sciguy_0504

Edmunds First Drive: 2006 Hyundai Azera

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"Koreans are never satisfied," said Shi Hong Choe. "We are always working, always improving. If I see something out of place, I cannot rest until it's corrected."

It's employees like Mr. Choe, Hyundai's senior vice president of vehicle test and development, who are enabling the Korean automaker to challenge the Japanese Big Three — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — one carefully engineered new model at a time.

Hot on the heels of the successful redesign of the midsize Sonata is Hyundai's new flagship sedan, the 2006 Hyundai Azera. Replacing the outgoing Hyundai XG350, the Azera is a modern sedan that should allow Mr. Choe to rest easier. A polished new look, luxurious interior, and a lengthy list of standard safety equipment provide the Azera with the right hardware to take on Toyota's popular full-size Avalon sedan.

Quickest Hyundai Ever
Under the big Hyundai's hood lies a new ultralow emissions (ULEV) DOHC 3.8-liter, V6 engine with continuously variable valve timing (CVVT). Rated at 263 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, this refined V6 is big brother to the Sonata's smooth 3.3-liter V6. A well-timed five-speed automatic transmission with a gated shifter comes standard with the single-engine offering. The shifter allows you to shift gears manually, but the engine is so strong and the transmission so responsive, it isn't necessary.

Hyundai says the front-wheel-drive Azera is the quickest Hyundai ever built, with a manufacturer reported 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds. If that's true, it'll be quicker than the last Avalon we tested, which hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. We haven't put the Azera through our own instrumented tests yet, but it does feel quick out on the open road.

Down below, the Azera's all-new platform is a stretched version of the Sonata's and it has 68-percent greater body stiffness than the XG350. A healthy dose of unique Azera bits combine with similar Sonata attachment points to help keep the cost down. Sixteen-inch wheels secure the Azera SE's four corners, while the Limited gets 17-inch wheels with P235/55VR17 Michelin tires.

Its dynamics were tuned in Korea as well as at Hyundai's super-secret test facility in the Mojave Desert. Although its steering is a touch light, the four-wheel disc brakes are strong and pedal feel is above average. At 3,629 pounds, this large, heavy sedan still needs to be guided instead of flung through tight turns, but the Azera is much more athletic than its spongy predecessor. Mr. Choe must smile when he feels the Azera's firm grip at speed. We did.

Safety First
Determined to become an industry leader in the standard application of safety technologies, Hyundai is spreading airbags and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) across its lineup and the Azera is no exception. The luxury sedan receives two additional airbags to Hyundai's typical six-count for a total of eight, plus standard traction control. Standard antilock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) help bring the Azera to a safe stop.

Hyundai claims that the Azera is projected to receive the highest crash test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Lex-dai or Hyun-us
Hyundai admits to setting its sights on the Toyota Avalon, but the Azera is so luxurious inside, challenging the Lexus ES 330 isn't out of the question. The Azera's center stack is clean and elegant with wood and aluminum trim galore, and there's no cheap plastic to be found. Instead, quality touches like a thick headliner, fabric-wrapped door pillars and triple door seals help the Azera envelope passengers in quiet comfort. Contrast stitching along the soft leather seat covers help to increase the Azera's style quotient.

With nearly 44 inches of legroom in the front and over 38 inches for rear-seat passengers, the Azera offers a roomy ride with exceptionally comfortable seats that provide solid support underneath their softly padded exterior. Efficient packaging has maximized total passenger volume, allowing an increase of 7 cubic feet over the XG350.

But if the classy, comfortable interior doesn't make you think Lexus, the lengthy feature list will. An SE gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power front seats, a 60/40-split rear seat to increase cargo capacity to 16.6 cubic feet, dual automatic climate control, and a CD/MP3 player.

The Limited adds larger wheels, heated leather seats in a choice of three colors, a wood grain steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, and an electroluminescent instrument cluster. Add the Premium Package and you'll get a power sunroof and a 300-watt in-dash six-disc Infinity sound system. An Ultimate Package (remember, we're still under $30,000) adds a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescopic steering column and adjustable pedals, rain-sensing wipers and folding side mirrors.

