The Azera's cabin technology doesn't stop at the dashboard -- it doesn't even stop in the car -- thanks to the standard Blue Link telematics system. Tapping the Blue Link button on the rear-view mirror initiates a call to Blue Link's voice servers where you can search for destinations by voice, get fuel prices, and ask for traffic updates and have all of that data downloaded the dashboard for navigation. Blue Link can also send a text or Facebook status update to your friends with your destination and ETA and text you a notification if the car leaves a preset geofence (a virtual boundary of GPS coordinates) without your permission. There's emergency vehicle recovery, crash response, and roadside assistance accessible via the SOS button on the mirror. Factor in connectivity with the Blue Link app that allows the Azera to be monitored and controlled (remote start, door unlock) with a smartphone and you've got a telematics system that pretty much matches what GM is offering with OnStar.
Power train and performance
The Azera's engine room is home to a 3.3-liter GDI engine, a new power plant for Hyundai. (Although the automaker did once offer a 3.3-liter engine in the, this is not the same mill.) With the help of direct-injection technology, this V-6 engine develops 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. That power exits through the front wheels after passing through a six-speed automatic transmission, the only gearbox available for the Azera.
The transmission features a manual shift mode, but no paddle shifters -- Hyundai isn't trying to kid you into thinking a big front-driver makes any sporty pretenses. The manual shift mode is best for preselecting a lower gear for a passing maneuver, a situation where beat or so of lag between slapping the shifter and the actual engagement of the next gear aren't much of a detriment. Under normal automatic conditions, the Azera likes to hang out in the tallest gear possible to maximize fuel economy.
The EPA reckons that the 2012 Azera will go 20 miles on a gallon of gas in the city and 29 miles on the highway, averaging the values at about 23 mpg combined. Our testing ended at about the 21 mpg mark, which I found odd because most of the miles I logged in the Azera were highway cruising miles which should have yielded a few more mpgs by my estimate, but I'm not exactly known for my light right foot.
On the other hand, my fuel economy probably would have been worse without the help of the Azera's Active Eco functions, which not only illuminate a green Eco light in the speedometer when you're driving green, but also adjusts the Azera's throttle response, power-train mapping, and transmission profile to maximize the sedan's fuel economy and mitigate a bit of lead-footedness. Matting the accelerator pedal still gets you the full beans of the Azera's available torque, so there's no need to step out of Active ECO to pass, but this feature does keep you from using more throttle and fuel than you need to when you're just tooling around town and on the highway.
The Azera's power steering is light enough that it won't offend the sensibilities of the average large sedan buyer, but surprisingly it is not as overboosted as I expected it to be. There's a nice weight to the wheel that helps to make the Azera feel substantial and planted at highway speeds -- I like that.
However, there's still not a ton of feedback to be found at the tips of your fingers. Hyundai's engineers have done a good job of isolating the driver from the road below, the ticking of the GDI engine, and the roar of the wind. Responsiveness and grip are not bad, it's easy to tell that comfort is king when it comes to the Azera's suspension tuning. When you consider that most potential owners will be cross shopping this car with the Toyota Avalon, you begin to realize how low "communicative steering when piloting the Azera round a bend" is on the list of priorities.
Pricing the Azera couldn't be simpler because there's only one trim level: the rather well-equipped base model. That's $32,000 with an $875 destination charge and it gets you the full Hyundai infotainment package with navigation, all of Hyundai's digital audio sources, heated and power-adjustable seats, and the Blue Link telematics system with 6 Months of the Assurance level of service and 3 months of Essentials & Guidance levels.
The only options available are the $4,000 Technology package which pretty much completes the dashboard tech offerings with the rear proximity sensors and the Infinity premium audio system and rounds out the comfort functions with cooled seats for the front passengers, power tilt and telescoping on the steering wheel, a memory function for the power adjustments on the driver's seat, the panoramic sunroof, and the bigger wheels and xenon headlamps. This all or nothing packaging helps Hyundai to keep its prices low, but can be frustrating if all you want is, for example, the nicer stereo. That brings the fully loaded 2012 Azera with Tech package to $36,875 as tested.
In many ways, the Azera is a better buy than the Genesis V-6, if you don't mind being down a few ponies and living with a front-wheel drive platform--which most drivers will surely be. The Azera's slightly smaller footprint makes it just a hair easier to park, but it doesn't compromise on interior space. The typically polarizing Fluidic Sculpture design language is relatively tame here as well. And you get the same tech and comfort options for about $2,000 to $3,000 less than a comparably equipped Genesis V-6.
|Model||2012 Hyundai Azera|
|Trim||Base with Technology package|
|Power train||3.3-liter GDI V-6, six-speed automatic transmission w/ manual shift mode, FWD|
|EPA fuel economy||20 city, 29 highway, 23 combined mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||Approx. 21 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard with traffic and voice|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes with voice|
|Disc player||Single-slot CD|
|MP3 player support||Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, optional iPod connection cable|
|Other digital audio||SiriusXM Satellite Radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Optional Infinity 550-watt, 12-speaker system with subwoofer and amplifier|
|Driver aids||Rear view camera, optional proximity detection|
|Price as tested||$36,875|