La Jolla, California- If a carmaker wants its new sedan to be cross-shopped with the sophisticated Avalon, as Hyundai wishes for its new Azera, then it copies every page from Toyota's playbook that it can. It starts with a comparable list of standard equipment-like dual automatic climate control, rear-seat vents, and eight air bags, and then it carves out a cargo space that's 2.2 cubic feet bigger than the Avalon's. It also goes head-to-head with Toyota with options such as adjustable pedals, rain-sensing wipers, and a power rear sunshade, but unlike Toyota, it makes stability control standard, and then it slaps on a price tag that's about ten percent lower to seal the deal.
Thus realized, the Azera has cars like the Avalon and the Buick Lucerne firmly in its sights, a position never held by its predecessor, the dumpy XG350. The new Hyundai's 3.8-liter V-6 and five-speed manu-matic essentially equal the Avalon powertrain in performance-with a 0-to-60-mph time of less than seven seconds-if not in overall refinement. The Azera also mimics the Avalon's soft chassis tuning and overassisted steering, a problem Hyundai hopes to address with a future sport package. Who knows? If that Azera ends up as a livelier car to drive, maybe Toyota will be compelled to follow Hyundai's lead.
SPECSPrice: $24,995(SE), $27,495(Limited)
Engine: 3.8L V-6, 263 hp, 255 lb-ft