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Test Drive: 2015 Hyundai Azera

Test Drive: 2015 Hyundai Azera

By Ethan West, October 20, 2015

The Hyundai Azera is one of the best-kept secrets in the marketplace. Slotting in above the midsize Sonata and below the luxury midsize Genesis in Hyundai’s new car lineup, the Azera is somewhat of a junior luxury car. Junior luxury in price only, as the Azera is a large car that goes up against full-size competitors such as the Toyota Avalon, Kia Cadenza, Chrysler 300, and Buick LaCrosse. Selling just over 7,000 units last year, the Azera is by far one of the lower-volume models in its segment and is rarer than even a Porsche 911.

The current-generation Azera is in its fourth model year after debuting in 2012. Although the Azera was not rank-eligible in J.D. Power’s key automotive studies in 2014 and 2015 due to small sample size, in both the 2013 Initial Quality Study (IQS) and the 2013 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Azera ranked second in its segment—a strong showing.

For the 2015 model year, the Azera remains largely unchanged, keeping its sloping, coupe-like roof line and sculpted shoulders in the rear and adding minor styling updates like LED fog lights. With this year’s updates in hand on our Diamond Pearl White tester, we set out to see if this well-kept secret is a hidden gem or a skeleton in the closet.

Likes

The 2015 Hyundai Azera is comfortable. Very, very comfortable. Respondents to the J.D. Power 2015 Avoider Study,SM which asks verified owners of new vehicles why they chose to avoid, reject, or purchase particular models, agree that the Azera has stellar levels of comfort. Buyers of the Azera cited comfort more often than any other reason when describing why they purchased their car instead of other models.

Comfort is delivered in three main areas in the Azera: ride quality, seats, and interior. The ride quality in the Azera owes to its large size, soaking up bumps in the road, but the car remains confident enough to take a long, sweeping curve at an entertaining pace. If you’re not one of the 7,000 or so people who buy a Hyundai Azera each year, you are missing out on some of the best seats outside of a high-end luxury car.

The driver’s seat in the 2015 Azera has 12-way power adjustment, and its pièce de résistance is a seat-bottom cushion extender. In recent years, seat bottoms in vehicles seem to have gotten shorter, perhaps in an effort to boost interior measurement numbers or trim weight from vehicles. To some, this may have the effect that it feels like you’re sitting on a stool, rather than an armchair. Both regular height and taller people will no doubt enjoy the seat-bottom cushion extender, as it is the last piece of the puzzle in seat adjustment and comfort. All Azeras come standard with front-seat ventilation and heaters. On a warm, Southern California day, the seat ventilators performed so well that I originally mistook them for seat coolers.

2015 Hyundai Azera Interior photoAs mentioned, the Azera’s interior is a very satisfying place in which to spend time. All materials—including door panels, dashboard, console, and leather seating surfaces—feel weighty and pleasing to the touch. It’s no wonder that buyers cited quality of workmanship (materials, fit, and finish) as the fourth-most important reason they purchased the Azera, according to the 2015 Avoider Study.

The Azera’s sleek, pulled-back body lines and chiseled accents lend themselves well to the size of the car. The Azera looks like a large car, but doesn’t throw it in your face, so to speak. Styling will always be subjective, but those who bought the Azera mentioned exterior styling as the second-most prominent purchase reason. Our test car featured a panoramic sunroof, as all Limited trim level Azeras do. The combination of panoramic sunroof and pearlescent white paint lent a high-end air to our test car.

All 2015 Azeras feature the same powertrain—Hyundai’s popular 3.3-liter V-6 engine, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and quickly, and even features a slick manual mode for when you’re feeling spunky. The engine’s 293 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque aren’t exactly muscular, but they pull the Azera along confidently and perhaps faster than one would expect. It’s no wonder that performance is the fifth-most mentioned purchase reason for the Azera in the 2015 Avoider Study.

Dislikes

The 2015 Hyundai Azera has a lot going for it, but time waits for no one, and the Azera is now in the fourth year of its current lifecycle since being redesigned in 2012. Our test car, in the Limited trim, came packed with features like an 8-in. touch-screen audio and entertainment system with navigation and Hyundai’s latest iteration of its Bluelink software. Connected to the entertainment system is a 14-speaker Infinity sound system cranking out 550 watts for when you want to jam with the fam. The sound system is standard on all 2015 Azeras, and is more than sufficient.

In the Limited trim level, the Azera comes packed with features like a rearview camera, xenon headlights, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, rear park-assist sensors, and even a rear power sunshade. Even with all of this, the Azera is still missing a few features that newer models in its segment have started to offer. For example, the Azera lacks any sort of advanced proximity-based cruise control system, head-up display, or night-vision camera. Discerning shoppers have noticed the few missing features, as “lacks latest technology” is the third-most cited reason to avoid the Hyundai Azera in the 2015 Avoider Study.

One could also make a case that the Azera’s fuel economy is down just a bit from such competitors as the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon. The Azera’s 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway fuel-economy ratings clock in slightly below the Maxima’s 22/30 and the Avalon’s 21/31.

Conclusion

A loaded 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited will run just over $38,000. To put that into perspective, that’s less than $40,000 for a large car, packed full of luxury features that will very comfortably seat you and a few friends. The deal may become even more appealing if leasing the Azera is more your speed. Hyundai has advertised lease deals with a monthly payment below $300 for the base-model Azera. That $300 a month gets you quite a lot of car.

All that said, where does this well-kept secret of a sedan lay on the scale of “hidden gem” to “skeleton in the closet?” Without question, the Hyundai Azera is a roomy, well-equipped, fairly priced, seat-cushion-extending hidden gem.

Additional Research:

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