By on May 29, 2012

Derek’s capsule review of the 2012 Hyundai Azera gave the car a resounding “meh”. My own impressions weren’t going to be quite so positive, but then something happened: I test drove the Buick LaCrosse and refreshed 2013 Ford Taurus. Suddenly a $37,000 Super Sonata didn’t seem such a bad way to go.

(N.B. Photos of the Lacrosse and Taurus are in the gallery below)

At first glance, the new Azera looks much like the LaCrosse. The current fashion in semi-premium semi-large front-wheel-drive sedans pairs a high, rounded front clip with a roofline that cleanly sweeps all the way from a point far ahead of the driver to one near the trailing edge of an even higher decklid. Despite rear fenders whose convolutions recall late 50s American iron, the Azera is the sleekest and most athletically proportioned of the bunch (LaCrosse, 2013 Avalon, 2013 ES, 2013 MKZ). The Taurus? Compared to the others, it’s a throwback to a different era when sedans were composed of three distinct boxes. The Azera also has a strong family resemblance to the Sonata (and even the Elantra), but looks appropriately larger and more expensive.

The Azera’s interior isn’t quite a match for that of a Lexus ES. Compared to the Buick and the Ford, though, the Azera is a clear step (or three) up. Everything inside the big Hyundai looks and feels tight and precise. The leather on the seats has a soft, luxurious hand. Inside the Ford, the materials and secondary controls look and feel clunky in comparison. The 2013 refresh adds MyFord Touch complete with reconfigurable instruments, but otherwise left the interior largely untouched. Ford of Europe clearly had no role in this one. Inside the Buick, the dash-to-door fits are abysmal and the material used to mold the doors and dash doesn’t look enough like leather to pull off the embedded stitching (at least not in the tested tan). The Buick’s faux timber is even less convincing. This interior impressed just a couple of years ago, but today a Hyundai outclasses it.

Functionally, the Azera doesn’t fare quite as well. The shift knob’s piano black plastic gets hot in the sun. The Benz-like seat-shaped seat controls are too far forward on the doors. The center stack employs buttons for key audio and HVAC functions that would be much easier to operate with knobs. (No, a gigantic volume control knob isn’t sufficient compensation.)

My least favorite aspect of the Hyundai: the view forward from the driver seat. The rake and position of the windshield yield a header that’s overly close for comfort. The instrument panel flows upward over an awkwardly executed ridge to the base of the windshield. The trailing edge of the hood is higher still, such that from the driver seat you see little beyond the undersides of its uplifted corners. Pulling into a parking space involves far too much guesswork. (Forward obstacle detection would be very helpful, but isn’t offered.) Trimming even an inch from the cowl height would work wonders. Yet the Azera’s windows only seem small until you drive one of the others. The Buick has an even deeper instrument panel and what must be the widest A-pillars in sedandom. The Ford, nine inches longer, three inches wider, and three inches taller, but with no more room in the front seat, feels like a massive bunker on wheels.

Unless you’re bothered by forward-positioned headrests (I am) the Azera’s front seats are comfortable and supportive. Those in the Buick and Ford feel smaller, less luxurious, and less tailored. The rear seat of the Azera, like that of the Buick, is ideal for tall people who have most of their height in their legs. Despite the Ford’s much larger exterior, it provides much less space for rear seat passengers to stretch out. But it does have the largest trunk, 20 cubic feet to the Azera’s 16. In this last area the LaCrosse is the clear loser even in V6 form. The eAssist’s 10-cube trunk could be a deal-killer.

Most cars in this class are motivated by 3.5- or 3.6-liter V6 engines. The 2011 Azera straddled the norm, offering both a 260-horsepower 3.3 and a 283-horsepower 3.8. For 2012 the 3.8 is reserved for the rear-wheel-drive Genesis, but the 3.3 gets direct injection, a bump to 293 horsepower, and a cover styled to make it appear longitudinally mounted (well to the right of center). Hyundai’s engines generally underperform their specs, but paired with a six-speed automatic the 3.3 feels sufficiently torquey off the line. Spurred over 4,000 rpm it moves the big sedan plenty quickly and sounds far more upscale than the Sonata’s turbo four in the process. The Buick and Ford V6s are about as quick, but the latter is far less refined in sound and feel. (I actually drove the Buick with eAssist this time around. It’s inexcusably sluggish for a $30,000+ car. Combine this with the tiny trunk, and I’m surprised they sell any.) My largest gripe with the Hyundai’s performance: power delivery sometimes included the sort of surges and lulls more often experienced with a boosted engine.

With the smallest engine and lowest curb weight, the Azera delivers the best fuel economy of the three: 20 city 29 highway vs. 17/27 for the Buick and 19/29 for the Taurus. The big Hyundai’s trip computer reported slightly better figures in my driving, low twenties in the suburbs and 31 on a highway run to the airport. Acceptable numbers, but not the company’s best effort.

Hyundai took its biggest risk with ride quality. The Azera’s suspension tuning, though not as aggressive as that of an Acura TL or Nissan Maxima, is considerably firmer and more tightly damped than that in the Buick and especially the Ford. On most roads the Hyundai’s ride feels smooth and composed, but on others it sounds thumpy and feels lumpy. The Technology Package’s lower profile 19-inch wheels probably don’t help. The suspension especially struggles with expansion joints and other lane-spanning road surface imperfections. The Azera’s steering is heavier than the systems in the Buick and Ford (but has a few degrees of off-putting on-center slack). Do these differences deliver a sportier driving experience? Relatively speaking, yes, but the end result feels close but not quite there. I’d rather drive the Azera than the LaCrosse or the Taurus, but it’s not fun the way a Maxima or TL can be. (Granted, the TL I tested had the unfair advantage of SH-AWD and the Maxima had a sport package.) Unlike the Buick, Ford, and Acura, the Azera is not available with all-wheel-drive.

Derek had a big issue with wind noise. Perhaps because my ears are older, I noticed only a little, in the vicinity of the windshield header at highway speeds. I noticed more road noise, but not much of this on most roads, either. There are quieter cars in the class, but the Hyundai is in the ballpark and generally oozes upscale sedan.

The tested car’s $36,875 list price included the $4,000 Technology Package (19-inch wheels, huge panoramic sunroof, Xenons, uprated audio, cooled front seats with memory and thigh extension for the driver, sunshades, cool blue interior ambient lighting, rear obstacle detection). Pretty steep for a front-wheel-drive Hyundai, yet very reasonable compared to competitors. Based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, a similarly loaded LaCrosse is about $3,700 more before adjusting for feature differences and about $2,400 more afterwards. The Taurus might seem out of place in this group, but it’s priced about even with the Buick. A Toyota Avalon is priced even higher. An Acura TL is about seven grand more than the Hyundai (after a $1,650 adjustment in the Azera’s favor for feature differences), and a Lexus ES 350 is about eight.

But what about the Sonata? Why pay a lot more for a couple more inches of wheelbase (all of which goes into rear legroom), a couple more cylinders, an upgraded interior, and snazzier styling? Well, you won’t pay a lot more, at least not if you can live without the Technology Package’s panoramic sunroof and high-watt audio system. A Sonata 2.0T Limited with nav undercuts the otherwise similarly equipped base Azera by a mere $1,705.

The new Hyundai Azera isn’t perfect. It would benefit from a lower cowl, less intrusive headrests, more polished powertrain programming, less on-center slack in its steering, and a less lumpy ride. But it mostly suffers from being so good in most ways that you wonder why it couldn’t be a little bit better. What direct competitor is actually better? Compared to the Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus, the Azera is superior in nearly every way. It’s not as sporty as an Acura TL or Nissan Maxima, but it seems more luxurious and upscale than either. It’s not quite as luxurious as a Lexus ES, but it’s also priced below a Toyota. If fact, it’s not priced much higher than a loaded Sonata. Anyone considering one of these cars should also check out the Azera.

Carol Moran-Charron of Art Moran Buick in Southfield, MI, provided the LaCrosse. She can be reached at 248-353-9000.

Frank Cianciolo of Avis Ford in Southfield, MI, provided the Taurus. He can be reached at 248-226-2555.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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118 Comments on “Review: 2012 Hyundai Azera (vs. LaCrosse and Taurus)...”


  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Buick’s lawyers called…they want their character line back. (If they haven’t….they should.)

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      Agreed. The two are indistinguishable at a glance in the side shot.

      Maybe I’ve only been in the stripper version of the ES, but that Azera interior looks more handsomely styled than any of them.

    • 0 avatar
      ott

      Well, imitation IS the kindest form of flattery… Personally I think this car looks amazing, especially the rear of the car. I would definitely buy this car over the Sonata if the difference was only $1705.

    • 0 avatar
      rockit

      An imitation is an imitation no matter how you slice it. Unfortunately Hyundai has to copy a Buick for styling. The goofy sounding Azera name doesn’t help matters.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Actually, the previous Azera had a more muted version of the character line (before the current Lacrosse) and the new Azera takes it a bit further by making character line a “fold within a fold”.

      Also, before Buick brought back the sweepspear on the LaCrosse, Dodge was using it (Charger) and othejjr automakers (like Mercedes) are usin a variation of it.

      Funny how people ignore when other automakers do it.

      As for “copying styling” – Buick’s design language going forward (Buick Envision concept) is quite similar to the organic “fluidic sculpture” Hyundai design language.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    “Compared to the Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus, the Azera is superior in nearly every way.”

    Perhaps, but it’s still a Hyundai and won’t ever be parked in my driveway. I’m old enough to remember what the first Hyundai’s were like and no matter how far this company has come, no thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      And I’m old enough to remember what Hondas and Toyotas were like which is why their current wares won’t be parked in my driveway. I could care less about a companies history, all I care about is if their current offerings suit my needs. Let’s not even mention Ford, Chrysler and GM. I would consider a vehicle from all 3 now and wouldn’t have 15 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      @Speed Spaniel

      You’re the reason why Toyota’s Camry sells 400,000+ copies a year despite being middle of the pack, at best.

      Good job!

      • 0 avatar
        Speed Spaniel

        @tuffjuff

        Sorry, but at the risk of sounding like a snob my demographic hardly represents a Toyota Camry. If a cost of a car was a concern for me and I needed something reliable with decent resale, I probably would drive a Camry or an Accord and not something made in Korea. So great generalisation there buddy! Have fun driving your Elantra.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        @Speed Spaniel: It’s not the “my demographic” comment that makes you a snob, it’s the “Have fun driving your Elantra.” Regardless, you completely miss the point tuffjuff and others have been making: the Japanese had exactly the same outdated rep among certain people who didn’t know better for chintzy econoboxes in the 80′s, when they were making superlative cars, as the Koreans do now, when they’re making superlative cars. Feel free to buy a car based on its hood ornament, but don’t be surprised when you get what you deserve.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        Elantra?

        I’m picking up my 2012 Azera tonight at 6:00pm.

        The reason I’m buying an Azera over a LaCrosse or Taurus is as this review mentions because I’d rather save $5,000 thank get the “prestige” of buying a Buick. The other car I considered was the excellent new 300, although it’s a bit out of the league of the Azera in both content and price, at that point.

        $31,500 out the door or $40,000, content being the same? The smart choice is obvious.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @tuffjuff:

        And your $31500 gets you a much better warranty than the $40000 Buick, or any other mfr for that matter. Enjoy.

      • 0 avatar
        rockit

        @tuffjuff

        Everyone has a right to their own opinion, even if you don’t agree with it.

        Also nobody cares if your getting an Azera or not, if so there are many Hyundai fanboy forums you can discuss how great your cheap cars are.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      @Speed Spaniel: I knew a bunch of guys like you in the 70s that said the same thing about anything that was made in Japan.

      Every brand changes – just like Honda was awesome 20 years ago and now they suck so Hyundai used to be cheap and nasty but now they are near the top in most segments they compete in.

      • 0 avatar
        Speed Spaniel

        Honda now sucks, really? Granted they’re not the segment leader that they were decades ago, but they hardly suck. I rented a Hyundai Genesis 4.6 while on a biz trip in Georgia around this time last year. With less than 5,000 miles on the odometer (presumably the car could calculate mileage correctly), it left me stranded in rural Georgia. Between that experience of unreliability, the unrefined suspension tuning, cheap smelly plastics and leather, a middling navigation system, ‘meh’ Lexicon audio, and an engine that left me thinking, “how much horsepower does this REALLY have??” And this costs what!!?? “Modern” Hyundai…. Now THAT sucks.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        This is a useful review because it compares the Hyundai Azera against its peers.

        I test drove a Toyota Camry SE, Kia Optima EX, Honda Accord EX-L, and a VW Passat SE back-to-back over the weekend. None, not even the old design Accord, sucked when compared to the others in it’s class. The Passat and Camry had bigger, more square and usable trunks and more rear seat passenger room. The Accord had the best steering and was the one I would prefer to drive, but its trunk is insanely small for the car length. The Kia Optima looks the best, but it has huge blind spots and rear seat headroom is barely acceptable only if you get one without a sunroof.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        Over here on the east coast, women seem to be heavy buyers of Honda, especially CRV and Civic. Honda has done something right.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      You don’t need to be much older than a fruit-fly to remember what Car and Driver’s long term 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T was like. Glad I didn’t buy the hype way back then. I’m sure everything is different this week though.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        Please tell me what CandD had to say. My computer at work wont let me go there..

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        They never even posted a follow up report at 20,000 or 40,000 miles, but after 6 months and 10,000 miles the Sonata had needed FIVE extra(in addition to maintenance required) dealer visits for repairs due to defects:
        http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2011-hyundai-sonata-se-20t-test-long-term-review
        Some 1500 miles after we took delivery, the Sonata’s front-passenger seatbelt receiver refused to accept the buckle. No amount of finagling or button pushing could fix it, so our dealer replaced the buckle under warranty. Then reports of gasoline odor inside the cabin began filling the logbook. We noticed the fumes immediately after startup, but our dealer was not able to replicate the issue when we dropped off the SE with 5800 miles on the clock. We took it back a second time at 6600 miles, and the dealer replaced a PCV hose under warranty. The problem seems to be solved.

        But the Sonata’s biggest blunder is something we first noticed right after the car arrived. At speeds above 40 mph, the swoopy sedan’s path mimics its styling, eschewing a straight line for one decidedly more curved—specifically, the car pulls hard to the left. In a related issue, we noticed the steering wheel does not self-center. Initially, our dealer replaced the left-front strut and performed an alignment (both under warranty), but that didn’t cure the problem. After nearly 6000 miles, the car went back in and again had the same strut replaced with what we were told was an updated part. The Sonata had another alignment at that service—again, we were not charged—but still our car pulled to the left. Hoping the third time would be the charm, we took it back to the dealership at 8600 miles, where Hyundai engineers were waiting to examine the car. This time, both front struts were replaced, the car was aligned, and a field engineer drove it for 30 miles to verify the repair. Unfortunately, three hasn’t proved to be the magic number, and we’re still experiencing some pulling and self-centering problems. Various websites and owner forums tell us this issue isn’t isolated.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        CJ, the real killer there wasn’t even the review itself – it was seeing it linked to from a Hyundai board with a half-dozen people saying “Hey look! C&D had the exact same problem that well all did!” Yikes.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      “’Compared to the Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus, the Azera is superior in nearly every way.’

      ‘Perhaps, but it’s still a Hyundai and won’t ever be parked in my driveway. I’m old enough to remember what the first Hyundai’s were like and no matter how far this company has come, no thanks.’”

      So you’re willing to agree that the Hyundai is perhaps superior to the Buick and Ford, yet you condemn it because of Hyundais built in 1986, regardless of how far they’ve come? That’s just putting your head in the sand.

      Seeing that Hyundai and Kia are the #6 and #8 brands in the US, lots of people disagree with you. Guess they’ve all been duped, or have short memories.

      • 0 avatar
        kuman

        If i had plenty of disposable incomes and i had my primary method of transportation secured, i would consider a Korean CITY car.

        At this moment Koreans haven’t yet to be associated with quality nor luxury nor sportiness, I would let other people to build the brand image for the Koreans, then i will perhaps consider buying their higher up models.

        I have serious admiration towards how fast they climb the ladder as I already considering Korean over American brands over smaller and cheaper automotive products.

        There is no point to wear something before it becomes a hip.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Forgive me but $31,500, even out the door, seems like alot for a FWD Hyundai. Granted its also a substantial sum for a Taurus or Lacrosse (which I believe are actually more) but somehow “Hyundai = Expensive” doesn’t compute.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        “…somehow “Hyundai = Expensive” doesn’t compute”

        You’re pointing out a branding issue, NOT a matter of price or value. You should know that Hyundai also offers the Genesis and Equus sedans for upwards of $50-60k.

        The biggest violator of brand pricing has to be Chevrolet, who sells everything from $14k Sonics up to $100k Corvettes in the same showroom.

        Or maybe you believe that no Hyundai is worth $31k, but $50k high-end Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers are OK, not to mention their mfr’s high-end pickup trucks.

        To date, Hyundai has resisted the urge to spin off a luxury brand because of the high costs associated with doing so (separate stores, brand marketing, etc.), and they’ve kept a keen eye on so-called upscale brands that haven’t fared too well lately – Mercury, Lexus, Lincoln, and Hummer, just to name a few. And Toyota’s ‘downscale’ brand – Scion – hasn’t been too hot, either.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        You’ve got a point about Chevrolet and pricing I must concede. But those high end pony or muscle cars have always been branded ‘Fords’ and ‘Chevys’ and one would expect a higher cost of entry for such models. If Hyundai wants to put out an equilivant such as Equus or Genesis they may have at it with the higher price point, but the model should justify the cost. This model isn’t doing that for me, its just a mundane wrong wheel drive plastic-fantastic generic sedan. Sure, Hyundai needs to be in the segment, but I’m not sure this is the right price point… esp considering the disdain the brand has in this article thread alone. I haven’t bought into their annoying marketing, maybe everyone else has.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      It’s not the cars themselves that bother me as much as the Hyundai owners who will go to great lengths to defend the soundness of their purchases.

      I recently dated a girl who drove a spanking new, white mid- size Hyundai. I honestly can’t remember which one since their names are all subtle variations of the same auto-marketing pablum. Both were impressive and easy on the eyes at first glance and both lacked the depth of character and integrity necessary for me to take either seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        “I honestly can’t remember which one since their names are all subtle variations of the same auto-marketing pablum.”

        Do you mean names like Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Flex, and Cruze, Camaro, Caprice, or like the endless alpha-numeric auto-marketing pablum of Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, and Infiniti?

        Gimme a break.

      • 0 avatar
        daviel

        “Both were impressive and easy on the eyes at first glance and both lacked the depth of character and integrity necessary for me to take either seriously.” How does this apply to a car? Personally. I looked for that quality in a date.

    • 0 avatar
      modelt1918

      And I remember when Cadillac was the “Standard of the World”.I wouldn’t have one in my driveway because Cadillac is the hardly the standard of anything now. I don’t know how you can judge any present brand with what they were in the past.

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    Thanks for uploading a photo of the engine bay without the plastic. It’s hard to get excited/interested over a slab of black/gray plastic.

  • avatar
    mountainman

    Reality check …. $36,875 for a mid size Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      Adjusted for inflation, the same price of a loaded Toyota Cressida in 1992, which parked next to a Azera would provide a different bang-for-buck reality check.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Cressida all day long because well they were awesome in a bland sort of way… RWD, an Inline 6, and Toyota… really? …nice.

        This Azera looks like a xeroxed Camcord (more ‘cord than Cam but still).

        Next!

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        I dunno…the Cressida was RWD, built on the Supra platform, and for it’s day was actually quite luxurious (VELOUR!).
        And anyways, having a badass supra derived I6 block has it’s perks:

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      It just barely slips into the EPA “large” category. 106 cubic feet passenger space, 16 cubic feet cargo space. 120 cubic feet combined is the cutoff for large.

      The Sonata can be found for a bit south of $20k, which is the midsize Hyundai that is flying out the door.

      • 0 avatar
        eamiller

        “And anyways, having a badass supra derived I6 block has it’s perks:”

        Sure does: Head gasket replacement! The 7M-GE engine has a nasty penchant for eating them every 30-40k.

  • avatar
    mikenem

    The Hyundai looks like something on sale at Target or Walmart.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Thanks Michael, great review as always. I mentioned at the time that I disagreed with Derek’s direct comparison with the Lexus but exclusion of the two most obvious, not-especially-name-brand-but-plus-sized-with-luxury-aspirations competitors, namely the LaCrosse and the Taurus.

    One question: I’ve now started to see local dealerships advertising bases Genesis sedans for within spitting distance of $30k (see e.g. http://www.boston.com/cars/specials/bernardi/hyundai.html ). Do you see enough airspace for the Azera to squeeze under the Genesis in the lineup? Is there any particular buyer they’re targeting for the Azera vs. the Genesis, other than an apparently nonexistent price difference?

    • 0 avatar

      Good question. The styling of the Azera is more adventurous, its infotainment system is more up-to-date (Hyundai’s new Blue Link), and it offers some features you can’t get on the Genesis (panoramic sunroof, cooled 8-way power passenger seat). These advantages plus winter handling will lead many people to choose it over the Genesis.

      In comparison, the Genesis has a higher, more conventional driving position, more conservative styling, and rear-wheel-drive dynamics.

      Looking only at MSRP, the Genesis is $2,875 more before adjusting for feature differences, $4,050 more afterwards. Transaction prices could be much close, though, as the Genesis isn’t new.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        In the Midwest where I live, RWD is a deal-breaker for a daily driver. I liked the Genesis when I last bought, but I just couldn’t risk winter driving in it.

        I had the same impressions of the seat leather (terrific feel) and the headrests (ridiculously intrusive) at the auto show. I will say, though, that the interior looks much, much better and more expensive in tan.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    What’s the price comparision with a Genesis? I remember when C/D ran a comparo of this class a couple years ago (Lacrosse, Taurus, ES350), the Hyundai they went up against (and all lost to) was the Genesis V-6. How about a V6 Charger or Chrysler 300? Where would you say they fit in?

    • 0 avatar

      The interior and switchgear aren’t as nice with the Charger and 300, but I enjoy driving them more, especially with the V6. They feel substantially larger than the Azera, though the difference in interior space isn’t significant. With rear-wheel-drive and relatively upright seating, they’ll compete more with the Genesis than the Azera.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Nice review Michael. Given the near full-size dimensions of the current crop of “mid-size” family cars, I find it hard to justify the upgrade price to a large sedan. A loaded 2013 Altima or Camry are nice enough places to be in and will seat four in comfort and can be had for thousands less.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a 2012 Camry the week before I had the Azera, and drove the 2013 Altima during the same week. The Azera is very obviously in a different class. But if luxury has no value for you, then by all means don’t pay a higher price to get it!

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        I guess its a matter of degrees of luxury. It seems that the top end of the mid-size market has become sufficiently luxurious that the upgrades offered by the next step up are not nearly as enticing as they used to be.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I can’t believe GM put the Buick label on a car with a 10 cu-ft trunk. I remember seeing the Lacrosse Eco at the auto show. They would not open the trunk, but I had seen pictures already. Unless they completely design a car around the system GM needs to get away from the mild hybrid.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’ll stick with my humble Chevy, thank you very much.

    Fact of the matter is, with me, all the “luxury” stuff over and above what my car has is simply lost on me, as I don’t require much to be happy. I’m not a Buick customer nor probably will be, as my Chevy has standard what used to be called luxury a generation or so ago.

    A Hyundai? Nope. I’m not impressed with the Sonata, either.

    Your review sounds like you really WANT the Buick to be your choice…

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    That under the hood photo kills the Azera for me. Even GM has less of an under the hood mess than that, and that’s remarkable.

  • avatar
    protomech

    “With the smallest engine and lowest curb weight, the Azera delivers the best fuel economy of the three: 20 city 29 highway vs. 17/27 for the Buick and 19/29 for the Taurus.”

    Buick Lacrosse is 25/36 eAssist and 17/27 for the V6, FYI.

    • 0 avatar

      I guess I should have mentioned this in the review. But the V6 is the comparable car to the Azera in terms of performance. I’m not sure there is a car in the segment comparable to the eAssist in terms of performance. Even among hybrid fours the Ford/Lincoln and Lexus/Toyota are much stronger AND more efficient. With the LaCrosse eAssist I get flashbacks to the woefully underpowered luxury sedans of the early 1980s.

      • 0 avatar

        and the Ford/Toyota versions are much more expensive than the Buick eAssist, which isn’t near as bad as you make it seem for performance (0-60 respectable 7.9 sec) according to your own sites review… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-buick-lacrosse-eassist/

  • avatar
    hachee

    About a year and half ago, my father was looking for a car to replace an Avalon, and was hoping to buy an American car for the first time in years. He loved the Buick, but actually had to reject it because of the size of the trunk (total dealbreaker), and just thought the Taurus was too big. He ended up with a Sonata (Limited) 2.0 turbo, which he loves and has had no trouble with.

    Everyone loves to complain about prices, but isn’t there just so much “stuff” in these cars today that we didn’t have, say, 10 years or so ago, or that were only on the most expensive of luxury cars? take away all the extra equipment and safety features, and the price of a large/midsize Hyundai may not seem so high.

  • avatar

    I appreciate the fact Hyundai gets you a car that looks like a luxury car (although doesn’t quite feel like one) and plenty of technology at a low price. Unless you absolutely need the extra space, a loaded SONATA is actually the smarter way to go. Fuel efficiency, technology, looks – it’s all there.

    My cousin just bought a new Malibu 2012 and spent over $26,500 (the car starts at $23k). He could have gotten a LOADED Sonata or Optima for that price.

    What really disappointed me with the Azera was the half-assed seat package. I like the motorized waterfall cushion option, but, the lack of a motorized head restraint was stupid considering how they laid out the controls.

    I really think this car is a good car for people who cruise my city and want a luxury car without spending long. But, I’d take a Charger or a Chrysler 300 in a heartbeat. For the cost of an Azera, I could grab either of those cars with the same options for less money.

    I wonder how the 2013 Malibu will stack up with a V6 engine…

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The `13 Malibu is 4 cylinder only.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        yes, in another brilliant GM move they take away any reason to buy the top level trim package or the ability to make available another SS model.

    • 0 avatar

      My kids and wife agree with you on the seat controls: if they have a separate “control” for the headrest, then it should move the headrest. The thing is, no one offers power headrests in this segment.

      I dropped by a Hyundai dealer to compare the Sonata and Azera interiors back to back. The Azera’s is noticeably nicer, much like the interior of a Lexus is much nicer than that of the related Toyota.

      The 300 is priced on par with the Genesis, not the Azera. This is MSRP, though. As with the Genesis, the 300′s actual transaction price could be close to the Azera’s.

      The Malibu’s uplevel engine will be a turbo four with 260-270 horsepower.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Turbo *shakes head*

        More bowing at the altar of CAFE. Most GM traditional buyers don’t want turbo’d four bangers in anything mid size or larger… if I wanted that I would pick up a late model Volvo. I was considering a new Regal but don’t see it happening until they offer a V6.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Check the specs on space. The Sonata and Azera are almost identical. In some dimensions the Sonata is actually ahead of the Azera. You buy the Azera for the v6, the much nicer interior, and the luxury features not found in the Sonata.

      • 0 avatar

        The specs don’t tell the whole story. The Azera is a lot larger inside than the Sonata. It’s so much larger that I could sit in the front and not have to readjust the chair to sit in back. I’m close to 6’7.

        It’s a BIG car and is a better choice than the Genesis.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Michael….

    just a few questions.
    First, why not include the Avalon in this comparo?
    Second, isn’t that 37K price range somewhere near the SHO price?
    I think it starts at 39K, but a ton comes standard…like AWD.
    This car doesn’t even offer AWD.

    You mentioned the Maxima, and even this car starts at around 37K with top specs.
    And likewise the TL is way up there in top 39K to 45 K territory with the SuperAWD and other options.
    So really, the SHO is every bit as available at the top end when comparing.

    I guess IF I were looking for a LARGE mid sized car, and wanted to stay in lower 30′s, I would still stay with the Avalon.

    • 0 avatar

      A redesigned Avalon is coming in the fall, and I haven’t driven it. The 2012 is a much softer car than the Azera. Hyundai has tried to split the difference between it and the domestics on one hand and the TL/Maxima on the other.

      A loaded SHO has a mid-40s sticker. Even the non-turbo, FWD Taurus is more expensive than the Azera.

      If Ford wants semi-premium money for the car, they badly need to upgrade almost every single piece of the interior. It’s hard to believe that the same company developed the Taurus and the new Fiesta/Focus/Fusion, they’re so totally different in look and feel.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Fully loaded the Azera seems to sticker out at about $37K, a similarly equipped Taurus Limited is $39K. Hyundai seems to price below the competition and offer very little in the way of incentives, but with current incentives the Taurus comes out about equal to the Azera on price.

        For the 2013 year the Taurus did get a few interior upgrades beyond the MyFord Touch – the center console is now fully leather wrapped so that it’s more pleasant when your leg touches it and the B pillar interior is now cloth covered. The Taurus also has a few features not available in the Azera – blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise, self-parallel parking, and massaging seats to name a few (though the Hyundai does have side shades which the Taurus doesn’t). I notice Hyundai calls their seats heated/ventilated instead of heated/cooled. Can the seats actually blow air conditioned air through the perforations, or do they just have a fan to circulate cabin temperature air for ventilation?

        From the photos it looks like the Taurus you tested was a SEL. The limited is mostly the same on the inside, but there are some upgrades on the steering wheel, center stack, and leather on the seats.

      • 0 avatar

        I think the seats are both cooled and ventilated. They’re definitely the first, and do have perforations.

        The only 2013 Limited the dealer had was AWD, so I opted for an SEL. Even so the MSRP was $33,000.

        I did notice that the center console was padded–something rarely found at twice the price–but are you sure the material is leather? Vinyl/leatherette seems much more likely.

        My negative impressions of the Taurus began with the first touch point–the exterior door handle. Lifting the handle, opening the door, grabbing the door pull, closing the door–the feel and sound at every step just weren’t nearly what they should be for a $33,000 car. This experience continued with most of the controls inside the car, including the dual four-way rockers that operate MFT from the steering wheel. Nearly everything feels at least a little crude, imprecise, and/or insubstantial. The Azera’s switchgear isn’t the best, but it’s better than that in the Buick and much better than that in the Ford.

        In general, Ford NA doesn’t have a clue about the details that make a car look, sound, and feel expensive. Even a Lincoln MKS suffers from some of the same issues. Luckily for Ford, its European branch does understand these things, and it will likely have input on all cars going forward, since they’ll all be global.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        It’s probably vinyl/leatherette, but it is good faux-leather that has some grain and feels soft to the touch. The actual seating surfaces are real leather.

        One area where the limited does improve on the SEL is the switchgear in the center console – one more substantial knob and touch-sensitive controls replace the two more pedestrian feeling knobs on the SEL.

        I took in a 2011 Mercedes C250 on trade recently, and I did notice that the Command knob felt pretty good, but I’ve never felt the 5 way controls on the steering wheel are particularly cheap – they’re plastic buttons that work when you push them. I feel the same about the doors – they feel solid to me, but I haven’t driven a new Azera yet to compare.

        I’m sure part of it is cutting costs in areas most people aren’t going to notice or care about so that more features can be added to compete at a certain price point, and there is probably also some attention being paid to make sure the Taurus doesn’t get so nice as to step on the MKS’s toes. At the same time lighter materials are being used where they can be so that extra sound isolation can be added to other places without adding so much weight to the car that fuel economy suffers.

        It’s similar to the arguments I’ve read about a lot of recent high end smartphones – chipsets are being produced on smaller processes, battery technology is improving, and advances in plastics are allowing for lighter shells. That all adds up to devices that feel lighter and less substantial than previous models, but at the same time the newer versions have more power and more features to offer a better overall experience. Is it better to spend money just to make something feel expensive or to concentrate on offering the most performance and features for a given price point?

        I haven’t heard complaints on the lot about the interior material quality on the Taurus. Some people don’t care for the size of the center console, but some love it. My biggest gripe about the car is size and angle of the dead pedal – personally I prefer cars without one, I have big feet and I like to be able to stretch out my left leg and extend my foot, and there is no way I can do that in the current Taurus. I haven’t had anyone else tell me that they’ve noticed that or that the size of the dead pedal bothers them, so I figure it’s just a personal quirk of mine. I recently had someone tell me that they didn’t like the Focus because it wasn’t ’round’ enough, the first time I’ve heard that particular assessment.

        Everyone has their own idea of what makes for a good interior and their own system of weighting the importance where it comes to how various bits stack up. I’m not a fan of Hyundai’s center stack deseign – I think the big swoop and constricted midsection looks cheap. The center vents look very small and I wonder if they would be able to supply the large volume of cold air aimed directly at my face that I prefer while driving. Of course, other people seem to love that design.

      • 0 avatar

        I doubt you’re alone on the Azera’s center stack design. I think many people will find the appearance odd, and in the review I critiqued the over-reliance on buttons instead of knobs.

  • avatar
    Silvy_nonsense

    Michael,

    I can’t thank you enough for providing photos of things you specifically referred to in the review (weird lip near the windshield on the Hyundai dash, crummy panel fit between the door and dash on the Buick). I’ve noticed you generally do that in your reviews and it’s appreciated.

  • avatar
    ckgs

    Wow, an engine cover that fakes rear wheel drive (via a longitudinally mounted engine) is so amazingly lame I can’t get past it. The already stupid engine cover has jumped the shark. Do people really fall for this? Can you imagine popping the hood to show someone your cool new rear drive sedan’s engine?

    I totally understand that the engine cover adds nothing to the actual vehicle, but this is so stupid it makes me question everything else Hyundai is doing.

    • 0 avatar
      Caboose

      Engine covers were developed to help with the “N” part of NVH. Try looking under the hood of a Lexus LS460. There are, like, five covers, and nothing else.

  • avatar

    Did I hear the new Impala sucks? That’s really too bad.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      From a styling perspective from what i saw it blows away the Taurus and Lacrosse, both of which are woefully ugly IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        You HAVE to be joking. The word “derivative” was invented for the new Impala. Cartoonish Camaro taillights do not a classic make. The interior as garish and busy as any Michael Bay movie, and just as likely to induce epileptic siezures. It’s such an ugly baby, you can’t even bring yourself to lie about it to its mother.

        Not that the Lacrosse or Taurus are all that, either, but at least they don’t look like they were made by Hasbro.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        The Lacrosse looks far more cartoonish to me with its fat demeanor, odd lines and ugly face, I haven’t seen much of the XTS but I’m sure it will be similar. GM to me has totally screwed up the looks of their ‘fullsize’ midsize offerings… I feel a new Vellum Venom article is needed here. The Ford just looks a bit misshapen to me, nothing they couldn’t smooth out if they tried.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Did I hear the new Impala [stinks]?”

      It had better not. I’m getting in line for one.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Will the War Veterans be putting their purple heart and military force license plates on this one too like they do on other Korean cars?

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      In all seriousness, Hyundai would be wise to give a few away to Korean War veterans in a promotion as thanks for keeping their country out of the hands of the Kim family (Kim Jong Il’s family). Vietnam may have been a cluster**** but the Allied forces were able to break even in the Korean conflict, and every South Korean company owes its existence to those veterans.

    • 0 avatar
      Boxer2500

      Considering the car is made by a country they risked life and limb to help defend, I fail to see why not.

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        Absolutely.

        Also, every WW2 vet deserves to get a free Nissan. Because Nissan would have gone under if Renault hadn’t invested in them, and the US military saved France. Not that they ever thank us or anything.

        And Chrysler. Because they would not exist if it weren’t for Fiat, and everyone knows the US military saved Italy from fascism, so every WW2 vet deserves a new Challenger. Or at least a 500.

        Every veteran of the war of 1812 deserves a new BMW. Because we fought the British, and BMW bought Rover, and somehow the karma works out that they deserve a new 3-series. And BMW should bring back the inline-6 because that’s waht American war veterans deserve.

        Also, if Nigeria makes any cars, every Democrat should get one for free, because Trump says the president was born there, so it must me true.

        God bless America.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Nice sarcasm, but of course I thought the lib philosophy of the day is to redistribute everything to everyone who hasn’t worked for it so this automobile giveaway should be in line with your thinking.

        Oh and I believe the current accusation is the President was born in Kenya not Nigeria, I suppose public school neglected to teach proper geography as these two countries could not be mistaken for one another. Not that it really matters, as the administration has already shown its disdain for our Constitution, whats one more egregious breach?

  • avatar
    seanx37

    These are not my kind of cars. My 66 yr old father, yes. He will be looking to replace his CTS come January. He likes it, but it is too small inside for him, and way too heavy and thirsty. And it sucks in the Michigan winters. Unless we have another non-winter like last year. So a front wheel drive car is in his plans. He will look at every one of those cars I am sure.

    The thing is, there is no way that either the Buick or Ford ever leave a dealer at anything close to sticker. I am sure I could go to the Buick dealer around the corner, and leave with one for $10-12k off sticker. Or some absurd lease deal. I don’t think the Hyundai,Toyota, or Lexus will offer that.

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      It is best to drive a Detroit product in Michigan.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      My father in law has had Buicks, either LeSabre or Lucerne for the 15 years I’ve known him, besides the Crown Vic he had once that he loved except for the RWD in the snow. Tried to steer him to the new Taurus or Avalon, but he bought a new Impala for the reason seanx describes. He got 6,000 off due to GM loyalty, GM card savings and incentives on Impala. I didn’t really care for any of the LeSabres, my mother in law has an 04 and it always reminds me how terrible GM got. The Lucerne was a much better car ( quieter, better ride and handling, much better interior) than the LeSabre and the Impala is a step back from the Lucerne.

      But it was cheap and that won out. That wins out for a lot of people. And while an Avalon with 50k in two years would be worth more on resale, Toyota isn’t going to give more than 1500 off an Avalon and that’s rare too. The domestics are getting away from those large incentives, when he ditches the Chevy in a few years, I’ll be interested to see if they still give big money off anymore.

      But he likes new, large cars and likes them cheap. He drives about 25k a year, so he puts lots of miles on them. But, he’s not getting an Avalon or even a Hyundai now for that kind of money off, although I imagine there might be some of the old Azera out there with big money off. But who wants that?

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    I haven’t been that big of a fan of Hyundai’s new styling language, but the Azera may be the first car on which it actually works. The swoopy character lines that just look fussy and overstyled on the Sonata actually look great when scaled up to a bigger car. This is the first of Hyundai’s recent offerings that I would willingly drive over its Kia platform mate.

    Also, the $1700 price premium over a Sonata seems downright reasonable for a bigger car with a V6, more toys, and better looks.

    It does still seem a bit odd for Hyundai to be offering 3 full-size sedans, 2 of them at very close price points. I imagine the next Genesis will move up in price a bit to make more room for the Azera, there’s a huge gap between it and the Equus, so plenty of upward mobility there.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    As far as pricing, I purchased a 12 TL ( FWD ), last year for around 33K. No Tech package. Seems like a better buy then a Hyundai.

  • avatar
    redliner

    I strongly dislike the concave section of sheet metal just below the character line that runs across the rear quarter panel of the Hyundai. I also think it looks too similar to the sonata. My personal preference would be a Lexus ES (the redesigned one looks nice :) or the Buick. it has similar lines to the Azera from the side, but much less clutter. The interior of the Buick looks like gaudy-retro Las Vegas meets art deco for the 21 century. I like it.

  • avatar
    jetcal1

    As a point of reference, our ’91 Sonata and Excel were more reliable then the 2 VW’s, 1 GM Saab, 1 Town & Country, and Honda Fit we’ve had since then. The 93 G20 was the only vehicle that has been better. My concern is the density of the under hood components with a boosted engine. Heat kills everything.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Each time I deal with the LaCrosse I find myself liking it less and less.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      It does seem like a sad little flagship, does it?

    • 0 avatar

      I realized the first time I got in a Lacrosse that it doesn’t fit it’s platform. Neither does the Taurus or the MKS.

      Then, you get into a Regal and suddenly, less is more.

      I am so happy that the XTS is based on a longer version of the Lacrosse (Super Epsilon 2) because even though the XTS feels like the Lacrosse up front, the rear feels like a Cadillac should. Hopefully the Lacrosse redesign will use the same frame.

  • avatar
    MeaCulpa

    Headlights that tries to touch the A-pillar, garish and overly “swooshy” exterior and interior. No, not my cup of tea.

  • avatar
    baggins

    From the pics, I figured this car to provide that “driving with a baseball cap pulled down low” feeling. I was pleased to see that I was right, as Michael mentioned it in the review.

    Nullo – its funny that you mention that the Taurus has a padded console “where leg touches it” Thats the problem!!

    My right leg was permanently against that stupid console when I sat in the car. Such a massive car, so little room inside.

    Why do did Ford do that? Cramped is not luxurious. I could deal with it in a Mustang, but a 200 inch long, 75 inch wide car ought to provide the driver more space.

    My 2011 Accord is a bit noisy, but I do have a lot of room for my head and knees.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I’d probably take a Maxima if I were shopping in this segment (full/near full size boring front wheel drive). LaCrosse, Taurus, Azera, just don’t do it for me. But then again, I really don’t see why anyone would consider them when they can spring for a charger/300. The charger r/t with awd starts at $32,350, the 300 with awd at 35,000.

  • avatar

    The Buick and Ford V6s are about as quick, but the latter is far less refined in sound and feel. (I actually drove the Buick with eAssist this time around. It’s inexcusably sluggish for a $30,000+ car. Combine this with the tiny trunk, and I’m surprised they sell any.)

    Hi Michael – A thorough review as always but I feel compelled to question the powerplant you tested as I think you may be giving the Buick the short end of the stick in your comparison. Based on your comments above you are saying all three cars had V6′s, however, unless I am reading the GM specs incorrectly, the Buick uses an I-4 in the e-assist option and not a V6. This would explain the sluggishness.
    It seems an ufair comparison for trunk space when neither of the other cars were of the hybrid, semi-hybrid type, much better to compare a lacrosse with a V6 (standard option)with a standard trunk.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve driven a LaCrosse with the V6 in the past. My main intention in driving one again was to refresh my memory of other aspects of the car. The cargo volume for both engines is noted in the review. Essentially, I intend the comparison to be with the V6, but also thought I should include some observations of the eAssist.

  • avatar
    stottpie

    the taurus has butt massagers. /thread

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I don’t know but the black interior of this car is rather dull with too much black on black. And that fake piano shiny garbage belongs on it’s intended surface sitting in mom’s living room. This interior looks too close to what I would find in a 25-30K Sonata rather than a 37K car. The LaCrosse, 300, ES 350 etc have a more upscale look in my eyes leather seat suppleness aside. The 2013 Taurus with shiny silver replacing wood on all but the top Limited trim not so much. Haven’t seen or been in a 2013 Avalon yet so cannot comment on it.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Currently driving a 2012 Avalon as a rental car with only 2100 miles on the clock. I had a 2012 Chrysler 300 as a rental not more than two months ago and , I can scarcely believe I’m saying this as an import lover, I’d rather have the Chrysler.

    Toyota doing a much better job in this car fit and finish wise than the current(or previous gen) Camry. Why anyone buys an ES350 over this car other than the badge and some gizmos is beyond me. But 270 hp to the front wheels isn’t pleasant at all in the Avalon. The chassis just can’t handle it all and it’s not much fun other than in a straight line at highway speeds, where you can find yourself “overspeeding” the chassis. Although Avalon is 500lbs less than the Chrysler (according to Edmunds specs) the Chrysler felt much better all the way around and was much quieter on the road (except in the powertrain). You do feel the extra weight of the Chrysler, but it’s much better controlled.

    The Pentastar isn’t as refined as the Toyota V6, but it’s first generation, compared to the 3.5 from Toyota. Perhaps it’s the RWD in Chrysler, but it’s just a much better drivers car as far as these cars are concerned. This may not be shocking news considering what Toyota has become and the target market of these cars, but to those who wrote off domestics for Toyotas, it would be a shocker. Now, all Chrysler needs is Toyota levels of resale and reliability. Will they ever get there? No one thought Hyundai would get anywhere near where it is today when they were cranking out awful Excels.

    As for the Hyundai, there is a lack of “connectedness” to all their cars. The steering seems to have little feedback and can be abrupt off-center, the suspension is floaty yet stiff at the same time. And the seats are terrible to me, you sit on them, not in them. Haven’t driven a new Taurus, Lacrosse or Azera, but I figured the Chrysler needs mentioned here too.

  • avatar
    fr88

    I can’t understand why anyone would not consider the Dodge Charger in this kind of comparison. Personally, I think there is no comparison. $37,000 for an Azera? You would have to work REALLY hard to hit $37K in a V6 Charger. I should know, I just bought one, loaded with sport package, all the technology options (except adaptive cruise) and after rebates and discounts was out the door for less than $31K. Spectacular car: inside, outside, behind the wheel. Can’t imagine paying more money for an AARPmobile like the Azera, LaCrosse, or Taurus. What do any of these cars offer that makes them superior to a Charger? To my eyes, they all have inferior sheetmetal styling, incoherent interior styling, (except for the LaCrosse), and unexciting FWD driving dynamics. They are nicely trimmed transportation modules – if that is what you want. But the powerful V6 with the world-class ZF 8-speed transmission hooked to the rear wheels, propelling the massive red leather-lined interior of my car make it head and shoulders above the FWD trio for me. A Charger offers German sport sedan levels of luxury, style, and RWD driving dynamics with no cost penalty vs. the FWD trio – not at purchase time, not at the pump. Kind of a no-brainer for my money.


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