The intent here is to review today’s test car, the estimable 2012 Hyundai Azera, but other sedan-related memories keep getting in the way, sending my typing fingers. When Hyundai designed its current mid-sized Sonata, which made its debut as a 2011 model, the plan from the start was to create a four-cylinder-only vehicle, eliminating the V-6 option and using the space savings to increase interior room, thereby making it more like a large sedan.
When Honda introduced its now aging eighth generation Accord in Boston in 2008, their marketing and design people took pride in emphasizing that the vehicle’s interior actually qualified as a large sedan.
Trying to maximize interior space in smaller and mid-sized vehicles certainly qualifies as an industry trend, but what about the true large sedans, the ones with generous legroom front and rear and huge trunk space—cars like the Azera?
Fast-reverse to the 1950s. It was an age when the family vehicle was either a large sedan or a station wagon.
Over the years, that large sedan (“your father’s Buick”) has faded out of the mainstream. I’ve watched from the sidelines as sales first were chipped away by a move to truck-based vehicles such as pickups and the Chevrolet Suburban.
That trend was encouraged because those truck-based vehicles were exempt from the early smogand pollution-control systems. Those setups choked engine performance and made the driving experience dreadful from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s.
Continuing on this tangent, the move to bigger vehicles created an opening that changed the marketplace seemingly forever when Chrysler introduced the minivan. Since then, generations have grown up with those vehicles, not realizing how revolutionary they were at one time and how they led to the evolution of today’s SUVs and crossovers.
Through all of this, however, the large sedan has been in showrooms, though figures from the Automotive News data center show its market share has dwindled from 7.2 percent in 2006 to 4.4 percent last year.
When people ask me for some of my favorite vehicles, I always include large sedans such as the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Avalon.The Avalon has been on my list since its introduction as a 1995 model.
Now Hyundai is on it, too, with this redesigned second generation Azera. It slots between the midsized Sonata and the upscale Genesis in giving the company a large sedan presence in what’s become an expansive Hyundai lineup. For the record, Hyundai goes (small to large) from the entry-level Accent to the Elantra, Sonata, Azera, Genesis, and Equus. In addition to the Santa Fe,Tucson, andVeracruz SUVs, there’s also the funky compactVeloster (successor-to-the- Tiburon) in the mix.
The Azera is the fifth vehicle to incorporate Hyundai’s“fluidic sculpture”design philosophy.These cars are distinctive enough that you still hear people ask,“What’s that?” when one passes on the highway.
Hyundai has gone the direct injection route with its gasoline engines.The Azera’s 3.3-liter V-6 produces 293 horsepower and is rated at 23 miles per gallon in combined driving.We recorded 25.4 mpg in our testing.
We liked the ride, the styling, the performance, the space, and the long list of standard features. Power was more than adequate and the handling was predictable. Suspension and road noise were minimal.
Looks-wise, the only disappointment was a matter of styling taste. I’m not a fan of the flowing dashboard look that features a lot of hard plastics. Close your eyes part way and the center stack bears an amazing resemblance to a DarthVader mask. However, it does have a neat and usefulVolvo-inspired hidden space behind the bottom of the stack.
Azera is priced at $32,875 (including destination). The main option is a $4,000 tech package, which was on our test car. It adds 19-inch wheels, a huge panoramic sunroof, power rear sunshade and manual side sunshades, memory seats with seat-cushion extender, ambient lighting, and rear parking sensors. Small items (carpeted mats, cargo net, iPod cable, first-aid kit) brought the bottom line to $37,085.
Standard features include leather seats, heated rear seats, touch-screen navigation and audio system, rear-view camera, and Hyundai Blue Link telematics system.
My four-year-old grandson was transfixed by the gigantic panoramic sunroof, the manual sunshades on the rear side windows, and the drop-down rear armrest that serves as a territorial divider for young passengers.
He was every bit as home in the Azera as I was.