Reviews

2011 Hyundai Azera Walk Around

The Azera isn't the kind of car you'd look at twice. In fact it's kind of invisible. It's not ugly, but lacks sweeping lines. The styling says old man's car.

It tries to be like other cars in its forward half, and mostly gets away with it, including the glittery chrome, unless that other car is, say, a Lexus.

But in the rear it tries to be different, and it succeeds, although maybe not as intended; it's got distinctive bulging hips, like a someone wearing a speedo or bikini that shouldn't be. The spoiler over the rear deck is a little hump, as if they forgot to finish it.

Interior

The gauges on the Azera are extremely pleasing. What Korean designers seem to do is copy other designs and execute about perfectly (when they get the exterior down, watch out). The speedo and tach are not original, just right: organic white lettering with bright red needles, sharp and clear so the information jumps out at you. The blue backlighting of instruments, switches and buttons is nice too.

The speedo and tach are optimistic at 160 mph and 8000 rpm, as they all are. It's just that, with a Korean car, still a relative newbie on the luxury block, you can't help thinking it's some sort of statement that: we're as good as you all. And bully for them.

The temperature gauge is to the left, fuel to the right, and between the speedo and tach there's a digital info display that's also easy to read. However, you do have to reach around the steering wheel to the dash to hit the button that changes the information in the display. And we could live without the flashing ECO light on the Limited model.

The steering wheel has cruise control and audio controls, and is woodgrain from 10 to 2 o'clock. There's a big grab handle on the door, also woodgrain. The door pockets are medium-sized, and tucked under the armrests, so you'll have to put your one-liter bottles of Pepsi between your thighs, or in your passenger's hands.

The front seats are pretty good, neither hard nor soft, not exactly a sport fit but supportive. They're appropriate for the car, and we found them adequately comfortable for two three-hour stints behind the wheel.

In the rear seats, there's 38 inches of legroom, a competitive number. Hyundai claims that the Azera's total cabin space of 123.5 cubic feet is greater than the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima.

The navigation screen hangs under a big flat gray vinyl dashboard, and it's simple to program and easy to read (split with map and directions), although it could use an eave for shading and better visibility. The navigation system itself gave us fits and got us lost. Either it was all wrong, or somehow we hit something that programmed a previous stopover point, because it kept trying to take us south from Los Angeles, we think to the Pacific Athletic Club in San Diego, when we wanted to go east to Palm Springs. But even after we figured out how to shut it up, and we tried again later, it missed more turns. Another time it told us to turn left, 20 feet past the left turn. Another time it told us to stay left on the freeway when we needed to stay right. Another time it turned the volume down on itself, and began speaking so softly we couldn't hear it.

The center console begins with a cubby under the navigation screen, and runs back over the shift lever that can be used to manually change gears, to two concealed cupholders, a coinholder cubby, and a big double compartment between the seats. The armrest on the door is good, but the one on the center console compartment is too far back to rest your right elbow on and still have your hand on the steering wheel.

Rearward visibility is good, and there's a standard power sunshade in the rear glass. Wide enough that we didn't have to scrunch our 70-inch frame very much, easier on the neck than upright in a seat in the airport, and quieter.

Our favorite part of the interior was looking out to the hood, where two windshield washer nozzles looked back in with jets like robot eyeballs, as if Wall-E's babies were staring up at us through the windshield.

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