Daily Archives: February 21, 2008

Long-Term Test: 2007 Hyundai Azera

Long-Term Test: 2007 Hyundai Azera

Inside Line spent 12 months and 18,000 miles with the 2007 Hyundai Azera Limited. This is the most luxurious car from Korea yet, a front-wheel-drive sedan equipped with the kind of luxury amenities that used to be the exclusive signature of Lexus. The Azera looks the part, thanks to voluptuous sheet metal that makes you forget all about Hyundai’s cheap-and-cheerful image. And yet the story of the Azera is all about value, just like every other Hyundai. Our long-term test taught us that there are both good and bad things about value.

Why We Bought It
Hyundai first introduced the 2006 Hyundai Azera as a replacement for the XG, the Korean company’s previous luxury sedan. Based on the platform of the Hyundai Sonata, the Azera represented a kind of breakthrough in prestige for Hyundai. And when the 2007 Hyundai Azera arrived with a number of minor updates, we took the opportunity to add an example to our long-term fleet.

Our full test of the Azera made it clear that this sedan is the best bang for the buck in its segment. Of course, we’ve become accustomed to Hyundai’s ability to deliver more for less in almost every vehicle category. The important question here for us would be to evaluate whether this strategy could be effective in a luxury vehicle. Could the Azera provide everything we expected of a luxury car, from features to ride quality? Reliability and durability are also part of the luxury-car equation, as the success of Lexus has demonstrated.

Would the 2007 Hyundai Azera lose its edge over the competition after its affordable-luxury recipe had been tested daily for 12 months? We would find out.

We wasted little time putting our new Hyundai to the test. High altitudes, desert heat and cold-weather testing were added to the driving agenda alongside daily commuting.

Senior Consumer Advice Editor Phil Reed was first in line. He set off across the desert and mountains from Los Angeles to Denver in the Hyundai over the middle of December. Snow fell heavily as he ascended to an elevation of 11,000 feet in Dillon, Colorado. Reed reported on the long-term blog pages, “We were creeping along at 5 or 10 mph when a tractor-trailer in front of us lost traction and drifted across our lane. I had to goose the 3.8-liter V6 and get into loose snow on the roadside to dodge it. It was pretty scary.”

Reed made further notes in the logbook when he reached his destination. He wrote, “We spent a lot of time in the snow. The Michelin Energy MXV4 tires offered surprisingly good traction over the white stuff and felt unexpectedly poised on the ice. The Azera’s stability control was working overtime, but didn’t seem too intrusive. Ice built up in the wheelwells and made the tires rub noisily, but that’s my only complaint. The Hyundai proved to be a more adequate snow car than I ever imagined.”

Now that our Hyundai held its own in the cold and at high elevation, we sent it into the desert. Senior Editor Ed Hellwig was at the helm for this trip. He noted, “After an impressive first leg from Los Angeles to Phoenix, the Azera completed the return trip as smoothly. I didn’t go light on it, yet when I made it home there was still nearly a quarter tank of gas left after the 408-mile trip. According to the computer, the Azera could have gone another 80 miles. That’s some serious range.”

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton is one of our drivers who specializes in instrumented testing, so he spends much of his time pushing the limits of vehicles. He is also a well-documented enthusiast of sport sedans and believes in car design that makes performance a priority. Yet after a long-distance drive in the Azera, Walton noted: “After a night in the Azera, I couldn’t help but notice how my shoulders relaxed, my grip loosened (on the steering wheel) and my attitude changed within about five minutes. Maybe we’ve taken this sport sedan thing too far. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I should be quiet now.”

Luxury details are strewn about the cabin of our Azera. From the faux-wood accents to top-stitched leather upholstery, the Hyundai Azera clearly is out to make an impression. At the same time, none of the practical aspects of luxury travel are forgotten, so there’s a gigantic trunk and even a sunshade for the rear window.

There were hiccups in the presentation of the interior cabin, but the problems came as the result of our own lapse in judgment. Our decision to choose a beige interior was a mistake for a car that must endure daily abuse from a wide range of drivers, especially since the circumstances rarely encourage respectful treatment.

