2006 Hyundai Azera

Mark Gillies Erik B. Johnson
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The Azera, which arrives this fall to replace the current XG350, is evidencethat Kia and Hyundai are serious players in the global auto industry. Theinterior quality was stellar, with fits and finishes and materials that putthe new BMW 3-series to shame. And while the exterior styling didn't impressas much as the interior's, it's a far more attractive car than either thecurrent Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.

The Accord and Camry aren't the Azera's targets, however. Hyundai isshooting higher and aiming for more luxury-oriented vehicles--such asToyota's largest sedan, the Avalon--while offering more standard equipment,they claim, at a price "thousands less" than the competition. When you'replaying in near-luxury territory, space is a key weapon, and the Azera comeswell armed with 123.5 cubic feet of total cargo and interior volume. Thatfigure bests not only the Avalon, but full-fledged luxocruisers like theMercedes-Benz S-class and BMW 760i. Hyundai has also made safety a priority withthe Azera, and all models (GLS, LX, Limited) will come equipped with eightair bags, dual front active headrests, and both stability and tractioncontrol.

The Azera also comes with an impressive mechanical specification. It will bepowered by an all-new, aluminum-alloy, 3.8-liter DOHC V-6 engine producingan estimated 265 hp and 257 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatictransmission. These aren't class-leading numbers, but they are in theballpark. The front-wheel-drive Azera rides on a control-arm front and amultilink rear suspension, with sixteen- or seventeen-inch wheels (shod with225/60 or 235/55 tires, respectively). At 192.7 inches long, 72.6 incheswide, and 58.7 inches tall, the Azera is 0.8 inches longer and wider and 2.8inches taller than the outgoing XG. If and when Hyundai and Kia startproducing cars with dynamics to match their quality, durability, and value,the rest of the industry will be in trouble.

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