- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Korean vehicles are known for their conservative price and the great quality that has increased by leaps and bounds in the last five years or so. Hyundai in particular has taken great strides at making sure buyers understand that they stand behind this increase in quality by offering a ground breaking ten year or 100,000 mile warranty. It started a ground swell of other manufacturers following with their own version of increased warranty limits.

In the past most of Hyundai vehicles were geared toward the economy side of the car buying equation. Not so with their newest entry. The Azera moves the car company up-level and in a new direction. We’ve seen Hyundai moving toward making this announcement for a few years now. The Azera may well change the way we look at Hyundai.

Make no mistake this isn’t an up-level sedan without performance. Under the hood sits a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that pumps out a wonderful 263 horsepower and 255 lb-ft. of torque. Even in this large sedan the engine offers exciting drives. If I didn’t know better I might have thought I was in one of those European sedans.

The engine is coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission that provides good transitions between gears.

Although, I felt it was a bit sluggish at times, not shifting when I thought I needed that extra gear.

The exterior design may not bring about hot-sweats, it is attractive in an ordinary sort of way.

The interior is a touch modernism with an Asian flare.

As we expect, the controls and gauges are all where they should be located for easy use. And the seats are comfortable and supportive.

The Azera has power to add some enthusiasm to the daily drive that wasn’t the primary goal as the vehicle took form.

This was a vehicle that was destined to give good performance in a large sedan, while offering excellent interior space and the full-sized sedan comfort buyers are looking for. This Hyundai does just that.

Like the front seats, the rear seats offer excellent comfort with room for three and the trunk swallows up cargo through a large opening under the lid.

The passenger compartment is a combination of leather, well designed plastics and a tasteful bit of faux-wood trim.

On a long drive the Azera provide a quiet living space that seemed to beat some of the more expensive examples of a five passenger sedan I have driven recently.

One aspect I noticed where the Azera shines is the quietness of the cabin at highway speeds

Even some of the more expensive luxury sedans I’ve recently driven can’t keep the outside noise levels this low.

In a highway cruiser it was comforting to have the isolation offered here.

I am having a difficult time with accepting a Hyundai that is approaching the $30,000 atmosphere.

However, at its base of $24,995 it is right in line with where we expect Hyundai.

But most buyers do not buy the base model, instead opting for more features.

Even with the move up to the Limited model with its heated leather seats, larger wheels and tires and a number of features that bring it inline with what buyers equipping their cars the Azera still rests in the $28,000 range.

That’s darn good for the features you get with the Azera.

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