6 could be stronger, price range overlaps with Genesis luxury sedan.
The 2012 Hyundai Azera is a traditional full-size sedan for folks who are fed up with tradition. The rebellion starts with the exceptionally bold exterior, which boasts more swoops and curves than all of the Azera’s competitors put together. It continues inside, where the Azera picks up where the mid-size Sonata left off, sporting a curvaceous control panel that wouldn’t look out of place in the Starship Enterprise. Of course, the Azera doesn’t reject tradition entirely, so full-size fundamentals like a smooth ride and a palatial back seat are present as well. But this Hyundai clearly isn’t for folks who aspire to Chevrolet Impalas and such. Rather, it’s for those who look at existing large sedans and see a profound lack of innovation.
We were surprised, then, to discover that the Azera’s sole engine is a decidedly traditional 3.3-liter V6, differing from its rivals mainly in that it’s a little smaller. Perhaps Hyundai didn’t want the Azera stepping on the toes of the base Genesis sedan, which features a stronger 3.8-liter V6. But the Azera steps on those toes anyway, as its price range of about $32,000-36,000 puts it squarely in Genesis V6 territory.
Sounds like a tough sell, right? We thought so, too. But then we considered the Azera’s radical newness, which makes the Genesis feel old-fashioned by comparison. Indeed, it makes practically everything at this price point feel that way. If you want a full-size sedan that wears its forward thinking on its sleeve, the 2012 Hyundai Azera just might be the only game in town.
Comfort & Utility
The 2012 Hyundai Azera is offered in one well-equipped trim level that includes 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats with driver lumbar adjustment, heated front and rear seats, iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, the Blue Link telematics system and a 7-inch touchscreen that controls a navigation system and the standard audio system.
The only option is a comprehensive Technology package that adds 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, an Infinity audio system, a power tilt-telescopic steering column, cooled front seats and a nifty power-inflating thigh support for the driver’s seat.
The Azera’s front seats are unusually supportive for this segment, even featuring some lateral bolstering. We’re fans. The tilt-telescopic steering column has plenty of adjustability for a variety of driver sizes, and the gauges are electroluminescent for exceptional clarity. Form has clearly trumped function on Azera’s central control panel, but the various buttons are logically grouped, so owners will likely acclimate before too long. Materials quality is what we’d consider "Sonata-plus," which means it’s average-plus for this class, but short of Genesis-grade.
The Azera’s heated back seat is one of our favorites in any car. Legroom is expansive, the bottom cushion is high and plush like a good easy chair’s, and headroom is satisfactory even for tall folks-this despite the Azera’s sloped rear roofline. Trunk space is also generous at 16.3 cubic feet.
With standard iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity as well as a navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen, the Azera ticks most of the technology boxes. We found the touchscreen fairly intuitive to use, if not as aesthetically pleasing as some. However, we’d like to see the Infinity audio system come standard on every Azera. We respect the huge strides Hyundai’s made over the past few years, but full-size sedan shoppers care about value, and we feel it’s fair to expect premium audio in a $32,000-plus vehicle.
Unexpectedly, the Azera comes standard with a nifty new telematics system called Blue Link. Notable services include voice-recognition software that converts your spoken words to text messages (compatible smartphone required), monthly reports on vehicle performance and maintenance, emergency roadside assistance at the push of a button and point-of-interest searches for nearby restaurants and such.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The front-wheel-drive Azera is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. This V6’s output numbers are fully competitive, but the Avalon and Impala subjectively feel stronger with their larger-displacement V6s. The Sonata’s 2.0-liter turbo inline-4, by the way, is objectively stronger. Still, although the Azera’s V6 fails to raise the bar, it’s an admirably refined motor that should please most drivers. Fuel economy is pleasant, registering 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
The 2012 Hyundai Azera comes with standard stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and nine airbags (front, front-side, driver knee, rear-side, full-length side-curtain).
Neither the government nor the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the Azera as of this writing.
The Azera is all about comfort and isolation from the elements. Road and wind noise are minimal, while the soft suspension filters out impacts from all but the roughest roads. Less optimally, the steering feels isolated as well-artificially so-and there’s a bunch of body roll in corners. We have to give the Azera’s suspension engineers their due, though, as the Azera is actually reasonably athletic for a full-size sedan once you get used to that body roll.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Impala – The venerable Impala is the polar opposite of the Azera in terms of style, but it’s got a great new 3.6-liter V6, and you can probably get one on the cheap.
Hyundai Genesis – Sorry Hyundai, but the prices overlap, so we had to say it. The rear-wheel-drive Genesis is Hyundai’s all-purpose luxury sedan, designed to take on a slew of famous models from Germany and Japan. It’s a heckuva car, even in its most basic V6-powered form.
Toyota Avalon – The conservative Avalon is due for a redesign soon, but even after all these years, it’s still got a business-class interior and one of the best V6s in the business.
The Technology package’s features are certainly desirable, but we have a harder time making a case for the Azera at an MSRP of over $36,000. So we’d take the base car, which serves as an intriguing alternative to top-of-the-line family sedans like the Honda Accord EX-L V6.
In November 2012, Kia and Hyundai adjusted the fuel economy ratings on some 2011-2013 models. This article has been modified to reflect the accurate EPA ratings.