Significant wear on the floor mats and carpet was noticeable soon after the Azera arrived, and persisted throughout our term with the car. The interior was just too difficult to keep clean, and this went for the leather-upholstered seat as well. What began as a mysterious black smudge across the back of the driver seat (believed to be from someone’s belt) resisted three attempts at cleansing with leather care products.

The stained interior also drew our attention to some other cosmetic issues we had with the Azera.Beyond the questionable choice of leather, we noticed some flaws in the dashboard, and door panel misalignments were also apparent. Stereo buffs among us were further disappointed by the performance of our Infinity sound system. For all its luxury, the Azera apparently remains a value-driven vehicle. The selection of lesser, slightly more affordable interior materials no doubt is cost-effective, but our test showed that these choices compromised our expectations of quality. The 2007 Hyundai Azera was far from the Toyota Avalon-style car the Hyundai XG had been, yet it didn’t seem capable of being the Lexus from Korea that we had hoped for.

Yet however much we critiqued the quality of its presentation, the Azera never faltered mechanically. Prescribed maintenance called for service every 7,500 miles. We averaged a mere $65 per visit to our preferred dealer, Cormier Hyundai in Carson, California. Our only unscheduled visit followed the passenger side mirror falling off. To this day we don’t know the cause, though we spent more than $600 to replace it.

Total Body Repair Costs: $642.93
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $130.27
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Door molding replaced under warranty
Non-Warranty Repairs: Broken passenger side mirror assembly replaced
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 1
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
The Hyundai Azera performed with consistency, recording nearly identical results from its first test at 1,000 miles and its final test with the odometer showing more than 18,000 miles. We recorded a stopping distance of 123 feet from 60 mph during its final test. This marked a 9-foot improvement from a year earlier and the only significant change across the gamut of performance evaluations.

All things considered, the Azera’s acceleration from a standing start was especially strong. We reached 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 93.8 mph. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton mentioned following the test, “It’s not difficult to spin the front tires on an aggressive launch. Upshifts are quick and even feel as if the throttle is momentarily closed between gears to smooth out the surge of power.”

As usual, dynamic tests consist of laps around the skid pad and a run through the slalom. On the skid pad, the Azera developed 0.78g of lateral force with significant understeer at its limit. This is a good number for the segment. Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot tested the sedan during its final visit to the track. Upon recording 61 mph through the slalom, he proclaimed, “61 mph is slow. But man, the Azera isn’t about being fast. No, it’s about being smooth, like a fat man who can dance. I like this Korean Buick.”

We entered the test expecting 19 mpg around town and 28 mpg on the highway. After 18,000 miles our 20-mpg average was on the low end of that range. On multiple occasions we reached 32 mpg, which exceeded any claims on the window sticker and showed it was possible to drive the Azera efficiently. We just didn’t drive that way very often.

Best Fuel Economy: 32.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 20.2 mpg

Retained Value
Edmunds’ TMV® calculator values the Azera at $21,838 after 18,530 miles. This equates to 27 percent depreciation from its original MSRP and ranks it just behind its competitors in resale worth.

Our Toyota Camry depreciated by a similar 26 percent margin at the conclusion of its long-term test, although it had an additional 3,000 miles on the odometer.

True Market Value at service end: $21,838
Depreciation: $7,932 or 27 percent of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 18,530

Summing Up
A year with the Azera reminded us that there are two sides to value. The bright side offers features unexpected from a car in this class, like rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and a rear window shade. On the dark side we find misaligned panels, material choices of questionable quality and poor stereo performance.

Nevertheless, the Azera’s noteworthy performance and high feature content ultimately outweighed the evidence we found of the car’s relatively inexpensive nature. It offers an affordable touch of luxury to the average four-door family sedan, not to mention a strong engine and comfortable ride. Twelve months of flawless mechanical performance also influenced our willingness to forgive its cosmetic flaws.

The 2007 Hyundai Azera made a positive impression on us, yet we’re still not willing to think of it as a premium car. It’s attractive and certainly as reliable as a Hyundai Sonata, but it doesn’t yet have a character to call its own.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.