Hyundai Azera Review: The Low-Profile Luxury Cruiser
Sometimes, stealth mode is the only way to go. Nothing audacious or overly flashy, just simple, snazzy, purposeful, and unassuming. It’s a mantra that illustrates one of the many ways in which Korean cars have found their niche in American car culture, and with stellar reliability, sensational warranties, and a fresh grasp on performance engineering, the future looks bright for both Hyundai and Kia alike.
The Azera Limited is an ideal example of what happens when middle class masterminding meets subtle styling interests: a luxury sedan that doesn’t necessarily scream its role on the road, but offers the goods and then some once prompted to. It’s an all-in-one, flat-priced pitch at the sedan segment, and while stealing sales from devout German luxury buyers still remains tough, the fact that Hyundai took it this far is testament to the potential that this platform shoulders.
While it may be conservative and unassuming on the outside, it’s the inside and the driver engagement that the Azera offers that helps it stand out. There’s a lot packed into this sedan, and while it got taken to task by Car and Driver for what it felt was a disconnected driving feel and tech glitches that annoy more than assist, Edmunds.com praised the Azera Limited for its affordable, leather-clad stab at the segment.
We found that the Azera landed somewhere between the two, garnering Hyundai’s sub-Genesis sedan a solid 3.5 out of 5. With a few styling tweaks inside and out, a few layout corrections, and an alternative drivetrain option, this car could really be a strong competitor. Unfortunately, rumor has it that the Azera sits dangerously close to the chopping block, and with Hyundai pushing buyers toward the new Genesis line, now might be the best time to get one of these underplayed puppies on the cheap.
There really isn’t anything polarizing about this sedan, which is good, but that also means that it tends to blend in when it really should be standing out as a strong segment option. It has the automatic adaptive lighting, the LED fog lamps, all of the proper brightwork and carved body lines, with contrasting dark notes up front, in the back between the integrated exhaust, and atop the tinted sunroof. The issue lies within how people perceive the Azera. We are a fan of its styling, but after asking friends, family, and a handful of strangers what their take on the car was, just half of them agreed with us.
Exterior pros and cons
+ LED fog lamps and wrap-around tail lights are sleek, and the chromed out projector lenses add a fetching touch.
+ The 19-inch alloy wheel upgrade is simple yet effective, chrome is tastefully spaced out, and black accents offer contrast.
+ Power folding mirrors are great, as is the standard panoramic sunroof, and the trunk can be opened hands-free.
– Some buyers may find the styling to be boring or basic, others find it less attractive than the newly redesigned Kia counterpart or the Genesis upgrade options.
– There’s no rear keyless entry option, and the adaptive lighting can be temperamental.
The Azera performs in a smooth, strong, and straightforward manner. There’s only one drivetrain you can get, and while its 3.3-liter V6 is quite engaging and gets respectable EPA estimates, the front tires chatter and struggle for grip under heavy acceleration and noticeable torque steer can be felt, giving reason for some drivers to shy away in favor of all-wheel drive sedan alternatives from other automakers. While Hyundai may not be trying to entice former Subaru Impreza drivers and aims more for Floridian retirees with this one, tethering almost 300 horsepower to a chassis that is solely offered in a front-wheel drive configuration can be problematic in winter time, thus negating potential sales in northern states. Not having a smaller engine configuration or a hybrid option is also something that some buyers may have issue with, especially since the Azera gets 23 miles per gallon on average.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ 293 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque are delivered smoothly via a suave six-speed automatic.
+ Quiet and confident, the 3.3-liter motor returns an EPA estimate of 19/28 miles per gallon, which is comparable to the competition.
+ Even in Active Eco mode, overtakes are easy, as throttle responses and the ability to select gears gives drivers additional perks.
– No sport mode or paddles like the new Cadenza.
– Drivetrain options are limited to a front-wheel drive layout and a V6, with no AWD, turbo-four, or hybrid options on the horizon.
