Patrick Rall's picture

Hyundai Azera Deserves Attention When Shopping Luxury Sedans on a Budget

I recently had a chance to spend a week behind the wheel of the Hyundai Azera Limited and after my experience, I continue to wonder why more people hunting for a luxury level vehicle on a budget don’t give this large midsized sedan a closer look – as it offers all of the goodies that you get from some of the more cost effective luxury brands without the massive price tag.

Over the past decade, Korean automaker Hyundai has grown a great deal in the US and several of their models are among the bestselling in their segment, but it always surprises me that the midsized Azera doesn’t get more attention from prospective buyers. The Azera Limited delivers spacious comfort, premium amenities and a very solid V6 engine for right around $40k and unlike many other midsized cars that come with luxury features with the stipulation of lots of additional charges – everything that you get with the Azera Limited and everything that I will discuss below comes standard for the base price of $40,195 (including destination).

Before I get into all of the aspects of the Hyundai Azera, a quick look at why this car doesn’t get as much attention and as many accolades as the slightly larger Genesis sedan or the slightly smaller Sonata. Like the Sonata, the Azera is a front wheel drive sedan and while it offers more space than the Sonata and more amenities – similar to what you get with the rear wheel drive Genesis sedan – the Azera is smaller, less expensive, less powerful and more efficient than the Genesis. Basically, if you want similar premium amenities to what you get with the Genesis sedan, but you would prefer front wheel drive and a slightly smaller footprint on the road, the Azera should be a dream come true. However, the fact that the Azera sits between the flashier Genesis and the more fuel-friendly/cost effective Sonata causes this loaded midsized sedan to get lost in its own showroom, but for those who do give the Azera a second look – at it a great option.

Premium Features Inside and Out
The premium feel of the Hyundai Azera Limited begins on the outside, where you will find HID Xenon headlights with accent trim lighting, daytime running lights, bright LED taillights and LED fog lights. The exterior mirrors are heated and power-controlled, there is tons of chrome from front to rear and the bright silver 19 inch wheels complete the very luxurious exterior layout. Hyundai isn’t a luxury brand, but someone unfamiliar with the brand would never guess that when checking out the Azera Limited for the first time.

azera side

On the inside, the driver and front passenger both enjoy nicely padded leather seats with moderate base and back bolsters that cradle your body, but not enough to squeeze you like some sport-luxury seats. In addition to 12-way power controls for the driver and 8-way controls for the passenger, both of the front seats have three separate temperature settings to both heat and cool the front seats and while the rear seats aren’t cooled – they are every bit as plush as the front seats while also being heated (two modes for the rear seats). More importantly, the front and rear seats offer gobs of legroom for even very tall rear riders when there is a very tall driver or front passenger. In short, the Azera offers a remarkable amount of passenger space for four tall adults. Also, for those rear passengers who want extra privacy or less sunlight, the Azera Limited features a power rear shade and manual side shades on the rear doors and when everyone wants lots of light – the Azera Limited comes with a gorgeous panoramic sunroof.

azera fr seats

Next up, we have the premium tech goodies that come standard in the Hyundai Azera Limited. This begins with power lock system, with a proximity feature that allows you to unlock the doors with a touch of your finger, while the key is still in your pocket and once in the car, you can start the engine with the push of a button. Many luxury sedans have gone to a key system where you don’t even have to worry about reaching into your pocket for the key fob and the Azera offers that same convenience.

As you might expect, the Azera has a touchscreen infotainment system with an 8 inch screen that offers full control, but those who don’t love touch sensitive controls can opt for some traditional buttons and knobs on both the center console and the steering wheel. Really, when cruising down the road, the driver can adjust the radio without taking his or her hands off of the wheel while the hands-free phone system and the navigation software can be accessed via voice controls. In addition to adjusting sound system and access the voice controls, the steering wheel buttons include controls for the small driver information center in the gauge cluster, which offer trip figures, fuel economy numbers, navigation information, sound system information and vehicle settings. The touchscreen does not access the climate controls, but instead, the dual zone heat and AC is adjusted via a very easy to use panel on the center stack while the controls for the heated/cooled front seats are located down near the shifter for easiest access.

azera dash

Finally, the Hyundai Azera Limited features a spread of brushed metal and carbon fiber trim, working with the copious amounts of leather to bring together the premium look and feel of this roomy midsized sedan.

The Drive
The Hyundai Azera Limited is powered by a 3.3L V6 that delivers 293 horsepower and 255lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. This is the only engine offered in the Azera so if you really demand more power, you will need to step up to the rear drive Genesis sedan, but the 3.3L V6 provides plenty of power to make the Azera a solid car to drive. Acceleration isn’t mind-blowing, but this naturally aspirated V6 has no issues getting the midsized sedan moving from a stop, nor does it have any qualms pushing the Azera well past any posted speed limit on local highways. You aren’t likely to see many Azera owners dominating at the drag strip, but at no point in the normal driving cycle does the Azera feel like it really needs more power. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly from gear to gear and while those drivers who like a little more gear control can opt for the manual shift mode, it doesn’t improve performance any so while I like manual shift options in automatic transmission vehicles – the transmission in the Azera does a great job of combining performance and comfort.

azera rear

Speaking of comfort, what the Azera lacks in high performance capabilities, it makes up in ride quality and interior noise levels. Whether you are cruising down the highway at 70 miles per hour or braving a rough rural road filled with potholes and rough pavement, the Azera’s suspension does a great job of keeping noise and vibration outside while the cabin stays smooth and quiet. Along those same lines, when traveling at highway speeds, the Azera is subject to very little wind noise, so those who spend long hours cruising on the open road will appreciate the ability to enjoy their favorite music or a lively discussion with passengers without talking over exterior noise.

In terms of fuel economy, the Azera isn’t a showstopper, but in my experiences, the EPA expected figures of 19mpg around town, 28mpg on the highway and 22mpg combined are all very realistic numbers. I averaged just over 22mpg in 8 days with a steady mix of driving around town and on the highway, with the on-board system showing numbers closer to 30mpg on long highway trips.

The Hyundai Azera isn’t going to wow you with crazy levels of performance, but that wasn’t what the company was going for when they designed this roomy midsized sedan. What will wow you is the unmistakably luxury level ride quality of the Azera, so while not ideal for those who love going very fast – the Azera is ideal for those who put ride quality and interior noise levels high on their list of new vehicle expectations.

The Final Word
Hyundai isn’t a luxury brand and while some might question my calling the Azera a luxury car – this car has everything that you would expect from a midsized luxury car. It might not pack the big power of some comparably equipped sedans from the heart of the luxury segment, but it also doesn’t park that big price tag. When you factor in the plush interior, the stylish exterior, the powerful engine that can yield close to 30mpg on the highway and a price starting – fully loaded – at $40,000 – the Hyundai Azera plays the luxury game without the luxury price.

azera front side

If you are in the market for a roomy front-wheel drive sedan with premium features inside and out and you are doing so on a budget, there are no cars in the “proper luxury world” that can offer as much as the Hyundai Azera for $40,000. If you want a car that looks and feels like a luxury sedan and you truly aren’t worried about the name on the steering wheel fitting the luxury mold – the Azera might just be your perfect new vehicle.

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