The Azera is Hyundai's entry in the full-size, near-luxury segment, an alternative to the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima. Azera boasts as much or more total interior and cargo volume as the Avalon, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans, and the BMW 7-Series. In design and styling, in creature comforts, powertrain and in safety features, Azera offers as much or more than anything else in the class, and at a lower price.
Introduced as an all-new model for the 2009 model year, the Hyundai Azera received a very mild refresh for 2009 that included a revised grille, improved interior accents, and changes to the steering and suspension setup. For 2010, the Hyundai Azera Limited adds a power tilt and telescopic steering-wheel, an integrated memory system, premium door sill scuff plates, and a woodgrain steering wheel and door pulls as standard equipment.
Azera's powertrain uses the latest technology. Both available V6 engines feature variable valve timing for low emissions and a broad power curve; while the standard five-speed automatic gearbox gives the driver the option of shifting semi-manually. These are features that compete with Lexus, Infiniti and Acura. While there's nothing especially striking in Azera's design or styling, take off the Hyundai badge, and it could pass as family among any of the top-rated Japanese nameplates.
Inside, fit and finish are first rate, with quality materials and assembly. There's a quiet elegance in the simplicity of the instruments, usability of the controls and sleekness of design. What isn't readily visible received the same attention as what is, with hardware studiously hidden away and storage bins fully finished. All is not perfection: Some of the faux leather feels more plastic than bovine. But the overall presentation is upscale.
At a more practical level, the Azera equals or betters the competition in standard equipment, with special emphasis on safety. Eight airbags are standard, as are electronic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and active front seat head restraints. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, more commonly found only on high-end cars, are available. In addition to the awards cited above, Azera has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top crash test rating for frontal offset impacts.