Mention well-equipped sedans for between $25-30,000, and you’ll probably get bombarded with a long list of qualifiers such as the Acura TSX, Ford Five Hundred, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Passat, and the Volvo S40. Unlike four-wheel-drive supercars, there is no dearth of nice four-door family haulers. However, aside from the Kia Amanti, that long list has been missing Korean vehicles…until now. Enter the 2006 Hyundai Azera, the company’s new flagship that replaces the nondescript XG350 with handsome styling, nearly 70 added horsepower, and a level of refinement seldom seen from anything other than a Japanese or European manufacturer.
The 2006 Hyundai Azera is being built in Korea and will arrive at your local dealer starting in November. Total production is expected to reach 30-40,000 units annually.
Power for the 2006 Hyundai Azera comes from a 24-valve, 3.8-liter V6 with continuously variable valve timing and dual overhead cams. A five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual control manages 263 horsepower peaking at 6,000 rpm and 255-lb.-ft. of torque spinning at 4,500 rpm. Hyundai estimates a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 6.5 seconds, and the EPA suggests fuel economy ratings of 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Riding on a stretched and widened Sonata platform, the 3,629-lb., front-wheel-drive 2006 Hyundai Azera uses a double wishbone front suspension up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard.
There are two 2006 Hyundai Azera models available: SE and Limited. The SE features premium cloth seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel, a CD player, power front seats, and the usual array of power features. Limited models add leather seat upholstery, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, heated front seats, and an electroluminescent gauge cluster.
Official pricing has yet to be released, but company representatives claim that the starting price for a 2006 Hyundai Azera SE will be less than $25,000, including a $495 destination charge, with the Limited model running at just about $27,000.
SE versions of the 2006 Hyundai Azera come equipped with five-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels rolling on 225/60 all-season tires. Limited models get 10-spoke, 17-inch alloys with 235/55, V-rated all-season Michelin tires. All Azeras feature a standard full-size spare tire mounted to an alloy wheel.
Hyundai is intent on promoting itself as a safety-conscious manufacturer, and to that end it includes eight standard airbags in the new 2006 Azera. Up front are the two requisite driver and passenger airbags, though added protection comes from front and rear side airbags and side curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers.
In addition to eight standard airbags, each 2006 Hyundai Azera comes with antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, active front headrests that adjust fore/aft and up/down, three rear headrests, and three-point seatbelts for all five passengers. There are also front and rear crumple zones, as well as hood creases designed to dissipate crash energy. Though it hasn’t been tested yet, Hyundai expects the Azera to pass all crash tests with flying colors.
Like all Hyundai models sold in the U.S., the 2006 Azera is backed by an impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a seven-year/unlimited mileage rust warranty, and a five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance program.
From a design perspective, the 2006 Hyundai Azera has borrowed styling cues from a number of vehicles, past and present. The sloped rear pillar and resulting short trunk lid conjure up thoughts of the current GS and IS offerings from Lexus, while the bustle-butt rear end mimics that of the BMW 7 Series, a look often maligned when it first debuted several years ago. The shape of the tail end also resembles an older Mazda 929/Millenia, and the front end looks a bit like a previous-generation Toyota Camry. Put them all together, and you have the unique and attractive style of the Azera.
Inside, the 2006 Hyundai Azera offers 106.9 cubic feet of passenger room and the trunk swallows up to 16.6 cubic feet of cargo. That trunk is lined everywhere – the floor, the side walls, the lid, the trunk roof, and even the hinges. The Azera’s cabin features generous head, foot, and leg room for all passengers and includes a tasteful dash design with logical placement of the most common radio and climate controls. Additionally, the interior is extremely quiet thanks to triple door seals and the 3.8-liter’s high level of refinement.
With its soft suspension and light steering, the 2006 Hyundai Azera is a terrific boulevard cruiser. The suspension does an admirable job of absorbing bumps and potholes without disrupting the ride. However, that translates into a decent amount of body roll in the corners and a vague steering feel when trying to slice through traffic. Like muscle cars of past generations, the Azera’s power is best enjoyed in a straight line.
Options unique to SE models are carpeted front and rear floor mats and heated front seats. Limited models reserve the right to be outfitted with memory settings for the driver’s seat, mirrors, and steering column; power folding mirrors; a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel; power foot pedals; and rain-sensing windshield wipers. All 2006 Hyundai Azera models can be ordered with a power sunroof and a 10-speaker sound system with a six-disc CD changer.
Interior storage for the 2006 Hyundai Azera includes pop-out pockets on the front doors, small pockets on the rear doors, an average-sized glovebox, an overhead sunglasses holder, a fully-lined and enclosed cubby below the instrument panel, and a front center armrest with two compartments. There’s an ashtray forward of the shift knob, two seatback pockets, and the split rear seat folds down for access to the 16.6 cubic-foot trunk. Front passengers have two cupholders in the center console and rear seat passengers have the use of two cupholders built into the fold-down center armrest.
Our money’s on the 2006 Hyundai Azera SE because it’s expected to start at less than $25,000 with a 263-horsepower V6, standard traction and stability control systems, ABS, eight airbags, the same sound system as found on the Limited model, and can be equipped with many of the options available on the Limited. Our only hesitation with the SE would be the lack of those buttery leather seats, which are only available on the Azera Limited.