The original Hyundai Azera wasn’t exactly sure what it wanted to be, despite Hyundai’s goal of slotting it between the Sonata and Genesis sedans. The placement made sense, given the huge gap in pricing between the two aforementioned cars. And though the Azera was a practical bargain with its roomy interior and V6 engine, it didn’t send any pulses racing. The first Azera was sleek, but not necessarily in a good way — more like sleek but unmemorable. It didn’t seem to copy any other sedan design out there, but it also somehow failed to look truly original. All that changes with the arrival of the 2013 Hyundai Azera. We took it for a drive to see for ourselves.
Unlike the first generation Azera, the redesigned second generation grabs your attention. It’s simply an attractive car — well proportioned, clean and noticeable. Carrying forward the “Fluidic Sculpture” design language that’s evident on the Sonata, the Azera ditches the old somnambulist duds for a rakish design that isn’t overdone. From the large, winged grille and huge swept-back headlamps to the contoured hood and sharply creased rear quarter panel, the Azera does it right. The Nissan Maxima wishes it looked this good.
If ever there were an award for consistent theme, from design to practicality to driving experience, the Azera would qualify with flying colors.
The upgrade theme also floods the Azera’s interior. The standard power adjustable leather seats are comfortable and well-positioned for driving, and both front and rear seats have standard heating — a boon to Chicago drivers (and passengers). Hyundai’s interior design is handsome and well executed, and the ergonomics and aesthetics are evidence to that effect. The instrument panel gauges are large and easy to read, while the cascading center console is nicely done, with big, easy-to-use knobs for both audio and climate control. We’re not sure why more automakers aren’t using this kind of simple thinking that makes it easier to focus on, well, driving. The winged theme from the grille continues, as the top of the center console extends out to each side of the dash gracefully. We especially liked the light-sensitive ambient-lit atmosphere in the cabin, which provides a soft blue glow when the sun starts to set. If it annoys you, the brightness can be adjusted.
And unless you’re Manute Bol reincarnate, you won’t be left wanting for space in the front or the back. The Azera has always been a capacious car for driver and passengers, and in the second generation, it doesn’t disappoint. Equipment such as backup camera, sat nav, integrated Bluetooth, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system come standard, as does a well-equipped Dimension 450-watt sound system that also has HD Radio, an iPod/USB port and aux input jacks. You can also upgrade to an Infinity 550-watt system. Our tester came with a couple of nice options like the power rear sunshade, rear window sunshades, ventilated front seats and gorgeous 19-inch wheels, upgraded from the standard 18 inches.
The Hyundai Azera is simply an attractive car — well proportioned, clean and noticeable.
If ever there were an award for consistent theme from design to practicality to driving experience, the Azera would qualify with flying colors. It drives as composed as it looks. Jumping from 260 hp in the old model to a healthy 293, the new Azera does a solid job of hustling you to 60 mph (6.2 seconds) without a lot of front-wheel-drive torque steer. The six-speed automatic tranny with manual mode works well here, shifting very smoothly. (We’re still not sure why cars of this segment have paddle shifters. There’s virtually nothing that occurs in us while driving large family sedans that conjures up that desire.) The Azera’s struts with coil springs and a multilink independent rear suspension keep it adequately planted, and the electrically assisted steering rack provides on-center steering and precision. But don’t expect great road feedback through the steering wheel. But you’re not shopping for a track car, are you? The Azera drives as well as any front-wheel-drive sedan in this segment and looks good doing it.
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Hyundai has done a bangup job with their new designs, and sales reflect just that. The Azera is another one to chalk up for the Korean automaker. We’d take this well-executed redesign over a Toyota Avalon any day of the week, given that it evokes a more youthful feeling, especially in its exterior design, but still screams responsibility. It’s neither a rocketship nor a luxobarge; but it’s also not a family car for which you have to give up your manhood.