All for the Low, Low Price
With similar horsepower and torque ratings from their V6 power plants and comparable interior features, the major distinction between the Azera and the Avalon is the price. Although the Azera's pricing hasn't been fixed and won't be until the sedan hits Hyundai showrooms in November, preliminary pricing suggests it'll have a clear advantage.

The base model Azera SE is expected to enter the market around $25,000, with top-of-the-line Limited trim starting near $27,000. Even better, Hyundai officials claim a fully loaded Azera Limited will remain under $30,000. By comparison, the entry-level Avalon XL starts at $27,165 and climbs to $34,355 for the Limited sedan. Combine the low price with Hyundai's acclaimed 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, and the Azera presents a pretty compelling package.

Winning Package
Hyundai's only concern should be luring consumers in for a test-drive. Although the company is playing to win with the 2006 Hyundai Azera, it might take some time to drag consumers out of their Japanese-car safety zone and ask them to risk a Korean alternative.

Hopefully incentives like the world's best warranty; a low, low price; and an increasing track record for reliability will drive the Azera toward a place in the spotlight. And allow Mr. Choe to take a well-earned vacation.

Edit: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drive...rticleId=107629 Edited by sciguy_0504
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If Edmunds thinks that nasty interior rivals the ES then I'm the Pope. I see some LaCrosse and Accord in the rear 3/4 view. People who are purchasing an Avalon or ES will not give this thing a second look, IMO. That would be like comparing a DTS to an Impala.
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I recall the humble beginnings of Acura; where the Acura legend was little more than a Honda with leather seats and different tail-light trim (1988). Here we are less than 2 decades later and Acura has been an established, credible luxury brand for at least the last 5-10 years. I wouldn't say that the Hyundai doesn't stand a chance -- it does. It's window of opportunity is far smaller than the one afforded Lexus and Acura. Luxury makes were either ungodly expensive (Mercedes, BMW), or were lack-luster in design and/or quality (Caddy, Lincoln). Still, given time, I'm sure Hyundai will make some in-roads.
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The exterior looks nice... especially the rear end. Although, it is a bit bland... The interior, however, is still pretty bad. The engine sounds promising, though...

I've said it before and I'm going to say it again, Hyundai is looking really good...
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Its styling is a bit backwards, but no more than, say, the LaCrosse. The interior is pretty nice as well.
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Hyundai admits to setting its sights on the Toyota Avalon, but the Azera is so luxurious inside, challenging the Lexus ES 330 isn't out of the question. The Azera's center stack is clean and elegant with wood and aluminum trim galore, and there's no cheap plastic to be found. Instead, quality touches like a thick headliner, fabric-wrapped door pillars and triple door seals help the Azera envelope passengers in quiet comfort. Contrast stitching along the soft leather seat covers help to increase the Azera's style quotient.

[post="34026"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


The pictures certainly don't back this comment up. I'll check it out at the Seattle Autoshow next month. I think Edmunds is being WAY TOO generous... almost sickingly so...
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It isn't fair to compare Hyundai of today with Honda of 1987. It is safe to say that Honda enjoyed a better reputation even THEN than Hyundai does today. It is one thing to pay under $15k for a Hyundai, but $25k or MORE? And Honda at least had the foresight to spin Acura off as a new marque. I would like to think that there is some snob appeal to luxury cars - why else would people rush out and pay $100k or more for a BMW? What kind of snob appeal could you enjoy in a Hyundai? "Well, it is better than a Skoda?!" As for the warranty, well - that works both ways. For every person who might try on a Hyundai BECAUSE of its amazing warranty, there is another person who begs the question: "why does it need such an extended warranty."
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It isn't fair to compare Hyundai of today with Honda of 1987.  It is safe to say that Honda enjoyed a better reputation even THEN than Hyundai does today.  It is one thing to pay under $15k for a Hyundai, but $25k or MORE? 
  And Honda at least had the foresight to spin Acura off as a new marque.  I would like to think that there is some snob appeal to luxury cars - why else would people rush out and pay $100k or more for a BMW?  What kind of snob appeal could you enjoy in a Hyundai?  "Well, it is better than a Skoda?!"
  As for the warranty, well - that works both ways.  For every person who might try on a Hyundai BECAUSE of its amazing warranty, there is another person who begs the question: "why does it need such an extended warranty."

