Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2012 Hyundai Azera

By Michael Taylor

We all know there are far too many cars out there. At least three dozen auto brands vie for your dollar – or, in these parlous times, your $30,000, the average price of a new car in the U.S. There are hundreds of models, and the people who design cars, or figure out how to market them, are slotting so many of them into the lineup that sometimes you think, hey, just make it simple, give me one or two choices. Well, if today’s example is any indication, you’re not going to get that choice anytime soon, and in there is a point to be made.

Hyundai, the Korean manufacturer whose first attempts to sell cars on these shores, the 1980s-era Excel (aka the Execrable), ended in ignominious failure, has zoomed up the ladder here. Hyundai now sells an array of modern, well-made sedans, SUVs, and sports cars that, frankly, are giving the veteran Japanese auto makers fits, just as the Japanese gave the Americans fits more than 30 years ago with their own incursion. Hyundai’s darling-of-the-auto-press these days is the Sonata, a four-cylinder sedan that competes favorably with Honda’s venerable Accord and Toyota’s ubiquitous Camry. These cars – the bread-and-butter sedan of America –all start in the low $20,000 range and range up to a shade over $30,000. The Sonata has gotten rave reviews and is clearly making a dent (so to speak) on the car buyer’s consciousness.

In the world of Hyundai, there’s the Sonata in that popular range and then, when your ship arrives, you trade up to the Genesis, a rear-wheel-drive sedan in the wannabe-luxo area (roughly $34,000 to $46,000).

In between is the Azera(where do they get these names?), the car that, more than almost any car out there, screams anonymity – or, at least, a tendency to stay firmly in the middle; it’s a centrist, a political hothouse flower that isn’t ready to make a commitment to anything. Maybe we’re getting carried away here, but when several friends asked me recently what I was driving and I brightly said, “a Hyundai Azera!,” the reaction was a mixture of “huh?” or “hmmm, a what?” and so on.

Okay, okay. It’s not as bad as all that. What we do have here is a car with a remarkable array of features, goodies we really shouldn’t take for granted, wrapped up in a package that has a base price of $32,000. Its competitors are the Toyota Avalon, Acura TL, Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse and Lexus ES350, among a few others. (The Lexus, equipped like the $36,875 Azera I tested, will run you nearly $10,000 more, by the way. But you do pay for that Lexus name. It’s the star factor.)

The Azera is powered by a 3.3-liter, 293-horsepower V6 and glides down the road with the help of a six-speed automatic gearbox (with the requisite manumatic shifter so you can play Boy Racer at will) and gets about the average gas mileage you’d expect in a car like this (20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway.) The design is in that currently voguish look of high beltline, fairly short window glass and, as Hyundai puts it, the car is a product of “fluidic sculpture.” I liked the style touch of the exhaust tips that blend into the rear bumper (viz. Lexus LS460). My first visual impression of the silver Azera I tested, with its dark glass roof, was that it looked kind of like a Mercedes-Benz CL series (I can hear the howls in Stuttgart) and maybe that was Hyundai’s intention. The car had the $4,000 technology package whose greatest feature, frankly, has little to do with technology – it’s a panoramic double sunroof, in which a huge piece of glass over the front seats slides back over another big piece of glass on the back half of the roof. You can also drive with the glass closed up, but the two, yes two, sliding roof curtains fold into the roof’s interior. You also get the 550-watt “Infinity” audio system, 19-inch (instead of 18) wheels, rear window sunshade and other doodads, such as ventilated front seats (chilled air as well as heat), and a “driver’s seat cushion extension.” (The 2012 Azera we tested is identical to the 2013 model, Hyundai says.)

On the road, the Azera is quiet, nimble, and quick to react in the usual panic stops that inevitably happen in freeway driving. I did feel that the electrically-aided power steering was a bit numb – you didn’t get much road feel coming back through that steering column – but this is clearly not the end of the world and you don’t have to take the car back to the dealer and demand your money back.

A few nits: the front seat adjustment buttons, mimicking the sideview outline of a seat cushion and its backrest (looks a lot likes the ones in a Mercedes), are mounted high up at the front of the doors and are a bit too far away. Or maybe I was just pushing the seat back too far. Because of that high mass of steel on the sides, and the lower roofline, you feel a little cramped when you look around while backing out of a parking space. The Azera’s predecessor had a larger greenhouse and the sightlines were better. But these are nits.

