What's New for 2006
The full-size Hyundai Azera sedan is an all-new replacement for the dowdy XG350.
The Hyundai XG sedan was introduced in 2001 as the XG300, and a larger 3.5-liter V6 made it the XG350 starting in 2002. Positioned as the company's flagship model, the XG was meant to lead the automaker's fleet proudly into the new millennium. Although Hyundai has great success with value-packed vehicles like the Elantra and Santa Fe, which make for compelling choices in their respective segments, the company wanted to use the XG350 to garner serious consideration from consumers who weren't necessarily limited by a strict budget -- consumers who could afford a Camry or Passat but might choose the Hyundai car instead. Unfortunately, the XG's flaccid handling, weak powertrain and anonymous styling made it a tough sell to these buyers.
For 2006, Hyundai is replacing the XG with an all-new sedan called the Azera. The new Hyundai car is longer, wider and rides on a wheelbase stretched 1.1 inches. The interior also benefits from the expanded dimensions and offers more interior room than a Mercedes S-Class sedan. Various interior options include luxuries like an electronic tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, rain-sensing wipers and leather seating. The powertrain is also new, and now much more competitive in performance. An all-new 3.8-liter V6 produces 265 horsepower, making the Azera the fastest Hyundai car ever built. All Hyundai Azera models come with stability control, antilock brakes and traction control. The standard complement of airbags includes torso-protecting airbags for both front and rear passengers, along with full-length head curtain airbags.
Hyundai has taken a bold leap forward with the new Azera. Among other large front-drive sedans such as the Buick Lucerne, Mercury Montego and Toyota Avalon, the Azera compares reasonably well in terms of feature content. While it may not yet have the brand cache or name recognition of its rivals, the 2006 Hyundai Azera is worth a hard look, particularly given its affordable price.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Hyundai Azera sedan is available in two well-equipped trim levels: SE and Limited. The SE comes with five-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels, a power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a MP3-compatible CD player, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with manual tilt/telescope adjustment, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and an electronic compass in the rearview mirror. The Limited adds 10-spoke 17-inch alloys, an electroluminescent instrument cluster, leather upholstery, front-seat heaters, a leather/wood grain steering wheel, a power passenger seat and a power rear sunshade. A power sunroof and Infinity audio system with a six-disc CD changer and 10 speakers are optional on either the SE or Limited, and power-adjustable pedals, a driver-seat memory system, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and power-folding mirrors are exclusive options for the Limited.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-drive Hyundai Azera is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 that generates 263 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. This engine is smooth, quiet and powerful compared with the other offerings in this class. A five-speed automatic transmission with a sequential-shift manual mode is standard.
Hyundai is trying to make a name for itself on the safety front, and the Azera is a good example of that commitment. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control and seat-mounted side airbags for front and rear occupants are standard, along with full-length head curtain airbags. In IIHS tests, the 2006 Azera earned a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in frontal crashes. Side-impact testing resulted in a second-highest score of "Acceptable."
Interior Design and Special Features
Overall, the cabin imparts a sense of traditional luxury. Materials quality is high, especially considering the price, and storage space is generous with wide door bins and rear seatback pockets. Passenger space is also generous, making the Azera a fine candidate for long-distance trips in comfort. Tasteful wood grain trim is scattered about, accented by distinctive metal trim pieces.
At a heavy 3,629 pounds, the full-size Hyundai Azera is suitable for the average driver who prefers comfort over performance. It's 68 percent stiffer than the old XG350, and offers a much improved ride as a result. Still, the Azera is no sport sedan. Its steering is a touch light, while its four-wheel disc brakes are strong with above-average pedal feel. Buyers should expect to find confident handling that is tuned more for comfort than for thrills.