2012 Hyundai Azera Road Test Review

Brian Armstead - CAP staff
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Rarely do automobiles that are not assembled in Europe excite me. Yes, there are exceptions of course, as Lexus and Infiniti have some powerhouses in their lineups. And the domestic brands have made great strides to the point that buying American, which used to mean you were buying the best, means quality again.

At an early spring cookout, one of my VW/Bimmerphile friends dropped his jaw when I told him about my recent test drive of the 2012 Hyundai Azera, a car that is unfortunately no longer sold in Canada. He asked if I would consider the Azera over the Volkswagen CC, and I told him, "Absolutely!" He rephrased his question – "I know it has a better warranty, but I'm talking from a driving perspective." "Absolutely" was again my answer. Not only should VW worry about the "Rise" of the Planet of Hyundai, the rest of the industry should as well. From top (Equus) to bottom (Accent), this South Korean carmaker is building extremely impressive products.

Prior to my time behind the wheel of the all-new Azera, I had not seen many photographs of the car. The previous gen Azera was attractive, but the drive experience was pretty much average. After a night of bowling in Mount Kisco, New York, where the East Coast launch for the Azera took place, a luxury car pulled up to the bowling alley to shuttle us to our hotel. I climbed into the front seat and noticed the LED lighting band across the dash and outlining the power seat controls and instantly thought "high end." "Is this the Equus?" I asked the driver. "No, this is the Azera." I got out of the car not believing the guy, and looked at the stunning execution that is the 2012 Azera.

Azera styling keeps with the aggressive design theme that makes Hyundai models so popular. Looking at the Azera from the side, sharp character lines rise from front and rear fenders, with the rear line rising to form a spoiler-like lip on the rear deck. Chrome trim tastefully adorns the lower rocker, lending class and a jewel-like quality to the sculpted lower area. The front features an inverted power dome on the hood, flowing into the signature chrome slatted Hyundai grille. Headlights feature a single LED corona ring treatment around the main lights, with sweeping LED lights between the headlight and grille that indicate fluidity of motion, and are just plain gorgeous. Just below the grille is a large air intake flanked by trapezoidal fog lights. LED turn markers in the side view mirrors complete the impressive front look. At the rear, the aforementioned lip rises above LED taillights, with dual chrome exhaust tips flush with the rear bumper cover.

The entire look belies the Azera's price point, which in typical Hyundai fashion is perhaps the most amazing thing about this car. Prices begin at $32,000 U.S. dollars, and a full-tilt Azera will run you $36,000. In the States at least this is Hyundai Genesis territory (they're a hair under $40,000 north of the 49th), but even if the Azera came close to $40k remember that the Genesis is rear-wheel drive, whereas the Azera features foul weather friendly front-wheel drive.

The list of what is offered as standard equipment is substantial and includes navigation with a 7-inch screen, a killer base audio system with HD and Satellite radio plus iPod connectivity, Bluetooth streaming for audio and hands-free calling, dual-zone air-conditioning with cabin filtration, the aforementioned cool blue cabin lighting, leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 10-way driver and 8-way power passenger seats, plush premium carpeting, a cooled glovebox, and a host of safety gear such as electronic stability control, impact reducing front seats, and a driver's side knee airbag, plus much, much more.

U.S. buyers can add $4,000 more for the Technology Package, at which point Hyundai includes 19-inch alloys, HID Xenon headlights, a power adjustable tilt and telescopic steering column, ventilated (cooled) front seats, a driver's seat cushion extension, Integrated Memory System (remembers settings for power driver's seat, exterior mirrors, and steering column), a panoramic sunroof, an Infinity 12-speaker Logic7 audio system with subwoofer and external amplifier, a powered rear sunshade and manual side window sunshades, rear parking sensors, and interior ambient lighting.

Now that we've established that the Azera is fully equipped, what's the drive quality? Over a test loop of about 250 kilometers, I was impressed with Azera's road manners. Power comes from a 3.3-litre direct injection V6, outputting 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. A firm push on the "go" pedal produced solid acceleration with just a hint of torque steer. It was halfway through the test drive that I realized I was in "Active Eco" mode for optimum fuel economy. Switching to standard mode increased the level of forward thrust off the line and during passing maneuvers. By the way, when in "Eco" mode, the Azera achieves a class-leading U.S. EPA metric equivalent of 8.1 L/100km on the highway (the Canadian rating would be much better albeit less realistic). Power is channeled to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC manual shift capability.

Not only does the Azera go fast, it's very quiet. Obviously, Hyundai engineers have paid a great deal of attention to noise, vibration and harshness reduction. You feel enough road to enhance the driving experience, and that's it. Again, the level of sophistication belies the Azera's price point.

My only gripe about the entire drive experience was the amount of wind noise around the glass moonroof area when I briefly opened it to let in some rays. The noise level seemed excessive and out of line with the "silent" quality of the Azera with the roof closed. No worries though – if there is a problem identified within the brand, Hyundai moves quickly to rectify it. That's how they overcame initial quality problems when they first came here in late '70s and early '80s. As they say, the rest is history.

The 2012 Hyundai Azera is extremely well done, so why isn't it still sold in Canada? When the old Azera departed, the automaker said there was too much price overlap with the then-new Genesis sedan. That rather outdated 2009 Azera stickered at $37,000 Canadian dollars and the base Genesis sedan offered a lot more for a mere $1,000 upgrade. Today the base Genesis four-door starts at $40,000, $3,000 more than before. Is there now room for a luxury front-driver in Hyundai Canada's lineup? It would appear so. A fully optioned Sonata comes in at just over $34,000, which leaves about $6,000 of price gap to play with. And no doubt some potential Sonata buyers would prefer a V6, no longer available. If priced at the same $37k it was sold for before (and that was prior to Canadian dollar parity with the U.S. dollar), a better-equipped Azera would undercut the Toyota Avalon by more than $4,000, and more significantly it would likely cause some would-be Camry V6 buyers (not to mention Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, VW Passat buyers, and the list goes on) to take their business across the street. That should be reason enough for Hyundai Canada to reconsider the Azera for the Canadian market. Let's hope they're doing so.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Luxury Sedan, Hyundai, 2012, Azera, $30,000 - $39,999,

Organizations: Hyundai

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