By KBB.com Editors
Who would have thought the company that brought us the lackluster Excel subcompact two decades ago would now be building a car to rival some of the best near-luxury sedans in America? Hyundai's evolution from an entry-level upstart to a full-line manufacturer of quality automobiles is nothing short of amazing and culminates with its latest achievement, the 2009 Azera. Designed to compete with the Buick Lucerne and Toyota Avalon, the Azera offers an impressive array of features, including a huge rear seat and a choice of two strong V6 engines, all at an unbeatable price. One of the most powerful Hyundais ever built, the company takes pride in pointing out the Azera Limited equipped with the 3.8-liter V6 offers more standard horsepower than the BMW 528i or Buick LaCrosse.You'll Like This Car If...
If getting the most bang for your buck is more important than the name affixed to your next car's trunk, the 2009 Hyundai Azera is for you. It offers a spacious ride with high-end amenities at a fair price and is a family-friendly sedan with performance and style.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you believe status symbols are worth the extra cash, the Azera's Hyundai logo won't impress like one from BMW, Mercedes or Cadillac.What's New for 2009
Along with more interior enhancements, the 2009 Hyundai Azera sports a new chrome grille, newly designed 17-inch wheels and a new interior color choice, dark brown. The GLS now features an electroluminescent gauge cluster, while all models receive a new audio system with a larger display window and USB and iPod inputs.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 20098 Hyundai Azera equipped with the 3.8-liter engine has the kind of remarkable acceleration that can get you going quickly and easily. When we found ourselves in a sudden traffic jam on a bridge, the brakes were strong, sure and precise. The Azera also handled well in parking situations and was agile to maneuver. We thought the suspension, however, was a little bouncy and a little harsh, and the cabin had a bit too much noise. On the other hand, the visibility is excellent, engine response terrific and we like the manual-shift mode of the automatic.Favorite Features
The Hyundai Azera has lovely lines and a classy look. We like the performance of this vehicle. We know it's not a sports car, but the engine has a sweet sound that perfectly matches its response.
Power Rear Sunshade
One very interesting and thoughtful feature on the Limited Edition is the rear sunshade that automatically rolls up when the car is in reverse gear, so you can see what's behind you.
The 2009 Hyundai Azera GLS uses a suede-like seat-surface material that could pass for the real deal and is just as soft to the touch. The Limited Edition adds plush leather seating surfaces and just the right aesthetic touches of wood trim. The cabin is comfortably cozy but has a big, open feeling. The beige interior – beige-on-beige with unexciting vinyl – is not exactly stimulating, but the soft curved shapes of the dash are easy on the eyes and the controls are simple to understand and operate. The rear seat is roomy enough for three, with a 40/60-split seatback that pulls down easily for additional storage. The trunk is huge, with enough room to accommodate a family's worth of summer vacation luggage or a couple of sets of golf clubs.Exterior
Drawing on the increasingly sophisticated Hyundai design lines, the Azera's profile wouldn't look out of place in a line-up of more expensive Lexus or Mercedes models. The Azera has look-at-me appeal, with a squared-off rear end and wraparound bank of LED taillights that spell drama and a front that forms into a stylish V with all lines flowing smoothly. The form is classic and looks expensive.Notable Standard Equipment
The Azera GLS's impressive list of standard features includes a 3.3-liter DOHC V6 engine with 234 horsepower, five-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC manual control, electronic stability control and traction control. Eight airbags, active front head restraints, LED tail and brake lamps and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3 capability add to the mix. The Azera Limited receives a 3.8-liter V6, leather-trimmed seating with heated front seats, a power sunroof, 315-watt Infinity sound system with six-disc in-dash CD changer and 10 speakers, wood trim on the steering wheel and a power rear sunshade.Notable Optional Equipment
The GLS options list includes the Premium Package, which adds leather seating, heated front seats and a power sunroof. The Azera Limited offers navigation (the navigation screen replaces the six-disc CD changer), 605-watt Logic 7 Surround Sound audio, power-adjustable steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, rain-sensing wipers and an integrated memory system for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel)Under the Hood
The standard 3.3-liter V6 may not be as powerful as the available 3.8-liter, but it does offer acceptable levels of performance and smoothness. If you can swing the extra cost, the all-aluminum 3.8-liter DOHC V6 engine, which delivers 263 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque, is the best choice. The engine uses continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) and a variable intake system, which helps the cylinders breathe efficiently at low and high rpm. It has an alloy block and cylinder heads for light weight and overall efficiency, and is coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission, with SHIFTRONIC manual control, that includes a fifth gear for highway cruising.
234 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
226 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26
263 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
257 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26
The 2009 Hyundai Azera GLS' Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $25,500, while pricing for the Azera Limited starts just under $30,000. Add in the Ultimate Package upgrade with navigation and the price tops out around $33,000. Given its impressive content level, the Azera undercuts comparably-equipped sedans from Ford, Buick and Toyota by hundreds to thousands of dollars. Before you set out to purchase, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price, which shows what consumers are currently paying in your area. The Azera is expected to hold average resale values, on not quite on par with the Mercury Sable and Buick Lucerne and not as high as the Toyota Avalon or Nissan Maxima.