[post="34081"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Hyundai's brand image isn't any worse than Pontiac or Mercury, IMO. If their product was appealing enough, I wouldn't hesitate buying a $25K car from.
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i dunno, i see a little bit of infiniti in the rear shots. is the glass laminated for sound deadening? wow. i am in the market for something soon and now i am going to wait a little longer.
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That interior is craptastic. Sure, a step above the XG350 (what isn't?), but still lousy. Typical Korean knockoffs and mishmashes.
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That interior is craptastic. Sure, a step above the XG350 (what isn't?), but still lousy. Typical Korean knockoffs and mishmashes.

[post="34096"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Uh....have you really examined the interiors of the recent Korean entries from Kia and Hyundai?

In most cases they have now SURPASSED the interior quality and fit-and-finish of most GM vehicles!

For absolute certain, the Kia Spectra I had as a rental car is far superior to a Cobalt in interior materials and fit-and-finish......(although I'd far rather HAVE a Cobalt than a Spectra...)
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OK OC I know that's hella exaggeration. I have sat in both, and the Cobalt is most definitely better than the Kia. C'mon now, let's at least try and maintain a shred of objectivity? As for the Azera, I don't think the interior looks bad at all. I don't see these "craptastic" plastics y'all are seeing and I'm pretty sure we are looking at the same pix.
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I think this car's main competitors will be the LaCrosse and Avalon. The car has a benign, vaguely upscale look about it. The interior isn't too bad. Perhaps the dashboard appears to be a little too plasticky, but it's not like there are huge gaps and seams everywhere and mismatched plastic. Mechanically, all the right ingredients are there. I don't think Hyundai will have a problem selling this car.
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OK OC I know that's hella exaggeration.  I have sat in both, and the Cobalt is most definitely better than the Kia.  C'mon now, let's at least try and maintain a shred of objectivity?

As for the Azera, I don't think the interior looks bad at all.  I don't see these "craptastic" plastics y'all are seeing and I'm pretty sure we are looking at the same pix.

[post="34190"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I would honestly prefer to spend time in the Spectra's interior than the Cobalt's.
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I would honestly prefer to spend time in the Spectra's interior than the Cobalt's.

[post="34241"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Thus proving there is no accounting for taste.
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Uh....have you really examined the interiors of the recent Korean entries from Kia and Hyundai?

In most cases they have now SURPASSED the interior quality and fit-and-finish of most GM vehicles!

For absolute certain, the Kia Spectra I had as a rental car is far superior to a Cobalt in interior materials and fit-and-finish......(although I'd far rather HAVE a Cobalt than a Spectra...)

[post="34183"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Uh, the design is lousy. Needlessly wide-ass center stack, equally wide-ass center console. If its anything like the Sonata as far as ergonomics go, ugh.
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Thus proving there is no accounting for taste.

[post="34272"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


No, I'm talking about interior quality and accomodations. Both are pretty ho-hum in terms of interior style. Edited by empowah
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Looks like a cross between a Toyota and a Buick.

[post="34068"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Toyota interior, 1997 Buick Regal front end, 2005 Honda Accord Rear!
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it's a blatant rip of the Avalon's interior, along w/the previous Camry's front, and Accord's rear before the reskin
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Everything is good, but one thing is keeping allot of people from buying a santa fe or a tiburon, the name lol "Hyundai" the name is kind of a back off. Think about it, when you think of the name, you think of Ponies and Excels, lol. Give it another generation.
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Wow... look at that craptastic interior!! :P Seriously, the center stack looks like crap. Ugh... same with the grain on the metal trim. Otherwise, it looks good...
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