By on April 12, 2012

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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19 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 Hyundai Azera...”

  • avatar


    How would you compare it to the new Avalon?

    As far as the tall green-house goes, if it comes with more headroom, I’m all for it.

  • avatar

    As a Hyundai salesman, I was worried about this car. It looks a little lumpy in photos, and given the Sonata interior – which isn’t all top quality, I wondered how the Azera’s interior would stack up. What a relief when our first Azera arrived!! Such a nice car. Looks great in person, and the interior is miles ahead of the Sonata – as it should be. This car is going to sell very well.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the first Hyundai I didn’t completely scoff at, I am very impressed with the use of chrome (seen that at all lately on a door?), and to me it even has an Jag XJ ‘stretch’ quality to it. If I could lose the slanted Hyundai ‘H’s and it be more akin to something like the Toyota Crown in Japan, I could see it in my driveway. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t want a run of the mill Hyundai, I want something special.

      “The Crown is Toyota’s oldest sedan still in production. It is outranked only by the Century and the Majesta in social status.
      Most models are distinguishable by a unique “Crown” badge on the front grille, in place of the normal stylized ‘T’, but the normal Toyota badge is usually used on the rear.”

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The Hyundais looked damn good at the New York auto show. This is no longer an upstart outfit selling warmed-over cast-offs from Japan. If you’re like most Americans, and “creature comforts” are at the top of your requirement, Hyundai should be on your list. For freaks like me who still want “handling” and other car-guy esoterica, then we can go elsewhere. But we’re all a vanishing breed.

  • avatar

    I’m glad this doesn’t share the Sonata’s front end, personally. I was glad when the Elantra and Accent didn’t, either. There’s something really awkward in that car, something that will age poorly.

  • avatar

    DLO Fail indeed — underlined in chrome. That’s the sad fate of sleek design meeting engine-in-the-trunk-of-the-car-ahead drivetrains — the sorry découpage. Try to pull that A-pillar-to-base apex rearward, and you end up with an even thicker A-pillar, if interior volume is to be maintained.

    I prefer RWD drivetrains in large sedans not for their dynamic qualities (see JB’s column in defence of FWD), but more for the aesthetic – the poised and ineffeminate proportions inherent. Audi is the exception that proves the general rule.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the only awkward part of the styling. The Sonata avoids this by only have chrome below the windows instead of surrounding them. Still better than the black plastic triangle instead of rear side window like on so many cars.

  • avatar

    I like it, but I’m a fanboy. Someone else designed the Veloster – yuk.

  • avatar

    “this would be quite the looker if someone took out 1-2″ of sheet metal from the center.”

    I disagree; the hourglass shape is not a form that looks good on most/many sedans. To my eyes the bulbous fenders look overdone and, like ventiports, will look very dated very soon.

    Nice looking car, will be interesting to read how it actually drives.

  • avatar

    Style-wise, I think the side and rear came out better than I was expecting, but the front is a bit of a mess (looking like Hyundai designers couldn’t decide with whether to go with a conservative look or keep with the “fluidic sculpture” design theme and ending up with a mishmash).

    As for the criticism about the headlights resembling BMW’s, doesn’t really look like BMW headlights aside from having the “eyebrow” turn signals which Buick actually did first on the Rendezvous with other automakers also following suit.

    The materials used in the interior is a big improvement on those used in the Sonata (the Sonata’s interior will be getting better materials, bringing it more up to par with the Optima), but considering what other automakers are bringing to the segment, Hyundai may have to up the ante quickly in that dept.

  • avatar

    The tiers in the sheet metal on the rear flanks, particularly in Image 10, make me think this car has a bad muffin top.

  • avatar

    Well, it will sure be easy to tell when one of these has been in an accident. There are so many reveals and so much body sculpting that none of it will line up. All these new Hyundais look like a body shops worst nightmare.

  • avatar

    This car is just plain hideous, but hey…… to each their own.

  • avatar

    I like it – for this class, it stands out – sure there’s that big ole chrome halo around the greenhouse, but buyers of mainstream sedans want some bling.

    What are its dimensions compared to the new Impala? I’m guessing they’re pretty close in size. This car only underscores the Impala’s half-baked design – Hyundai hit the nail on the head – Chev hit the nail on the thumb…

  • avatar

    Anyone who thinks the Sonata is cute will LOVE the Azera. I drove it and rode in it as a passenger to fully test it. GREAT CAR. It isn’t as solid a product as the Sonata, but, if you need a “bigger Sonata”, this is what you want instead of the Genesis.

  • avatar

    I agree with bd2, the back half is quite nice (although in a large sedan, rear seat headroom should be more of a priority), but the front is to arrow-like, particularly the windshield is laid back too much, which ruins visibility and is responsible for both the DLO Fail and bringing the windshield header rail uncomfortably close to the driver’s head, again impinging on the feel of space. I can agree with the view that the side sculpting is a touch overdone, hard to judge from photos. I also agree with Sajeev that the chrome highlight in the door handles would be better in the centre.

    One day the coupe-roofline trend will pass, or at least there is room for a more practical/formal roofline as per the E-class/CLS pairing. I suppose it depends on whether the rear seats are ever going to be used, but wouldn’t that be the reason most people buy a large sedan?

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