Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Front-wheel drive super-midsize sedan, smooth automatic transmission, willing V6, and refined interior. Those are boxes seemingly every manufacturer tries to check these days, with varying degrees of success. The 2013 Hyundai Azera, in our experience, nails most of them.
The Azera is Hyundai’s answer to largeish front-wheel drivers like the Toyota Avalon, though the color scheme reminded us more of a cousin of the Avalon we tested a few weeks prior: the Lexus ES350. Like our test ES350, the Azera was a dark shade of red and featured a light tan interior. Its 3.3-liter V6 trailed the ES350 by just 200 cubic centimeters, but eclipsed the ES’ 268 horsepower by a substantial margin, making a Hyundai-claimed 293 horsepower.
But, like some other cars that put down those kinds of power numbers– especially those based on front-wheel drive architecture– the Azera did not overwhelm with around-town giddyup. It got out of its own way smartly enough for our tastes, but didn’t feel like a rocket. Perhaps it was tuned for fuel economy first, and performance only when prodded. The Azera is rated at 29 MPG highway, though we never quite got there in our mostly highway testing. Mid-20s were easily obtained, however, and we didn’t make any special effort to maximize fuel economy by going light on the throttle.
The only thing we did as a nod to fuel economy was to hit the Azera’s “Eco” dashboard button the first day we got our hands on the car. Doing so supposedly made the car more fuel-efficient, though we did not have sufficient time to run a second full tank of gas through it without the Eco button pressed to see if there was any notable difference in economy vs. performance. We managed to creep into 26 MPG territory before our week with the Azera came to a close, handily beating the EPA combined city/highway estimate of 23 MPG.
The Azera’s six-speed automatic transmission did a fine job minimizing the herky-jerkies between gears, though it could be somewhat slow to react when we wanted to pass unless we planted the skinny pedal on the floor. The best strategy for planned passing maneuvers would be to slip the gear selector lever over into manumatic mode, allowing the driver to select a preferred gear and hold it until the coast is clear to make that pass. Otherwise, in the hum-drum driving of the everyday commute, the gearbox was smooth to the point of nearly making itself imperceptible. The transmission’s refinement– like the engine’s– wasn’t quite on the level of Lexus ES350′s, but for $37,000, which is a sight less than the ES, it was fairly impressive..
The Azera’s most impressive traits were all found in the interior, however. More about those in a later post.
Disclosure: Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.