The main thing about the Azerais this: it is a car for people who don’t want to be noticed. It will blend in with all the other four-door near-luxury sedans in that sprawling shopping center parking lot (good luck on finding your car in that sea of sameness) and it will do a fine job of getting you from here to there.

In truth, it’s a stealth car. It’s as if Hyundai sneaked it in between the Genesis and the Sonata and is now telling its customers, almost as an afterthought, “well, come over here and take a look at this one.” And they’re right. It’s worth looking at.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

.Hyundai Pushes Further Upscale with HCD-14 Concept.

Hyundai Motor Co. said will debut its HCD-14concept vehicle at this month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The low-cut, fastback car — call it an answer to the Audi A7 if you like – is meant as a hint of Hyundai’s plans in the high-end car market. It also shows where the company is headed with ”advanced 3-D gesture-based technology controls” and driving dynamics that are sportier than in past Hyundai vehicles.

To a degree, Hyundai has already moved away from its roots as a budget-car builder with more luxurious, expensive models like the Genesis and Equus sedans. However, those cars have failed to place the Korean brand in the same league as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the eyes of many drivers.

The company plans to unveil the HCD-14 at 3 pm EST on Jan. 14.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Smartphones Will Replace Your Car Keys by 2015

Many people have replaced their Starbucks cards, for example, with a mobile app that offers even more functionality. You might already be using NFC on your smartphone to replace some credit cards, but what if you could replace your car keys too? Hyundai wants to make that happen.

When you think about it, this really makes a lot of sense. So many cars have push-to-start these days where the actual physical key doesn’t really matter all that much. All you need is something that can provide the appropriate signal and the NFC technology in compatible smartphones sounds like a perfect fit. Hyundai is aiming to replace traditional car keys with NFC-based apps by 2015. This wireless technology is likely an option, as some people will still want regular keys, but it is certainly intriguing.

But it’s not just about unlocking your doors and starting the engine. Hyundai wants to make it possible to set specific user profiles based on which smartphone is being used. In addition to opening the door, it might automatically set your seating and mirror positions, for example, and automatically switch to your favorite satellite radio station. And the cars would likely have an inductive charging plate to provide power to your mobile devices too.
I like it. There are already smartphone apps to work with compatible “smart” door locks, apps to pay for things, and apps to replace customer loyalty cards. It’s only a matter of time before we abandon traditional keys and wallets in favor of an all smartphone lifestyle.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Your Smartphone Will Also Be Your Car Key By 2015

There is no doubt that this is the future. Smartphones have already taken over our lives, with the phone part being just small part of the wide array of functionalities. South Korean automaker Hyundairecently demonstrated the use of smartphone as a car key at its European headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.
Part of Hyundai’s“Connectivity Concept” a smartphone was used to unlock and lock a Hyundai i30 hatchback. The modified i30 had Near Field Communication chips embedded in it, a technology which is fast becoming a standard feature in many smartphones.
The technology is not limited to only using the smartphone as a car key of course. Once inside the smartphone can be placed on a center console, doing which will immediately connect the smartphone with the car’s infotainment system, (in this case, a 7 inch touch screen display) and transfer user preferences, contacts, music, videos, maps etc from the smartphone. This means seating position, steering position, driving preferences are automatically adjusted for each user as he or she ‘logs-in’ with their smartphone. Placing the phone on the console also charges the battery.
MirrorLink standard was used to transfer data from the smartphone to the car’s infotainment system and Hyundai has announced that Broadcom is its technology partner.
“With this technology, Hyundai is able to harness the all-in-one functionality of existing smartphone technology and integrate it into everyday driving in a seamless fashion,” said Allan Rushforth, senior vice president and COO of Hyundai Motor Europe.
Though the feature is already functional it will become mainstream in Hyundai automobiles only by 2015. This time frame will be used to streamline the features and make sure it works without any glitches. We understand that several security features will also need to be put in place before it can be standardised. Afterall, we would not want just anyone with a smartphone to just walk in and drive away with our cars.
Hyundai is not the first automaker who has showcased the integration of smartphones and cars. Earlier, Ford had demonstrated a similar technology to unlock cars as well and NFC based wireless charging will be a standard feature in 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited.
Via: Wired