Hyundai redesigned its large luxury sedan, the Azera, two years ago to incorporate the automaker’s new “Fluidic Sculpture” design expression.For 2014, the Azera continues to offer affordable luxury, performance, and safety, with standard features such as electronic stability control, traction control, wrap-around LED taillights (132 individual elements), and projector-beam headlights.There is a generous 107 cubic feet of space in the cabin, along with a roomy 16.3 cubic feet of trunk space.The Azera also has nine air bags, standard leather seating, heated front seats, a 10-way power driver seat, 18-inch wheels, and a rearview camera.For the 2014 model year, Hyundai lowered the starting price for the Azera to $31,000, down $1,250 from 2013, and also added a driver blind-spot mirror, a six-inch color LCD monitor and refined steering.There are two models, Base ($31,000 plus $895 freight) and Limited ($34,750), with more standard features on the Limited for the additional $3,750. A navigation system with an eight-inch touch screen (also used with the backup camera), driver’s seat memory (for steering column, side mirrors and seat), and high-intensity discharge headlights with automatic headlight control are standard on the Limited.The Limited also offers more options, such as the Premium Package ($2,150) included on my tester. The package included 19-inch multi-spoke hyper silver alloy wheels, panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof with power shades, power rear sunshade, manual rear side-window sunshades, and rear parking assist. Carpeted floor mats added $110.Both models are front-wheel drive and come with a 3.3-liter direct-injection V-6 gasoline engine, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic, which allows for manual shifting by moving the shift lever into a second shift gate. The engine produces 293 horsepower and 255 foot-pounds of torque.My Azera responded quickly and smoothly on acceleration and braking, and handled curves and corners with confidence. The ride was a little rough on winter-weary country roads near my house, but very smooth and quiet on the highway.The Azera comes with active Eco mode, which helps improve fuel economy, especially if left on at all times. The trade off is slightly less power and a somewhat sluggish response on acceleration. Active Eco makes more of a difference in stop-and-go traffic, less when using cruise control on the open highway.Azera is EPA rated for 19 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. With the Eco button engaged, driving about 50/50 on the highway and around the neighborhood and idling in a parking lot, I averaged 20.1 mpg.My tester came in Porcelain White Pearl with Graphite Black interior, excluding the light gray microfiber headliner and pillars. Subtle chrome trim on the door handles, rocker panel, taillights, trunk, and wavy louvered grille highlighted the Fluidic Sculpture design.Chrome-tipped elliptical-shaped dual exhausts added another subtle highlight to the outer rear bumper. Fog lamps in the sculpted lower front bumper were also outlined by elliptical-shaped chrome trim. The heated power/folding side mirrors with jewel-like turn signal indicators were mounted in glossy black.Impact-reducing front seats are standard on the Limited and are designed to increase shock absorption due to a rear-end collision, reducing neck and head injuries up to 17 percent.The heated and cooled front seats were plush and comfortable, with power adjustment buttons within easy reach on the upper door panel. The driver’s seat had a cushion extension, a plus for people like me with short legs. The rear bucket-style outboard seats were also heated, with controls on the door armrest.The driver and front passenger had 40.3 inches of headroom and 45.5 inches of legroom. Rear outboard passengers had plenty of head and leg room with 37.6 inches and 36.8 inches respectively. The middle seat was higher, less comfortable and had considerably less headroom – my head was only about two inches from the ceiling, and I’m only 5-foot-1. The ceiling above the outboard seats was actually concave, creating more space.Rear passengers had a power outlet and adjustable air vents on the upper back of the center console. Rear air vents on the previous model Azera were close to the floor and easily obstructed.The outboard seating positions had anchors and tethers for child safety seats, while the middle seat had only the tether hook. The seatbacks could be folded 60/40, although the resulting opening was more of a pass-through, as it was obstructed on the sides by the seat support. Folding was somewhat awkward, accomplished by pulling a short lever under the lip of the trunk opening and manually pulling the seatback forward. The trunk and the passenger doors had to be open and the operator had to go from one to the other in order to complete the task.Automakers are including more technology, and most of it is more advanced (read: complicated) than ever. Hyundai is no exception, with a standard Bluetooth hands-free phone system, HD radio technology with multicasting, satellite radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink remote gate/garage door opener, interior ambient lighting, electroluminescent gauge cluster with color LCD trip computer, and BlueLink telematics.The HD radio with multicasting allows each station to transmit up to seven channels in different formats on the same frequency. The standard audio system is the Infinity Logic 7 surround sound, pushing 550 watts.In addition to navigation, BlueLink helps you stay safe with features such as roadside assistance and SOS emergency assistance.The Car Care technology feature of BlueLink helps maintain the health of your Hyundai with maintenance reminders, diagnosis and connection to service providers. BlueLink also helps you keep up with your Hyundai and what it is doing, monitoring location (to help locate the vehicle in case of theft; supervise whereabouts of young drivers), speed (parents of teens), and time-of-day of operation (also for parents of teens).BlueLink also allows the operator to locate, unlock/lock the vehicle, start the vehicle, and warm or cool the car remotely from almost anywhere. Of course, BlueLink provides navigation and almost any trip-planning service you can imagine. Basic navigation was easy to program and follow, although I didn’t get into all the other bells and whistles.Including freight and $2,260 in options, the total sticker price for my Azera Limited was $37,905.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.