2012 Hyundai Azera review:

2012 Hyundai Azera

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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 previous generation of the Sonata, 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.

2012 Hyundai Azera engine bay
The Azera's new 3.3-liter GDI engine is good for 293 horsepower, just 40 ponies shy of the Genesis V-6's 3.8-liter mill. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

2012 Hyundai Azera rear
The Azera's built primarily for comfort, not for speed, befitting the needs of the large sedan buyer. Josh Miller/CNET

In sum
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.

Tech specs
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
Base price $32,000
Price as tested $36,875

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