Hyundai Azera

Once a New Comer, Now an Expert

For a few years now, Korean car manufacturers have been edging closer and closer to the benchmark their Japanese counterparts set a decade or so ago. Hyundai particularly has been leading the way by making very desirable cars that are as competent, reliable and pleasant to drive as they are attractive to look at. And the Korean giant’s latest offering for the region is the Azera, an upper mid size near luxury sedan that makes the Japanese counterparts, and to some extent the American and European ones, seem absurdly overpriced and under featured.

The Azera is a treat to look at, as it carries the epitome of the brand’s fluidic design language. Its sharp and V-shaped cues (inspired by a flying eagle) from the grill to the rear are both engaging and dynamic if to be honest a bit on the edge of being overdesigned. But that overdesign has not gone unnoticed by Hyundai’s design gurus, according to whom, the Azera is a design tour-de-force applied to show the world what Hyundai is actually capable of doing. Every design that will come after that will be watered down, somewhat like we are witnessing at BMW, Cadillac and Audi to name but a few.

So in terms of design, the Azera can be likened to a Sonata on steroids. It is swoopy, muscular, has very detailed optics front and rear and has a rear quarter profile that makes it look both sporty and full of design details which will guarantee visual appeal for an indefinite time.

On the inside, the same story continues. The overall convulsion of the dashboard and central console is inspired by a gentleman’s double Windsor knotted tie, and the details, although less engaging than the exterior is quite interesting and inspiring considering the competition.

Spacious is the first adjective that springs to mind when you settle in, and even in the rear seats behind a tall driver, space is abundant. In the driver’s seat, almost everything bar the seat controls are in easy reach, the steering wheel is adjustable both in tilt and reach aiding in an optimal driving position. The leather seats throughout are both comfortable and provide a decent level of lateral support, and the material used on the dashboard is some of the best Hyundai have ever used. Still a bit behind on the European competitors but with its high level of finish and soft touch visual effect, it’s very near especially when the Azera’s price is taken into consideration.

The interior is feature rich with many standard features and many more in options: ambiance lighting, adaptive cruise control and massaging seats to name but a few. Safety is also a major aspect of the Azera’s specification list with a full array of active and passive safety features making the Azera a top safety pick for both individuals and families.

In terms of appearance and interior feel, the Azera offers a compelling package that matches many of the long standing nameplates and exceeds some of them, but the area where it is the most disadvantaged is in the power department, or weight, whichever way you look at it as both elements are infinitely intertwined.

Powered by the 3.0 liter V6, the Azera has 250 hp to make do with and 282Nm of torque managed by a 6 speed automatic with manual mode, quite sufficient for a mid size premium saloon. But the Azera weighs in at just over 2 tons, quite a bit of weight to be lugging around and thus the Azera’s performance is not spritely or urgent; it accelerates with a bit of a lug and you can definitely feel the weight. In that aspect Hyundai would have to either increase the power and torque output on the engine or lighten the car in its next generation if they want to attract buyers that prefer a bit more punch in their daily ride. However, I must stress that the Azera is not underpowered in the full meaning of the word; it’s more like just enough power to make it move in an acceptable fashion, and it falls short of being wafty and capable of on demand overtakes, right within the Hyundai target market but falls short of being ambitious enough to attract performance minded buyers. Strangely a 2.8 liter inline four is also available on the base model. None were available in the test fleet, but I doubt its 180hp would be sufficient to move along the Azera at any gracious pace, especially on Lebanon’s mountain roads.

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