Let’s face the cold hard truth; while Hyundai and Toyota styled their mid-full size luxury sedans to attract younger consumers, the fact of the matter is, these two sedans are designed for the upcoming retiree wanting to spend their time in sumptuous comfort. So how does the new kid on block, Hyundai Azera compete with the Toyota Avalon, who’s been around that block a few times?
Runner Up: Hyundai Azera
When we conduct a comparison, we way the pros and cons to each vehicle – with the Azera, it came down to one ‘con’ that ultimately made it second place in our comparison test. That ‘con’ was its performance aptitudes. Now, truth be told, these two are not performance sedans… not even close. But the Hyundai produces an astonishing figure of 293 horsepower from a 3.3-liter V6 – so you’d expect a power thrusting saloon… which it isn’t. And if you find yourself racing between the lights against the Avalon, you’ll be sure to lose. Sure it’ll be by just .2 of a second slower from 0-60 mph… but you’ll still lose. That’s where the problem lies in the Azera. The engine isn’t very refine. You have all this power, yet you never get the sense when you put your foot down that you have nearly 300 horsepower to play with. And there isn’t much help from the 6-speed transmission. The shift points, simply put, are slow and unresponsive. Even the braking system doesn’t give the driver confidence and the steering was way too light and vague – you never really knew which direction your wheels where pointing.
Outside of the performance capabilities we rather much prefer the Azera over the Avalon. We find the Azera much more attractive inside, out. The curvature body style is subtle. The decorative chrome grille and optional 19” wheels add presence. The elegant HID headlamps and body wrapping LED tail lamps are a sure added bonus to the overall desirability.
The moment you open the door, there are diminutive details of luxury – you can tell Hyundai paid attention to what brings the most out of a car. What I’m on about is things like the chrome trim around the buttons and window controls, the unique power seat adjustments and the accent lighting that surrounds them. And that’s before you notice the attractive use of faux carbon fiber trim and silver painted garnish. Our sampled car came with a gorgeous camel leather interior that will comfortably take 4 full size adults, although the sloping roofline is problematic for taller passengers. And because our tested Azera was a Limited, it featured standard power adjustable driver and passenger seats with heated and cooled functions; heated rear seats, a power rear sunshade and manual side shades. Also standard was a brilliant 8” touch screen navigation with a top notch back-up camera – downside, you still have to press the “I Agree” button before accessing the menus. And if you’re someone who desires natural light, you’ll be sure to opt for the exquisite panoramic sun roof.
So there you have it, the Hyundai Azera is a great sedan; it’s an easy car to live with and it’s much cheaper than the Avalon, by nearly 5-grand with an as tested price of $37,905. But when it comes down to it, in the end, the performance is what kills it – you would have to determine whether the $5k is worth it.
The Victorious: Toyota Avalon
Originally, we had scheduled these two sedans for a side by side comparison, but the scheduling ended up going wrong and instead of getting them at the same time, we ended up getting them separately – one right after the other. Surprisingly we preferred it this way – we got spend more time experiencing the flaws and the perfections of each car.
After having the Hyundai Azera for a week, the Toyota Avalon then arrived wearing a plain grey polyester suit and an as tested price of $42,635. Essentially it looked like your average Toyota sedan, bits of chrome here and there and some 18” shoes to balance out the stance. But when you look a little closer you’ll find unique features like the HID Quadrabeam Headlights with LED daytime running lights and that same classy body wrapping LED tail lights that we also liked on the Azera.
So then you’re probably wondering, why did we chose the Avalon if we liked the Azera so much? Ah, well, where the Azera failed to perform, the Avalon’s 3.5-liter V6 started to pick-up the pieces. The Avalon may have a slightly bigger engine, but it uses less horsepower… 268 – 25 less than the Azera. Yet, somehow will knockout the Azera between those lights with 0-60 in 6 seconds. This is where the Avalon showed its upper hand. Acceleration was quick and smooth through a 6-speed transmission; steering wheel paddle shifters were added for a more enhanced driving style. The handling was excellent with exceptional feedback from the steering wheel and the brakes were firm and quick. Even the suspension was smooth enough for a comfortable ride yet sporty enough to still feel the road underneath.
Inside, our tested Avalon had arrived in what we like to call ‘Executive Black’ – against the Magnetic Gray paint, the black interior was a handsome look. Much like the Azera, our Avalon too arrived in a Limited badge that brought many goodies: power adjustable heated and cooled driver and passenger seats, heated rear seats, three-zone climate control, and a fantastic 7” touch screen navigation with Entune and JBL audio system. All of this was cocooned around a very attractive 3-dimensional sleek design dash garnished with a modish use chrome and wood trim. The touch sensitive infotainment panel is clever and the crystal white back lite gauges are exquisite for an elegant form. The Avalon too will take 4 full size adults in full comfort and unlike the Azera there is room in the back for taller passengers.
At the end of the week with the Avalon, there wasn’t much to dislike. We did find the seats to be fairly firm and the quality of the fit and finish slightly disappointing – especially after having all the little details in the Azera. Ultimately, it was the way the Avalon drove is what makes it our winner in this comparison.