San Francisco: It's
been an incredible two decades for Hyundai in America. From the cheap,
humble Excel econobox to the wide range of high quality offerings today,
the people at Hyundai have toiled ceaselessly to improve their product.
Now, the new flagship Azera goes after the luxury carmakers with its
typically long feature list and affordable price.
I normally put the
price at the end of the story, but let's start with it here. Classified
as a Large Car by the EPA, the Azera SE starts at just $24,335. My
Limited model came in at $28,335, including the Premium Package, which
features a power sunroof and upgraded sound system.
That may sound like a
lot to pay for a Hyundai, but this is no Accent, gentle reader. This is
the finest, as well as largest, vehicle ever released by Hyundai to the
American buying public. Yes, the attractive woodgrain on the dash and
steering wheel is not from trees, and I found one mold mark on a door
handle. However, there's room in the Azera's back seat for a pair of NBA
forwards or three regular size folks. The interior and exterior styling
and assembly quality, not to mention the look and feel of the materials,
is startlingly good. I was originally going to call this a Korean Buick,
but it's more like a Korean-built Lexus.
history-making Hyundai along is a powerful 263-horsepower 3.8-liter V6.
Hyundai employs continuously variable valve timing and a variable intake
system to get the most out of this engine. In a
have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too situation, the engine also earns Ultra Low
Emission Vehicle (ULEV) status while getting 19 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway
(I averaged 17.1 mpg). Its five speed automatic transmission comes with
Shiftronic manual control, so you can dial up your own gear if you want
to really rocket around.
The interior is
Hyundai's best yet. The overall shape conveys the sense of cruising on a
boat, with the dash top even with the hood, running into the doors, and
the wipers tucked out of sight. The clean, flush mounted control panels
have big, clearly marked buttons with a nice tactile quality. Everything
inside my Steel Gray test car was light and equally low reflective. The
seats are simply rendered and kind of firm, especially in the second
row, but that's just a nod to Mercedes. The black plastic stalks behind
the steering wheel give just a hint of modest origins, but everything
else looks like it came out of a fancier car. Even the doors slam with
the authoritative chunk of an Audi.
With Hyundai, you get
great gobs of standard equipment, and this Azera continues that
tradition. The driver and front passenger enjoy dual automatic climate
controls and power seats. The inside mirror dims automatically at night
and the three-button Homelink remote control system is there for you. An
Electronic Stability Control system is standard too, with its
sophisticated computer interface to keep the car safely on the road.
Power windows, locks, and mirrors are a given.
Spend just a few
thousand bucks more for the Limited, and you get heated, leather-wrapped
chairs, a partial-wood steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, and a
classier set of electroluminescent gauges (think Lexus here). Your tires
and wheels get bumped from 16-inchers to 17-inchers on 10-spoke alloys.
The Limited gets chrome bumper moldings for extra road presence.
If anything really
stands out from my week with this unusually impressive car, it's the
quiet. There was virtually no sound in the cabin. I could practically
hear myself breathe, even at freeway speeds. Somehow the clever
isolated the passengers from road, engine, and wind noise. Even the
sunroof, when open, generates no wind noise. This kind of stillness
makes longer trips feel less stressful, and anything you play on the
fully equipped sound system stands out to your waiting ears.
Because it was
benchmarked against the luxury leaders, the Azera tends to fit in with
the other cars in this sales area, as no big styling chances were taken.
The fastback roofline tapers rakishly back, leaving a small trunk lid.
The nose wears a clean,
unpretentious look, with large wraparound headlamps in the modern style.
The rear fenders bulge more than they do on some cars, sending a message
of strength and solidity. The bright LED taillamps flash faster than
conventional lamps do when you step on the brakes.
Last, but hardly least,
is the Hyundai Advantage warranty. The sole purpose of this generous
coverage has been to promote customer willingness to take a bit of a
chance on a new brand from a different place. With today's Hyundai
fleet, it hardly seems necessary anymore, but you still get five years
or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, a 10-year/100,000 mile
limited powertrain warranty, plus five years of roadside assistance. And
you get to enjoy driving the amazing Azera, which competes with the
luxury makes without submitting to the alphanumeric naming craze. By
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Hyundai Home Page
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2006 Hyundai Azera
Column Name: The new flagship Azera goes after the luxury
Topic: The 2006 Hyundai Azera
Word Count: 897
Photo Caption: The 2006 Hyundai Azera
Photo Credits: Hyundai Internet Media
Series #: 2006 - 33
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2007 Hyundai Azera