Pros: "Comfortable, Safe, Excellent interior, Noise low"
Cons: "Steering feel, Hankook Tires"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We purchased an used 2013 Black Azera with Tech, with 3000 miles and have owned it for the past few months. We traded-in our previous 2013 Sonata 2.4 L Limited - which had rather bumpy and noisy ride, and an attention-craving tight steering which was rather painful on hands, especially on the mountains, and even on long drives as it needed constant adjustment. We liked the Azera for its nice V6 engine, and hoped that the Azera, priced $10,000 more, will solve the Sonata issues. We found the Azera answered some of the issues while not all.
We live at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. It is a beautiful countryside, but most roads are through valleys and ravines, has a lot of steep elevation, descent, sharp blind curves. Daily commute to work has its fair share of a hilly winding 2-lane road with no railings, and a few miles of Interstate. We also do frequent road trips (500 miles or above) every year. So we needed a car which can handle tortuous roads with fair agility as well as comfortable enough to handle long drives with ease for 5 people.
Steering – Pretty bad! The steering is too tight has a lot of built-in under-steer. The car almost refuses to turn for small steering motions. This means that to turn the car on winding roads, the steering always has to be turned more than what we intuitively would expect, resulting in missing the corners, or being late on taking a turn, compromising on fun and safety. This becomes worse when car speeds are higher, and the steering adamantly tightens in the central position. I asked Hyundai about it. They told me it is a built in safety feature in case of fast highway driving, it is normal for the steering to require additional force to turn the car. But what if the highways are not straight and we really need to turn the car ? The result: pretty non-intuitive, uncomfortable steering experience on winding highways.
There is a saving grace though. The car has a hidden “Sports mode”, - activated by shifting the transmission to “Manual”. The suspension changes, the car banks better and steering remains light at all speeds. It is only then the car is somewhat fun to drive.
Handling – The car handles corners adequately at lower speeds, but for (not so) high speeds it feels like an elephant. The car rolls, screeches, and sways sideways with a rather numbing roll. The car likes being driven slow and relaxed. It is not designed to win confidence of a rally driver. If pushed, it will perform, but not willingly. Overall, I found that the car handles pretty adequately for daily driving, as long as the driver accepts that he has to let the BMW-s and Subaru-s overtake. The good thing is that even if the car is driven rather fast through a winding valley road the ride (as a passenger) is extremely comfortable and smooth.
Accelerator pedal – Sluggish! Gears always have tendency to sit high, so power is not immediate. The accelerator needs to be floored quite a bit for the gears to shift. On an undulating road, despite the car’s 293 bhp engine, it takes a rather conscious effort to maintain speed. This is true especially in ECO mode. But then, the power is very robust once the accelerator is pushed firmly. Additionally, I found that keeping the car at a lower gear in the “Manual” mode drives the car much pleasant on a hilly undulating terrain. Brakes are satisfactory too, although it is a little choppy, the car stops dead pretty fast.
Tires – Very Bad! The car comes with OEM Hankook Optimo tires. They are noisy, and dry-condition grip is rather lousy, it screeches too easily (Wet grip is good though). My old Sonata also had these too, and I replaced them with Michelin Primier, and both handling and noise improved noticeably. I wonder why Hyundai chooses mediocre tires for cars in this segment.
We drove the car in various road conditions and here is our opinion:
Highway/Interstate performance on straight sections – Excellent! The road and wind noise is almost nil (except for an occasional tire clap in certain surfaces, which is from bad quality tires and not a fault of the car). The seats are perfect for long comfortable ride. Some occasional bad road patches will make the car bump loud and strong. Yet, overall highway ride quality is excellent. The overtaking can be a little sluggish though, given that the gearshifts and accelerator padels are slow to respond. Mileage – almost 30 mpg.
Winding highways – Fun in “Sports" mode, lousy in "Automatic" mode! The car needs to be driven in “Sports Mode” for the steering to obey you. Passenger comfort remains excellent throughout. Mileage - 25 mpg.
Winding mountain roads – Rather pleasant, as long as the car is not banked hard! The car glides through winding roads at low-moderate speeds. If pushed, the car will still take you to the destination safely, but the screeches and numbing rolls makes it not fun to drive (as compared to my old Avalon). The passenger experience remains pleasant. Mileage - 22 mpg.
Gravel – Horrendous! Don't try it with Azera! Somehow even the Sonata, or my Camry handles this gravel better. The Azera was not only rather bumpy, but swayed badly on the road. Every pothole on the road caused the car shock-absobers to max out even at moderate speeds almost throwing us out of our seats. In the end, we have to do the roads at <20 miles/hour, making space for other cars to pass us. Mileage – 12 mpg. Pathetic experience!
Looks – Sexy! Enough said!
Gizmos – We have Tech Package and the bang-for-buck is a winner in this category. Sound is excellent, and one of the best we have heard in many cars! The rear-window-shed, cooled front seats and heated front and back seats are great things to have in Tennessee summer/winter. The cooling/heating of the seats are pretty uniform too. The Navigation is pretty accurate and easy to operate. The maps update automatically. Voice-command and Bluetooth works too (with some learning curve). The leather is soft. The carbon-fiber interior looks futuristic. The panoramic sunroof is lovely. Bottomline - my wife loves everything about the interior :), she is a slow driver, and she feels the car is more than adequate, so I am a happy husband.
Overall, it is a good-looking commuter car which is average to drive, but great to ride. For me, I expect more agility on winding roads for the pricetag. And we implore Hyundai to PLEASE, PLEASE fix the steering feel."
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