Hyundai Azera did always have an identity. Always the flagship mainstream model from Hyundai, it has traveled the motorway of evolution, steering clear of all accusations of plagiary that traced the path of the Sonata; the only charge against the Azera being a tame drive within a dated design. Well, welcome to the times of desirable Hyundais.
The drive quality of Azera 2012 is elegant and composed with 247 bhp on call, and an excellent mid and high range torque component to tide over a laidback start. Even at high speeds, the car is steady and the ride feels secure. Lane changing is a breeze, though there is a negligible feeling of “play” of the steering with which the Azera just stops shy of attaining the precision and pleasure that demarcates a Jaguar or an Audi of similar size. Yes, size is another thing that gets the Azera to stand out in the porch and lets your rear passengers to stretch their legs comfortably.
The design advancement introduced in Sonata last year has been taken a step forward in the 2012 Azera to create the best-looking car in the Hyundai range.
The LED front lamps are very individualistic and in stunning white, unlike any other on the road. The wing-shaped grille design with the wavy converging fins distinguishes the fascia as well as the AC vent design. The overall console design also reflects this thematic symmetry even as the car preserves its distinctive badge-bearing LED lights that run across the rear.
Cabin and controls
The brown two-tone leather looked and felt exclusive like a perfect summer tan or Belgian dark chocolate. There is almost nothing that is out of place in the cabin. Duringthe drive, what Hyundai calls the “Supervision cluster” gives you all the info you’ll ever look for on a screen between the dials.
The air-conditioning vents, redesigned to flank the console, in my freezing hand’s opinion, wasn’t a great idea after all. I closed up the driver’s side vent after a while (overriding the option of calling upon the heated steering feature to my aid).
The new Azera is a lit up car from the door-scuff lamps inwards. Buttons are plenty and each one comes backlit in blue. Those little blue specks that are sprinkled all over the doors and console could feel like too much of a good little thingie!
Getting ready for your first drive, quit fumbling around the seat-side. Electric seat adjustments are on the doors, shaped to suggest the anatomy of the seat itself.
The electronic parking brake is a lift-up button on the transmission console that comes on as you stop. It automatically disengages when you safely shift to “Drive” mode with a foot on the brake. A little less bicep-training there but no more absent-minded drives with the park brake on.
Warning signs are everywhere – from the park brake ding to the speed limit dong. Navigator assisted local speed limit alert nudges you every time you step above the 60 or 80 mark, as the case may be. For those who find this irritating after a while, there is an option to shut it out by muting the sound on the navigator screen – at the risk of a radar ambush. On Jumeirah road, where the speed limit is an unusual 70, the system saved me twice!
Smart Cruise Control: For a flagship car, distance-controlled cruise is the norm these days. But in the Azera, what surprises is the price at which you can enjoy it. Not just that. Two massage modes as well as front seat cooling or heating to choose from –why, even steering heating! In bidding for the Lexus aspirant, The Hyundai Azera 2012 leaves no key unturned.
Hyundai looks and feels premium, in every inch. And by quite a long inch, it offers space from head to toe. The boot space is huge as well. The glove box lets you store a few cool drinks for a midsummer afternoon, just as your passengers will find the rear and side curtains a relief on such a day.
The window design at the back is innovative and very considerate, affording an exceptionally generous view of the outside world to the rear passenger. Children will love it, especially the quarter glass outpost.
Usually, I turn to my sleeping baby to double-check a sedan’s comfort quotient. This time, three of my adult passengers were sleeping like babies all the way back from a drive – good enough!
Cadenza vs Azera:
As the ‘line of premium luxury’ blurs between Kia and Hyundai, I thought it would be interesting to compare the cousins, with their sharply different personality. The red aggressive backlighting of the Cadenza Vs the Azera’s blue tranquil ambience is exemplary of their character. The roar of the 3.5 L monster under Kia’s hood stands apart from the understated power of the 3.0 L V6 in the Azera whose exceptionally silent cabin that seals out the road noise, reminds you of the Lexus ES.
Azera vs Lexus
The Koreans are bent on wrenching the luxury market away from the Japs. Well, at best a part of it! And the greatest lure here is “more for less”. Lexus is the benchmark and the Azera has in many ways accomplished the mission – be it the steady sweep down the rear windshield till the squarish tailpipes, and the lighting cues inside the cabin. Good for the value-conscious frill-fed customer; and as for Lexus, imitation is the best compliment.
One way to achieve greatness is by emulating greatness. The Azera not only offers much of what the guardians of luxury offer, but at times beats them at their own game too. The brand manages to carve out a character even as it is reminiscent of those revered icons. However, what it is yet to achieve is the unequivocal distinctiveness as a premium marque. But the Hyundai Azera 2012 appears to be on the right course to the lofty destination.