Hyundai’s Middle Offering

2012 Hyundai Azera.

It almost sounds like a broken record, or a commercial you hear way too often: “Hyundai’s really on a roll.” And they still are for 2012, adding yet another in their string of interesting new models.

As a company that wants to have a broad product offering, Hyundai pretty much has all its bases covered when it comes to cars. At the low end, there’s a new Accent, as well as the Elantra that was new last year. Up at the top, the luxury Genesis and Equus models, which are giving other luxury brands a run for their money.

In the middle, there’s the Sonata. A very stylish entry that is making inroads against the dominant models of the mid-size segment, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Even a couple years after it debuted in its current form, I still have people remarking to me that they noticed one on the road and thought it was quite attractive.

For buyers who want something bigger and a little more ritzy than the Sonata but don’t want to step all the way up to the Genesis, there’s an all-new version of the Azera hitting showrooms right about now. The Azera name isn’t new. In fact, before the Genesis came along, the Azera was the top of Hyundai’s line.

As they’re doing with every other model, Hyundai revamped the Azera to make it much more interesting and dramatic looking. From the front, it somewhat resembles the company’s other upscale cars, with a bold chrome grill and a wide stance. The sheet metal on the sides is sculpted, and further design cues bring up the rear.

Essentially, this is Hyundai’s answer to the Lexus ES350, which has just gotten its own redesign. A large-ish luxury car with all the features anyone would want, but one that isn’t too showy or over-the-top.

There is no hybrid power system, no turbos, and no all wheel drive offered. Buyers in this segment just want a smooth, powerful engine that barely makes itself known. In the case of the Azera, a 3.3 liter V6 connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Horsepower is just under the 300 mark at 293, and combined fuel economy is 23 miles per gallon on the EPA test cycle.

And the car is sold pretty complete, rather than asking buyers to poke through a large menu of options. Base price for the 2012 Azera is $32,000, and for that money the car is crammed with features, including a touchscreen navigation system, rear view camera, and handsome 18” wheels.

The car I tested had the only option, the $4,000 Technology Package. It includes more frills like 19” wheels, a huge glass sunroof, HID headlights, window shades for rear passengers, and an upgraded sound system. For $36,000, I can’t think of anything else you’d be able to put into a production car. Heck, the front seats are even heated and cooled.

The Azera is not what you’d call a “driver’s car” necessarily. Oh sure, it’s composed in turns, but this sedan’s mission is not to chase down BMWs. It’s to coddle the occupants, and make for a very upscale commuter vehicle. It got to experience the car’s attributes and features on two different journeys to the downtown L.A. area plus a jaunt out to mid-Wilshire neighborhood. If you have to deal with Los Angeles’ urban rigors, this is one nice car to do it in.

Hyundai is slowly filling just about every niche that can be filled when it comes to passenger cars and crossover SUVs. (They haven’t yet tackled the arena of working-type pickup trucks, but probably could if they wanted to.) From someone’s first new car at under $13,000 (Accent) to a true high-end luxury ride (Equus), they’ve got all the bases covered so far. The new Azera is further proof of that.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave

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