Hyundai deserves a nod for the way it approaches the luxury segment, because by taking a flat-rate approach to packages, buyers can get oodles of comfort and convenience within a cabin that Car and Driver says is a full decibel quieter than a BMW 7-Series. While vented/heated front seats can be had on less pricey models like the Elantra, things like thigh extensions for drivers, bespoke seat stitching, and copious amounts of small badging and sleek styling cues within the door panels help this sedan stand out. It may have some cheaply finished and overlooked areas here and there, but all in all this cabin is pretty killer.
Interior pros and cons
+ Tasteful carbon alternative touches in hard plastic trim areas, a heated rear bench, vented/heated front seats, dual memory driver positioning, and a power adjusting steering wheel pull the cabin together.
+ Comfortable and extremely quiet, the roomy cabin is highlighted by a standard sunroof that slides in both directions, thus slicing open/close times in half.
+ Night driving means slick mood and courtesy lighting, and the 550-watt Infinity sound system sounds stellar.
– Lots of black makes the interior a bit oppressive and one-sided. We suggest looking at different interior color combinations in order to add a little contrast and lighten the mood.
– Some cheap plastic pieces, front seat adjustment switches on door can be tedious to use, and there’s only one USB port in the entire cabin.
Tech and safety
Electronically, the Limited comes loaded with standard safety features like variable cruise control, forward collision and lane departure warnings, as well as cross traffic alerts and blind spot detection. Everything is power operated, and while the hands-free trunk and in-depth driver display were nice touches, we fawned over things like the customizable steering wheel memory settings and automatic vehicle hold function, which allows drivers to remove their foot from the brake while stopped.
Tech pros and cons
+ From the retractable rear sunscreen and easy access steering wheel to the automatic vehicle hold and climate controls for the rear bench, everything is automatic and easy to use.
+ Hyundai continues to make a driver information display that is easy to read, responsive, and pleasant to look at, with loads of customizable settings and stats to discover, all while not being overwhelming.
+ Limited trim gives drivers almost every tech safety feature in Hyundai’s arsenal, all of which work well.
– No surround camera views and no detailed 3-D map graphics.
– Lane keep assist not as good as the Honda Accord Touring, no heads-up display like Mazda, and no rain-sensing wipers.
The Azera is a road trip cruise ship that parks easily, gets decent fuel economy, and is quite practical. Trunk dimensions are on par with the best in the segment, so you can stow all sorts of stuff out back, which leaves loads of leg room for passengers in the heated rear bench space. Since both suspension and steering were re-calibrated during the most recent refresh, road connectivity and turning ease are on point too, and bumps are absorbed beautifully as even the lower profile rubber wrapped around those 19-inch alloy wheels did not cause discomfort.
On the dark side, the Azera still feels a bit aloof when it comes to steering feedback, and not having all-wheel drive makes winter wandering a bit of a concern. It also doesn’t have a sport button or a duo of paddle shifters like its Cadenza cousin, so drivers are limited to Regular, Eco, and slapping the gear selector around to keep revs up.
But don’t get fooled into thinking the Azera is timid, either. While it may not have the ferocity of the 3.8-liter Genesis R-spec we hooned last September, there is plenty to applaud in the drive department, starting with how smoothly the engine and gearbox work together. Expect zero-to-60 times to hover around six seconds, but be prepared for some body roll and nose dive due to the re-calibrated suspension setup. It’s a cruiser, not a bruiser, so if you want a little more sportiness and a similar warranty, it might be best to consider the overhauled Cadenza instead.
Wrap up and review
For the most part, the 2016 Azera is a carryover model from years past, and while it has been massaged into a more lithe and loaded luxury sedan, it has a tall order to fill if it wants to truly compete with equally priced cars like the Nissan Maxima Platinum.
While the 2017 Cadenza makes a strong argument for going with the Azera’s sportier cousin, at $40,320 the Hyundai is a full four grand cheaper, and good luck getting all of these amenities in a European sedan for that much. The Limited model also piles on numerous extras for no additional cost, so buyers don’t have to sweat endless package options.
But unless Hyundai invests the money in a substantial overhaul similar to Kia, we’re worried that the Azera’s days may be numbered as sales remain low when compared to other vehicles in the automaker’s line. Nevertheless, in Limited trim, it’s still a damn fine automobile, and earns a place on any sedan shopper’s list.
Follow Autos Cheat Sheet on Facebook