Forget about high-tech gizmos and impressive name badges. The 2013 Hyundai Azera gives perks for less cash.
By Aaron Gold
The Big Picture
There was a time when luxury cars were all about luxury. They had seats like pillow-top matteresses and suspensions so soft that when you bit a bump, you didn’t feel it until later that evening when you sat down to dinner. And then BMW and Mercedes came along with their austere and somber interiors, as if you were supposed to pretend to be a blue-collar working girl while driving from your corner office to your five million dollar McMansion.
I have always thought luxury cars should put luxury first, which is why I am so fond of Hyundai’s big sedan, the Azera. This is old-school luxury, and I mean that in a good way — the Azera doesn’t drive liek a 1974 Lincoln (thank goodness), but its first priority is to coddle its owner. The Azera looks luxurious and feels luxurious — and yet, thanks to humble mechanical bits and a brand name with zero luxury cachet, the price is incredibly affordable. So affordable, in fact, that I’m going to wait a few paragraphs until I tell you the price. (No fair peeking!)
An Inside Job
Step inside the Hyundai Azera, and you’ll find yourself facing a beautifully detailed dashboard that wraps gracefully into the doors. Run your fingers over the fabrics, plastics, and trim pieces — everything feels expensive and substantial. I loved the way my elbows oozed into the softly-padded armrests, but I was just as impressed by the feel of the buttons, dials and switches; along with the comfort of an old-time Cadillac, the Azera exhibits the same attention to detail that you’ll find in a modern-day Lexus.
The Hyundai Azera is a full-size car, so behind the comfy power-adjustable front seats you’ll find a back seat with plenty of legroom. And the back seats are heated, which is a rare find. Spring for the optional Technology Package, and you’ll get an enormous full-length sunroof that lets back seaters enjoy their own view of the sky.
Though it may not have been Hyundai’s intention, the Azera does make an excellent family car. The big back seat and wide door openings make it easy to get your infant into his car seat, and seventeen years later, when he’s 6’4″, playing football, and convinced that he has all the answers to life, he’ll still have plenty of room to stretch out. The Azera’s trunk is exceptionally generous at 16.3 cubic feet, with plenty of space for strollers and suitcases. If you have a teen driver in the house, you’ll appreciate the parental-monitoring function of the Azera’s Blue Link system, which allows you to program in a maximum speed, geographic boundaries, and curfew time, and sends you a message if your teen driver (or wayward spouse) goes beyond those limits. Just a thought, don’t buy this car if you’re planning on cheating.
Affordable as it is, the Hyundai Azera doesn’t skimp on the important stuff. There are nine airbags, including side airbags for the rear-seat passengers and one for the driver’s knee. (What do all those airbags do?) The Azera had not been crash-tested at the time of writing, but Hyundai’s other mid-size and large cars, including the Sonata and Genesis, have earned Top Safety Pick awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and I expect the Azera will follow suit.
The Hyundai Azera is powered by a 3.3 liter V6 that strikes a nice balance between power and fuel economy. Its 293 horsepower is enough for passing on two-lane roads or quick freeway merges, yet its EPA gas mileage estimates are 20 MPG city and 30 MPG highway, just behind Toyota’s all-new 2013 Avalon. All Azeras get a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive.
The Azera is tuned for an old-school luxury ride; it’s soft, serene, and fairly quiet. I expected the handling to be marshmallowy-soft, but I was wrong — the Azera responds promptly to the steering wheel and grips the road well in turns and sudden swerves. The fun factor is pretty low, but the relax-and-recharge factor is incredibly high.
Gizmos And Tech
How does the Hyundai Azera coddle thee? Let us count the ways. Each and every Azera comes standard with heated, power-adjustable leather seats, a navigation system, rearview camera, Bluetooth speakerphone, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, an air-conditioned glovebox (wouldn’t want our secret stash of Hersheys to melt, would we?), keyless entry and ignition, an iPod-compatible stereo with XM satellite and HD radio, and the aforementioned BlueLink, which is Hyundai’s answer to GM’s OnStar. Along with the parental controls we talked about, Blue Link provides advanced destination searches, one-touch emergency services, and other useful connectivity features.
The Azera offers a single optional “Technology Package” that includes a panoramic sunroof, sunshades for the rear and rear-side windows, air conditioned front seats, a 12-speaker Infinity stereo, a memory setting for the driver’s seat and mirrors, power-adjustable steering column, a parking assistance system, and mood lighting for the interior.
So what have they left out? Well, the Azera doesn’t have any high-tech driver-assistance features such as active cruise control or a lane-departure warning system. But at the prices they’re charging, I’m perfectly okay with that. Which brings us to…
The new Azera is a wonderful car. It's not a technological masterpiece, nor does it offer the legendary driver appeal of a BMW or an Audi. But not all of us yearn for a sporty drive. To me, the most important thing a luxury car can do is make me feel luxurious. The Hyundai Azera does just that -- and at a price that can't be beat.
Handsome styling, roomy back seat and trunk
First-class interior, outstanding value-for-money
Nothing -- the Hyundai Azera is fine as it is