By Kelsey Mays on July 16, 2012
Cars.com Senior Editor Kristin Varela just reviewed the redesigned Hyundai Azera, the latest generation of Hyundai's full-size sedan. The Azera represents the Korean automaker's effort to draw buyers from a competitive, if overlooked, field that includes the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Hyundai hopes the Azera can improve upon its unpopular predecessor, which hasn't broken 15,000 annual sales since 2007. That's a fraction of the 70,000-plus Chargers that Dodge shoppers took home last year. It will have its work cut out for it: All four competitors have been redesigned or significantly updated in the past 19 months.
Varela, based in Denver, praised the Azera's drivetrain and value but took issue with some controls and the seating position. Other editors, myself included, had a chance to drive an Azera tester at Cars.com's Chicago offices."It’s a lovely car," Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder said. "Ride quality is definitely not as good as it could, and arguably should, be, but I don’t think it will turn off the masses." Editor Jennifer Geiger noted the lack of composure, saying the Azera "feels sloppy in certain situations. It seems to float and bound over rough stuff." I concurred: The Charger and 300 filter out pavement divots that jolt the Azera's cabin. It's not terrible, but a full-size car should ride better. The only caveat? Our tester had 19-inch wheels and lower-profile tires. With its base 18-inch wheels, the Azera might ride better.
Another recurring gripe? Steering.
"Steering is an issue," Wiesenfelder wrote. "It has a typical lack of torque buildup and general feedback, and it feels like it needs a front-end alignment." Hanley agreed: "The biggest issue with it seems to be at slow speeds and close to on-center, where the wheel kind of sticks to its spot, and you have to move it back to where you want it. The tuning feels pretty artificial and removed from the wheels."
Slow speeds weren't the only concern. "There is something not right about the steering, especially at 30 to 45 mph. It feels jittery," Managing Editor David Thomas said. I agreed: On the highway, you're correcting all the time. It's just too touchy and it doesn't settle in. It always needs to be managed, but it still feels numb overall. It's fatiguing on road trips.
Fortunately, the Azera found redemption in cabin quality and roominess.
"Materials look and feel top-notch," Geiger said. "There's plenty of headroom and legroom in the front and rear seats for a 6-foot passenger and me." Said Thomas: "The materials are worlds better than our Ford Taurus tester — plus it delivers a ton of interior and trunk room without being as big a boat." I noted the comfortable seats, with effective cooled seats — often a gimmick — and soft cushions. Hanley found our car's leather upholstery subpar: "It kind of felt like fine-grit sandpaper."
Thomas liked our test car's Infinity stereo, which is part of a $4,000 Technology Package. Wiesenfelder went further: "It’s a stereo of note," he said. "Good tonal qualities, with notably controlled bass. … It's good to see Infinity finally figuring cars out."
Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey