The Truth About Cars » Azera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 23 Oct 2014 04:02:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Azera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Kia Cadenza (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-kia-cadenza-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-kia-cadenza-with-video/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 22:08:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501244 Kia has big plans for America. The Korean brand that was written off in the 1990s, and is best known for making inexpensive cars with long warranties, isn’t planning an assault on the mass market. Kia has bigger plans: compete head on with Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. Say what? Yep. By 2017 Kia promises they […]

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2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Kia has big plans for America. The Korean brand that was written off in the 1990s, and is best known for making inexpensive cars with long warranties, isn’t planning an assault on the mass market. Kia has bigger plans: compete head on with Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. Say what? Yep. By 2017 Kia promises they will be ready. Rather than leaping right into the market, Kia is dipping their toes into the murky waters of the near-luxury pool. In many ways the near-luxury segment is a harder place to compete. This segment is full of aspiring brands trying to move up (Buick and Cadillac), brands that are floundering (Acura), brands that are treading water (Volvo and Lexus’s FWD models ), brands trying to expand down (Mercedes with the CLA) and brands that have no idea what their mission is (Lincoln). Into this smorgasbord lands a sedan that managed to be the most exciting car I have driven this year and the most awkwardly named. Now that I have that spoiler out of the way, let’s dive into the Credenza. I mean Cadenza.

Exterior

Kia has long been accused of copying styles and jamming discordant cues into one product. The pinnacle of this was the unloved Kia Amanti, mercy killed a number of years ago. That model had Mercedes E-Class headlamps, a Jaguar-meets-Chrysler grille, Lincoln tail lamps and a decidedly Town Car profile. The 2014 Cadenza is so different you’d think it was from a different car company. The overall style is “Optima’s big brother” with the same “tiger nose” grille up front. The large grille strikes me as the best interpretation of this style yet, although the plastic accent strip inside the aggressive headlamps struck me as slightly cheesy. There is still something derivative about the Cadenza, the side profile is exactly what a FWD 7-series would look like. (Shorten the hood, stretch the overhang.) Overall the Cadenza’s “smoothed out Optima” lines strike me as conservative and elegant, something that appeals to me.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Before we go further, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the Hyundai Azera. The Cadenza isn’t simply a badge engineered Azera, but neither is it a unique vehicle. Through a convoluted set of financial arrangements, Hyundai and Kia are 32.8%  joined at the hip, which means Hyundai doesn’t “control” Kia and Kia can’t just grab an Azera and stick a Kia logo on the front. Instead what we see are two cars with common drivetrains, crash systems, hard points and bits grabbed from the same parts bin. Think of the Cadenza as the Azera’s younger cousin and not a corporate twin.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Style is a subjective matter, there’s no way around that. I found the Cadenza to be traditional, almost to a fault, on the inside but still handsome. For me that’s a good thing as I don’t tend to gravitate to “ground breaking designs” like crazy asymmetrical dashboards or shifters that require an instruction manual and 30 minutes to master. I found the Azera’s interior to be more unique, but less to my taste. On the flip side there is little about the Cadenza’s interior that creates a burning desire, unless you like value. Being the cheap bastard that I am, words like “value” “bargain” and “deal” light a primeval fire in my loins. Keep that in mind.

As I have said in the past, value is all about cutting corners. Lately Kia has been displaying a level of perspicacity unseen in the competition. This balance is obvious when you look at the dash and doors which combine hard and soft touch plastics. This isn’t unique by itself, what is rare is the placement of the hard bits away from the driver’s reach and a careful matching of color and texture so that its hard to tell what’s hard and what’s not. This is something Lexus got totally wrong with the new ES. Most Cadenzas on my local lot had the optional Alcantara headliner and cream colored leather seats which have a huge impact on the feel of the interior. Faux-suede used to be something you’d only find on high-end European models, but it can be yours for under 40-large in Kia-land. Unlike Chrysler’s application of the soft-stuff, Kia also coats the A, B and C pillars in fake cow. Speaking of fake, the wood isn’t real. The lack of real tree bugs me a hair, but when you consider that a $60,000 Acura still has imitation burl I guess I shouldn’t complain. In terms of interior feel, the Cadenza ranks slightly above the new LaCrosse and Azera and just below the Toyota Avalon. While I think the Acura RLX’s interior was made of nicer bits, the Cadenza isn’t far off and almost everyone had a nicer interior than the current Lexus ES.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Front seat comfort proved good for the driver in the base model and excellent with the optional soft Nappa leather which adds a power extending thigh bolster. You should keep in mind that the front seats aren’t created equally and the passenger seat doesn’t have the same range of motion making it harder for your spouse to find an ideal sitting position. Trust me, I heard the complaints. Being self-centred, this didn’t bother me, but I should note the American competition offers matching controls on their front passenger throne. The Cadenza’s lumbar support hit me at exactly the right spot on my back which is fortunate because unlike the GM sedans the lumbar isn’t adjustable for height.

The Cadenza’s rear compartment was surprising, not just because the seats seemed designed for adults with cushy cushions suspended high off the floor, but because the plastics quality was consistent with the front cabin. That may sound like an odd thing to comment on, but most mass market entries and even cars like the Lincoln MKS and Lexus ES350 gets cheaper bits in the back. Speaking of the back, the Cadenza’s trunk is acceptable for the class at 15.9 cubic feet, notably below the Impala and Taurus with their cavernous trunks. It’s worth noting that the Cadenza’s rear seat backs don’t fold like some of the competition so keep that in mind if you’re a regular IKEA shopper.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The dashboard of the Cadenza is dominated by a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment/navigation system dubbed UVO2. The Microsoft-powered system is bright, easily readable and a bit far from the driver. This distance could be a problem if you have short arms or long legs. The Cadenza gets the latest version of Kia’s software featuring full voice commands of your music library, allowing you to select songs and playlists with voice commands ala Ford’s SYNC. Also included is an array of OnStar-like services including vehicle diagnostics, car locator and automatic 911 dialing when your airbags deploy. Unlike OnStar however the system depends on a compatible smartphone being paired with the system and present for these services to work. The lack of a cell modem means you also need a paired smartphone for some of the data services to operate. In an odd ergonomic twist, Kia places the system’s button bank between the screen and the climate controls. The loaded Cadenza we tested gets a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster which houses the speedometer, trip computer, secondary infotainment display and navigation instructions.

Overall the Cadenza’s system is easy to use and intuitive but not as feature rich as some of the other options on the market. Notably uConnect and MyFord Touch offer sexier graphics and better app integration, although the Ford system crashes as often as a 1980s computer. Toyota/Lexus’ systems are getting a little long in the tooth at the high-end with older graphics and a smallish 7-inch screen, and their less expensive systems use small and dim 6.1 inch screens that are easily outclassed. GM’s direct competition is a bit disappointing because the LaCrosse and Impala use the same buggy software as the Cadillac XTS with a different brand attached instead of the excellent systems used in the Buick Verano and Chevy Malibu. If you want to know more, I take a deep dive into UVO2 in the video.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

The Cadenza uses the same 3.3L direct-injection V6 engine as Hyundai’s Azera mated to the same 6-speed automatic transaxle. The six-pot is good for 293 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 255 lb-ft of toque at 5,200 RPM. These numbers place the Cadenza in the middle of the pack, below the GM triplets and the Acura RLX, but above the Avalon and ES350 and a virtual tie with Chrysler’s 300 V6. When it comes to performance, curb weight and transmission design are  just as critical as raw engine numbers. At around 3,750lbs the Cadenza is lighter than everyone but the new Avalon and ES (around 3,550lbs). In theory, this should skew performance in the Cadenza’s favor, but when the numbers are tabulated the Kia is 3/10ths slower than the RLX to  60 and half a second slower than the Impala and LaCrosse V6. Compared to the AWD XTS, the Cadenza is a hair faster. (The XTS AWD was tested in-house which is why I don’t use a FWD XTS estimate.) The 8-speed V6 Chrysler 300 was the slowest to 60 by around half a second. What gives? The 300 isn’t a light-weight. Our last instrumented test of the Taurus V6 and MKS put the Ford at the bottom of the pack with the 300 and the MKS on par with the Kia.

GM’s 3.6L V6 not only delivers more twist, it also has a broader torque curve and the GM/Ford 6-speed transaxle has an extremely low first gear helping the Impala and LaCrosse get off the line rapidly. Chrysler’s 8-speed auto may be a gem but it can’t re-write the laws of physics, the 300 is just too heavy. At this time Kia isn’t saying if there will ever be an AWD version of the Cadenza, so if you need four-wheel-motivation you need to look to elsewhere.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Pricing

$35,100, $38,100 and $41,100. That’s all you need to know about the Cadenza’s pricing since the up-scale sedan only comes in three flavors. Why the lack of variation? It keeps prices low and helps inventory issues as the Cadenza is made in Korea. The Cadenza is extremely well-featured at the base price with standard heated leather seats, navigation, backup camera, keyless go, dual-zone climate control, 10-way driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support and rain-sense wipers. This price point sets the Kia at a slight discount versus the main-stream competition, and about $1,600 cheaper than a Lexus ES350 or Lincoln MKS. If that doesn’t sound like a “deal” yet, hang on. For $38,100 Kia adds a ginormous sunroof, HID headlamps, ventilated driver’s seat, heated rear seats, electric tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power extending thigh bolster (driver’s seat only), a seat/wheel memory system, power rear sun shade, a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster and snazzy Nappa leather seats. This level of Cadenza is where the value proposition starts slotting in $2,500 less than the LaCrosse and $4,000 less than an ES350 or MKS before you take into account the features you just can’t get on the competition. Jump to $41,100 and Kia tosses in 19-inch wheels, radar cruise control with full-speed range ability, blind spot warning, lane departure prevention, an automatic electric parking brake, water-phobic glass and (if you select the no-cost white leather) the faux-suede headliner. This is the option level where the Cadenza (like most Kias) starts to shine. The loaded Kia is a $7,000 discount vs the Lexus ES350 which is an apt comparison. The Kia doesn’t offer real wood but it does offer a nicer interior and a few features you won’t find on the Lexus like the LCD disco dash. Compared to the Acura RLX we had the week before, the Cadenza is nearly $20,000 less expensive. The discount is similarly large with you compare the Cadenza to the XTS and smaller vs the MKS.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The one area where the Cadenza didn’t surprise was behind the wheel. Kia’s relative inexperience in the near-luxury market shows, if you know where to look. However the delta between the Kia and the competition, once as wide as the grand canyon,  is now a light shade of grey. Although very well controlled, the Cadenza exhibited slightly more torque steer and wheel hop than you’ll find in GM’s Epsilon II triplets or the Avalon/ES sisters. Of course when it comes to driving dynamics the Chrysler 300’s rear wheel drive layout is the clear winner. When it comes to absolute grip, the Cadenza is likely the equal of the Impala and Avalon, however the steering is not as communicative and the chassis isn’t quite as predictable or refined. Don’t think that makes the Cadenza “feel cheap”, far from it. The Cadenza nails the ” substantial”  feel that this large sedan category is known for.

While drivers will notice the Cadenza is a hair less sophisticated than the competition, passengers are unlikely to notice. The Cadenza’s springs and dampers did an admirable job of soaking up road imperfections around town and are tuned to land somewhere between the Acura RLX’s sportier aspirations and the pillow-soft ride of the LaCrosse. Cabin noise in the Cadenza is extremely well controlled on all road surfaces and thanks all throttle positions. In some ways the Cadenza was too quiet, hushing the engine’s emissions during our 0-60 testing.

In a straight line the Cadenza’s gear ratios and relative lack of low end torque make the Kia feel sluggish compared to the competition, something I hadn’t expected given the engine specs. Part of this is a transmission that feels reluctant to downshift which takes some of the joy out of mountain driving. Fortunately Kia includes paddle shifters so you can command the gears, but in comparison the Ford/GM transaxle and Chrysler’s ZF sourced unit seem psychic in comparison.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to nannies and gadgets Kia took an interesting line. The Cadenza has lane departure warning but no prevention system tied to it unlike Lincoln and Acura’s systems. On the flip side Kia over-delivers with the radar cruise control system. Acura’s systems brake too hard and too early, Infiniti’s systems brake hard and late, most of the other systems on the market are a combination of the two and the majority give up when speeds drop below 20MPH. Much like the systems on current Volvo and Mercedes models however the Kia system drives like a moderately cautious driver, braking progressively but smoothly to a complete stop, and accelerating at a moderate rate when traffic resumes. The system is so fluid that passengers didn’t know the car was “driving itself”  in heavy traffic until I told them to pay attention to my right leg.

After a week with the Cadenza and 611 miles I have to admit I was hooked and that’s not something I say often. The Cadenza’s elegant but restrained looks, comfortable and well-assembled interior, heavy gadget content and value pricing are an incredibly compelling combo. The interior and sticker price more than justify the negatives I encountered during the week. The only major problem with the Cadenza is the Kia logo on the hood. This begs the question: is luxury looking expensive or feeling coddled? At higher price points I would argue you need both, but near luxury is about value and that’s where the Cadenza shines. I’m not sure about Kia’s Mercedes ambitions, but one thing’s for sure, the Cadenza puts Acura on notice and Lexus needs to watch their back.

 

Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • It turns out you can have an Acura at Honda prices.
  • Alcantara headliners rock.
  • Near-luxury without near-pretentiousness

Quit it

  • Can you handle your premium car’s discount badge?
  • I had expected better performance numbers.

 

Kia provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.51 Seconds

0-60: 6.08 Seconds

1/4 mile: 14.67 Seconds @ 97 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 24.5 MPG over 611 miles

 

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-001 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-002 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-003 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-004 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-005 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-006 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-007 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-008 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-010 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-011 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-012 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-015 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-002 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-003 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-004 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-006 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-007 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-009 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-010 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-011 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-012 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-013 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-014 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-015 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Review: 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-toyota-avalon-limited-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-toyota-avalon-limited-video/#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 18:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484895 The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a […]

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The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a problem complicated by the re-invigoration of the large sedan market by the American brands. In hopes of resurrecting sales numbers, which have slid to 25% of their 2000 year shipments, Toyota has injected something hitherto unseen in an Avalon: style. Is it enough?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Before we dive into the Avalon, let’s talk competition. Back when the LHS and Park Avenue roamed the land, the Avalon’s competition was easy to identify and easy to overcome. Nearly 20 years later those shoppers are in a nursing home and Toyota is hunting for younger flesh in a more competitive market. We now have the larger-than-ever Taurus, a new Impala that doesn’t make me want to put my eyes out, the Azera/Cadenza twins, Nissan’s Maxima and the less-Bentley aping 300.

But wait, I’m forgetting one. The “elephant in the room” that is the Lexus ES. You see, the kind of shopper that needs a new car and immediately thinks “Toyota Avalon” is far more likely to cross shop the Lexus ES than the gangsta 300 or the Impala. (You know I’m right.) After spending a a week with the twins back-to-back, this comparison is even more valid.

Exterior

While the “I’m a bigger Camry” look is still going on, Toyota has injected enough creases and curves that my 33 year old eyes gave the Avalon a second look (of course, I did buy a 2000 LHS new in 2000, so…) It’s not as exciting as the new Cadenza, but Toyota’s efforts look better thought out than the 11/10ths Cruze grille Chevy put on the Impala.

The new rump features more chrome, dual exhaust tips and tail lamps that wrap well around the side and thankfully share no styling cues with the Camry’s funky “apostrophe” shaped lights. The engineers stretched the greenhouse over the trunk to increase the visual length of the car, a trick that worked on me until I looked at the spec sheet. At 195 inches, the Avalon is 6-inches longer than the Camry, but it’s several inches shorter than the Chrysler, Chevy and Ford. Since the ES and Avalon are now twins separated at birth, most of the dimensions are common except that the Avalon gets a bigger booty (and more trunk space in the process) and has a lower ride height giving it a more aggressive stance.

Interior

The exterior looks like a Toyota product. No news there. Inside is a different ball of wax. The interior is why you may have heard people saying they prefer the Avalon to its Lexus sister. If you recall from our review of the Lexus ES 300h, there were plenty of hard plastics within reach of the driver, and instead of a leather dash (like the 300 wears) or stitched pleather goodness like the competition is wearing, the ES stuck with an injection molded dashboard “faux-stitched” with real thread. In an unexpected contrast, the Avalon’s interior has a more premium feel, thanks largely to heavy use of (you guessed it) stitched pleather. The faux-cow in the Avalon may not be hand-sewn (Toyota is mum on the subject) but its liberal use on the doors, dashboard and center console beat every competitor (except for that Chrysler with the leather dashboard option.)

My lunch group was divided about the styling, some feeling that Toyota had gone too far and the rest thinking it was a bold choice for Toyota. I fell into the latter camp. Yes, there’s an enormous driver’s window defogger vent (in the picture above), but I appreciate the fact that a styling direction was chosen rather than just repeating the same “beige” the Avalon has been known for. That a group of adults in their 30s were arguing the merits of an Avalon interior is nothing short of revolutionary.

Compared to the Avalon’s Lexus sister, the interior has a more expansive and harmonious feel despite the heavily styled parts. I think I chalk some of this up to the tan-on-black color scheme our tester sported, but plenty of it has to do with dashboard shapes. Lexus’ two-tier dashboard and the “high and centered” position of the infotainment screen make the dashboard feel more imposing than the Avalon’s sweeping forms and less “bulky” dashboard on the passenger’s side.

The front seats are functionally identical to those in the ES with the exception that the number of power-motions varies by the trim level. The thrones are thickly padded and comfortable for long journeys but larger shoppers should know that they are more “bucket” shaped than previous models. Taller drivers and passengers will appreciate the largest cabin Toyota has ever built, including the LS 600hL. With 42.1 inches of legroom up front, 39.2 in the rear, and class leading headroom, the Avalon swallows those tall kids of yours more easily than any front driver this side of the Cadillac XTS. How does Toyota do this with a shorter sedan? They “skimp” on trunk space. Our tester’s 16 cubic foot trunk is nearly 25% smaller than the Taurus and 18% smaller than the Impala.

Infotainment & Gadgets

The Avalon comes in four trim levels, three of which have no available options for the picking. Things start with the $30,990 XLE which comes well equipped with 8 speakers, a touchscreen audio system, Bluetooth integration, dual-zone climate control, keyless go, and a heated 8-way power seat for the driver. The $33,195 XLE Premium tosses in a moonroof, backup cam, an extra speaker, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. For $35,500 the XLE Touring adds navigation, shift paddles, driver’s seat memory, fog lights, 18-inch wheels with 225-width rubber, and Toyota’s Entune data services. Our tester was the top-of-the-line Limited which starts at $39,650 and gets auto-dimming side mirrors with puddle lamps, HID headlamps, 11 JBL speakers, rain sense wipers, three-zone climate control, heated rear seats, ambient lighting, a color HVAC control panel, and a passenger seat with eight powered directions instead of four. Limited buyers can further option their car with two technology packages, for $1,750 you get radar cruise control with pre-collision warning and automatic high beams and for an extra $200 Toyota will integrate a wireless charging mat into the console.

On the infotainment side it is important to remember that Toyota makes two different systems that share nothing with one another. The picture above is the 7-inch system in our Limited tester and the picture below is the 6.1 inch “display audio” system in lesser Avalons. The 6.1 system has more basic graphics but is more responsive and is designed around an “app” model where things like navigation (available only on the Touring trim) are just another “app” available via the “apps” button on the dash. The 7-inch system uses XM Satellite data services while the 6.1 uses your paired smartphone for dynamic content. The 6.1 provides a fairly basic navigation experience, but it is easy to use and very responsive. The 7-inch system (only on Limited) is the familiar Toyota/Lexus system that’s been around for several years that has been updated with Entune data services, smartphone app integration and voice commands for controlling your media device ala Ford’s SYNC. This is the same software used in the Lexus, except without the atrocious “Remote Touch” joystick.

Going back to the ES comparison, since the Limited model uses essentially the same system, driving the ES and Avalon back to back served to solidify my dislike of the Lexus pain stick. The exact same interface is considerably easier to use, less distracting and more intuitive when you can glance at the screen and stab the option with your finger.

Drivetrain

The 3.5L V6 is buttery-smooth, but churns out a less-than-thrilling 268 HP and 248 lb-ft of twist. For reasons I don’t understand, Toyota has yet to fit their D4-S direct-injection system which would make it more competitive on paper (the competition are all around 290 HP). (Ford of course still offers the insane 365HP twin-turbo V6.) Proving that horsepower isn’t everything, the Avalon’s light 3,461lbs curb weight allows it to scoot to 60 in 6.25 seconds, among the fastest in the group behind the 365 HP Taurus SHO and the 290 HP Maxima (thank the Nissan CVT). While we haven’t been able to get our hands on the new Impala, expect it to be fairly quick thanks to its low curb weight as well. Meanwhile the 300 V6, LaCrosse, Azera, MKS and plenty of others will be seen in the Avalon’s rear view mirror.

The only major change for 2013 is the fitting of paddle shifters to the 6-speed automatic transaxle in Touring and Limited trims. With the paddles comes revised software that blips the throttle on downshifts. Don’t get too excited, since this cog swapper is just as up-shift-happy and down-shift-resistant as it was before.

For $2,360 on XLE Premium and $1,750 on Touring and Limited you can opt for Toyota’s 200 HP hybrid system. This is the same setup under the hood of the Camry and ES 300h and increases the Avalon’s MPGs from 21/31/25 (City/Highway/Combined) to 40/39/40 resulting an a savings of $900 per year at $4 a gallon. The trade off is the loss of one full second on the run to 60, well worth the cost in my book.

Drive

For 2013 the Avalon has ditched the wallowy ride synonymous with the model in favor of stiffer springs and a more buttoned down demeanor. Thanks to the new found corner carving skills and a curb weight that is 600lbs lighter than the Taurus, the Avalon is more engaging, composed and nimble than the heavy Ford. Notice I didn’t say “handles better.” The reason the Taurus clings onto first place in our road holding test is down to rubber, seriously wide 255/45R19 rubber (Taurus Limited.)

The Hyundai Azera and its Kia cousin are well-priced alternatives. While the Avalon beats them handily in terms of interior refinement, the Koreans have plenty of power (293 HP) and coupled with a curb weight that’s only 150-200 lbs more than the Avalon they are quicker off the line. Thanks to more aggressive rubber and excellent suspension dynamics the pair is also faster around a track. Of course, shoppers in this segment don’t really care about handling limits and that’s a problem for the dynamic duo because their refinement quotient is still a notch below the new Avalon.

Nissan’s Maxima is fairly light at 3,565lbs and has one of the more powerful engines at 290 HP and 261 lb-ft of twist. Thanks to the low starting ratio and step-less nature of the Nissan CVT, the Maxima burns rubber on its way to the best 0-60 time in this bunch of 5.6 seconds. Of course I can’t talk Nissan without admitting that the CVT isn’t the “sporting” choice because of the “rubber-band” like feel they impart but I don’t think its much of a problem in this segment. On the down side, the Maxima is starting to show its age in a stable of products shifting to a new design language.

The Chrysler 300 is the odd man out. I’m including it because some of our readers would have complained if it had been left out. The problem is the 300 appeals to an entirely different sort of person, both because of its aggressive looks and its RWD drivetrain. Still, the 300 V6 would be my personal choice in this shootout, but I have to acknowledge that a bold RWD American sedan isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Chrysler’s smooth 292 HP V6 and the slick ZF 8-speed automatic are no match for the 300’s higher curb weight making the 300 slower to 60 by nearly a full second. Although I prefer the RWD dynamics of the 300, the heavier curb weight means the Avalon is the nimbler choice. On the flip side, the 300 Luxury Series (the most appropriate cross shop) has a gorgeous full-leather dash and the ride of a full-sized luxury sedan.

That brings us full circle to the elephant in the room: the 2013 Lexus ES. Our Avalon Limited tester has so far knocked the ES to its knees by delivering a better interior, nearly identical feature content, and an easier to use infotainment system. Of course, siblings fight dirty and the Avalon kicks her sister while she’s down by handling better thanks to stiffer springs and wider rubber. When you factor in the Avalon’s lower sticker price and the reality that the Avalon and ES are likely to be as reliable as one another and cost essentially the same to maintain, you have to ask yourself how much that Lexus logo is worth to you. Even outside the direct Toyota vs Lexus comparison the Avalon is highly competitive with an excellent interior, plenty of power, huge back seat and a price tag that isn’t as frightening as the “luxury” alternatives. I never thought I would say this about the Avalon: it’s the aggressive sister that knocks down her stuck-up twin and steals the boyfriend by promising to be a cheaper date. Since I like my women cheap and feisty, I’d take the Avalon up on her offer and only think about the ES once a year at family reunions.

 

Hit it

  • The best interior with a Toyota badge.
  • Never thought I would call an Avalon “nimble.”
  • “Better” than the Lexus for less.

Quit it

  • No ability to add navigation to the base display audio system.
  • 268 HP is nothing to brag about in 2013.
  • Smaller trunk than the competition.

 

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.55 Seconds

0-60: 6.25 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.51 Seconds @ 98.8 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 23.2 MPG over 534 Miles

2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear 3/4 View, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Daytime Running Lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Headlamps, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front Overhang, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Avalon badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Gauges, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Rear Climate Control, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Rear HVAC, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Door Stitching, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Passenger Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Front Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel Buttons, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Heated and Cooled Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Memory Buttons, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Infotainment and navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Infotainment Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Infotainment Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Driver's Window Defigger Vent, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Display Audio System with Entune and Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Toyota 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Car Fight: Hyundai Azera v.v. Toyota Camry Hybrid, Niedermeyer v.v. Schmitt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/car-fight-hyundai-azera-v-v-toyota-camry-hybrid-niedermeyer-v-v-schmitt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/car-fight-hyundai-azera-v-v-toyota-camry-hybrid-niedermeyer-v-v-schmitt/#comments Sat, 09 Jun 2012 16:15:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443746 Welcome to Car Fight, the comparison test with no basis for comparison. In this edition, we join Editor-In-Chief Bertel Schmitt and Editor-at-Large Ed Niedermeyer in sunny Southern California, where they’re arguing over which sedan makes a better $35k-ish commuter chariot, the 2012 Hyundai Azera or the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Niedermeyer: Well, Bertel… you asked […]

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Welcome to Car Fight, the comparison test with no basis for comparison. In this edition, we join Editor-In-Chief Bertel Schmitt and Editor-at-Large Ed Niedermeyer in sunny Southern California, where they’re arguing over which sedan makes a better $35k-ish commuter chariot, the 2012 Hyundai Azera or the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Niedermeyer: Well, Bertel… you asked for it. You were the one who thought your overpriced, buzzy little hybrid could take on my BuickBimBap on the uncompromising streets of L.A. You picked this Car Fight, and now you’re going to lose.

Let’s be clear: you’re pitting a midsized sedan with some overly-complex gubbins against a purpose-built, full-sized cruising machine. My V6 has nearly 100 horsepower on your hybrid. I could chauffeur three NFL linemen in comfort, you’d be hard-pressed to accommodate more than three cheerleaders. Oh, and did I mention that my car features the best application yet of Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design language, while yours has… hybrid badges?

Sure, my Azera is a few grand more expensive, and no, it doesn’t get hybrid fuel economy, but this is no contest. Just admit that you wish you’d asked Toyota for an Avalon and lets be done with this.

Schmitt: Three NFL linemen? My ride has space for four Japanese cheerleaders. Actually, more, but I don’t want to be pulled over with a car full of lithe ladies. Lose weight, or lose money at the pump, as your kimchee-kruiser demonstrates. I drove my cheerleaders from L.A. to San Diego and back, and I still had half a tank. I bet they gave your car that “fluid” design because of how quickly fuel flows in that thing.

Have a look at this: With a bunch of cheerleaders in the car, and going down I5 with the A/C on full blast – those cheerleaders are hot – the mpg was a little shy of 40. Some hypermiler before me had 46.7 mpg. Probably driving alone. It’s lonely at the top.

And yours? No wonder they hide this god awful mileage deep in the instrument clutter of the Azera. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, Ed? Do you hate polar bears?

And what’s that? An anatomically correct exhaust pipe? You car is sucking gas so quick it can’t even digest it properly. Give it up, Niedermeyer. I’ll buy my cheerleaders sushi while you head to the gas station. You will give up after you see the bill.

Niedermeyer: …

Schmitt (a week later:): Ed? Hello? Hello?

Niedermeyer: … 

Schmitt (yet another week later:): Ed? Eeeeeeeeeeehed?

No answer. Ed must be speechless.

I am forced to finish this car fight single-handedly. It’s too bad, because there is one area where Ed could have gained points. And that is …

The trunk.

Measured using TTAC’s new (and for all reviewers mandatory) trunksizing metrics, the Hyundai Azera  has trunkspace big enough for one overweight editor-in-chief plus three spooning cheerleaders, American. (Cheerleaders not in picture, they ran away.)

The Camry trunk on the other hand only has room for one skinny editor-at-large, end even that is a bit cramped. Azera 4, Camry 1. But then, if you need to lug around all that junk in the trunk, get a truck.

Finally, the coupe de grace: The talking navigation systems.

Sure, both struggled with Los Angeles and the chore of pronouncing “continue on South Sepulveda Blvfftbr… then make a right onto  West Cen-tineeeeela Avbzzt.” The Camry however has a nice human voice that seems to have charming pronunciation problems. The Azera has a computer voice straight from Mars.

Too bad that yellowbelly Ed went AWOL and is unable to defend his ride.

I felt great in mine. Prepared for a pokey hybrid, I was pleasantly surprised by the on-ramp prestige the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid delivers. After one week in the car, I had fallen in love with it, and I was sad to see it go.

If you have the extra $$$$ for the Azera and the gas station attendant, with whom you will become quite familiar, by all means, go for it. If not, take the hybrid Camry.

The 2012 Hyundai Azera was supplied by Hyundai with a full tank of gas. It was delivered to the airport by a rather attractive attendant, dressed all black with pink accents.

Prudent Toyota handed over the keys to the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid on their parking lot. Adhering to Japanese customs, the car was returned with a full tank of gas. After one week, it cost Bertel $39.50

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Hyundai Azera http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/vellum-venom-2012-hyundai-azera/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/vellum-venom-2012-hyundai-azera/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2012 11:50:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439414 Sometimes it’s a little difficult to style a car in a certain genre.  Case in point, the “entry level” luxury car segment.  And not because the cars are rubbish or the designers simply phoned it in, but because so much equity is on the line…on a budget!  This is no audacious Maybach Exelero, here’s an […]

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Sometimes it’s a little difficult to style a car in a certain genre.  Case in point, the “entry level” luxury car segment.  And not because the cars are rubbish or the designers simply phoned it in, but because so much equity is on the line…on a budget!  This is no audacious Maybach Exelero, here’s an ordinary platform given a few dimensional tweaks, a touch of class and a lot of tacked on “visual presence” in hopes of high volume (compared to an Equus) and high margin (compared to an Accent) successes.  And while this Hyundai has one of the toughest acts to follow–after its Sonata brother blew the roof off the world of family car design–it isn’t a dog.

But it’s a good thing Hyundai never called it the Hyundai Grandeur here in North America. There’s nothing especially “grand” about it.

 

And while all modern car’s massive front ends fail to excite me, this one has a bit of a “whoa” factor.  I wasn’t expecing to come up against something as vanilla as a Hyundai Azera and see such a uniform design with such a strong statement. The lumps and bumps have a forward lunging motion, as if the front end wants to pounce on you.  The hood’s negative area complements the thicker grille frame below, and the recessed grille teeth below that.  The center of the Azera’s schnoz has a downward pointing arrow feel to it, as if to suggest you should stare at its prodigious crotch.  Wait…that’s what the arrow means when its on a T-shirt worn by an adolescent male, not the Azera.

Combine that arrow with the tapering, drawn together, feel of the sides and the whole face has a lot of forward motion to it.  Then again, it also looks like a Lexus LS with E60 BMW headlights.  Which is the better assessment? Your call, son.

 

A close up of how the hood’s negative area complements the grille’s design.  Or vice versa.  No matter, it’s a pretty neat bit of styling.

 

The chrome-rimmed fog lights do a fine job dressing up the package, without actually drawing attention to themselves.  Nice job, Hyundai!

 

Yup, that there is some E60 BMW in this here headlight, which is pretty shameful.  The Sonata did such a good job looking like nothing else on the planet, and it’s a cheaper car!  I expect more for a snooty, upscale product. Then again, note the chrome flashing that starts from said BMW lighting pod.

 

On the plus side, the chrome flashing turns into a character line down the bodyside!  Me likey, that reeks of super classy, “entry-level” Luxury!

 

And that long strip of chrome accentuates a rather fetching greenhouse…this certainly looks more expensive than a Sonata. Too bad the new Chevy Impala just ruined this look for everyone, outside of the fleet departments that will be thrilled to see these in full force.

 

A little more chrome down unda, Captain!  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen it, and it still looks good.  Maybe add a badge down there, a la the outgoing Lexus GS Hybrid? This is entry level luxury after all, how about we make it a Royale Brougham? What a super classy idea!

 

Another shot of the chrome, albeit at a less flattering angle.  More importantly, dig deeper and you see how blocky and clumsy that A-pillar truly is!  Where are my beer goggles? Oh right, Hyundai gave us the little black triangle in front of the door, to extend the DLO and cheat on the Azera’s greenhouse sleekosity. More to the point, DLO FAIL!

 

Hey, is that a real piece of glass, instead of a plastic triangle?  DLO FTW, son!

Also note how strong the shoulder line is above the door handle, going back to the trunk.  The Azera is on its way into turning into a pre-war luxury sedan with voluptuous fenders!

 

So when your greenhouse has a DLO made of both WIN and FAIL, what do you have? I do like the touch of tumblehome and the angry (light) slash in the side mirror.

 

If the Azera wasn’t so goshdarn tall, this green house would be Talbot-Lago levels of stunning. Oh, how I lament the days of non-CUV styled sedans.

 

The lines are clean, the body motions are strong yet understated…this would be quite the looker if someone took out 1-2″ of sheet metal from the center. Considering the rear end design, it would also make it a credible threat to the street presence of an Aston Martin…except Ford already has that threat handled with the upcoming Fusion-Mondeo sedan.

 

This is where I show my bias to the cars I grew up with and admired: along with the outgoing model, I am very excited to see full width lighting pods come back into vogue. With the tight fitting bumper, Lexus-like exhaust pipes and spoiler-shaped decklid, the Azera banishes the goofy amoeba taillights and chrome license plate mustache to a special place in hell: the same place that DLO FAIL belongs.

 

I like the tiers in the sheetmetal as they provide a neat bit of surface tension…oh wait…are those Mercedes door handles?  First the BMW headlights and now this…Hyundai’s lack of creativity here is saddening.  At least move the chrome in the middle so the handle doesn’t look like a complete rip-off of zee Germans!

 

Back to my surface tension remark.  Unlike the new 3-series, the Azera isn’t flexing its muscles: it’s naturally fit.  If only the canvas wasn’t so damn tall, these contours would really shine…like I bet they did on vellum. You know, before the design was translated onto the canvas of a near luxury, platform-shared vehicle. Oh well, Ain’t No Shame in This Game!

 

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2013 Hyundai Azera: Look Out LaCrosse http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/2013-hyundai-azera-look-out-lacrosse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/2013-hyundai-azera-look-out-lacrosse/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 21:21:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418548 Hyundai has been doing a lot of things right lately, but one thing they can’t do is keep a secret. TTAC showed you this car, known as the Grandeur in Korea, a year ago, warning “Buick beware.” Now that it’s arrived stateside, the threat is real and Azera is no longer the red-headed stepchild of […]

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Hyundai has been doing a lot of things right lately, but one thing they can’t do is keep a secret. TTAC showed you this car, known as the Grandeur in Korea, a year ago, warning “Buick beware.” Now that it’s arrived stateside, the threat is real and Azera is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the Hyundai family. Hyundai says the new Azera’s design was pursued following the same “fluidic sculpture” theme as Elantra and Sonata, rather than aping the Genesis and Equus’s more formal design language… although to our eyes it almost splits the difference between the two looks. Meanwhile, its 3.3 liter, 293 HP V6 separates it from its V6-free Sonata cousin, while still providing what Hyundai claims is “class leading” efficiency.

Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik says they are transitioning Hyundai from a “Value brand” to a “Valuable brand” (yes, really), and this Azera is intended to help challenge cars like the Acura TL and Lexus ES as well as the Taurus and Avalon. And with no plans for new US production capacity, despite razor-thin inventories, moving the brand upmarket makes sense for Hyundai. And replacing the old dullard of an Azera was a crucial step in that direction.
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