2013 Hyundai Azera and 2013 Toyota Avalon - Sumo-Sized Sedans to the Mat - Comparison Review

Drive…He Said” stuck forks into two 40 oz. Porterhouses when we matched the  2013 Ford Taurus to the 2013 Chrysler 300S .

And now, for an Asian take on extra automotive cholesterol at the buffet table, we have two Sumo-sizers from the Far East, the 2013 Hyundai Azera and the 2013 Toyota Avalon.

The Taurus isn’t quite “Fusion Fresh” yet, and the 300S remains “Rolls Rectangular. But the “Two A’s from Asia,” Azera and Avalon, are exponents of their respective mid-size stablemates, the Hyundai Sonata and the Toyota Camry. Although the Toyota is put together in Kentucky and it gets a greater dosage of Lipitor.  Should you require the extra traction of All-Wheel Drive, for now your choices are limited to the American brands.

Far-Eastern Faces:

– Like Camry, the redesigned 2013 Toyota Avalon  to offend no one, really. Like the theme park Merry-Go-Round. The Camry chromed square-jaw looks more proportional here. Note the bit of Mercedes S -class in the rear-quarter/ trunk area. GRADE: B-

– The CADCAM pen used to design the 2013 Hyundai Azera’s shell went for a ride on the Screaming Eagle roller coaster. Those contorting lines are capable of inducing dizziness. “Mammoth” isn’t of sufficient magnitude to describe the grille. Hyundai did nail a couple cool details like the bi-xenon headlamp housings with LED DRL’s, a good copy from the previous BMW E60 5 series. Satin finish metal framing of the door windows bottoms is distinctive from the mirrored chrome that runs along the door bottoms.  GRADE:B

Mind Your Spaces:

Satin smooth leather covered front buckets in the Hyundai Azera are surrounded by an aircraft carrier-deck expansive dash-top and center armrest with a trick brushed metal release button. Less constrictive are the Toyota Avalon front seats with less pronounced side bolsters but grippier perforated leather inserts. Both sedans’ driver’s seats have a wealth of adjustments including power knee extenders. And tilting/ telescoping steering wheels. But only the Azera gets power adjusted torso wings and steering column. And the seated human -torso shaped controls under the door sail panels are Mercedes-Benz cool.

The trademark Hyundai waterfall center stack with standard 7″ touchscreen for HDD navigation and media is surrounded by indistinguishable buttons. Voice commands are improved here over the last Genesis we sampled but the microphone positioned above the drive is way too sensitive. The time has come for a central rotary controller. Built-in Blue-Link apps are for comparing fuel economy with other Hyundai owners. Basic subscription-based Blue-Link telematics range from road-side assistance and valet trip guidance to mobile alerts sent to your compatible wireless device when your teens have taken the Azera out on a joyride beyond a pre-defined geographic area.

The higher you go up in the Toyota hierarchy, the more hand-me downs you get from their Lexus luxury division. The new Avalon shares much with the latest Lexus ES. And while the touch nav/ infotainment display also measures 7″ don’t look for any mouse controller. Instead baby boomers get a center stack with neatly organized light-touch capacitive climate and audio buttons which work better than in any Taurus, supplemented by a few precise rotating knobs the kind you used to see on vintage home hi-fi receivers. There’s a better repertoire of POI’s with the HDD navigation. Voice commands in the Avalon are good enough to make hand-free calls to all our friends with last names that end in “OPOULOS.”

GRADES: Azera: B+   Avalon:  B

Size Matters:

If rear seat outboard cushions in the Azera seem deep there is a sloping roof-line and panoramic glass roof to consider. A decidedly “mid-size” 37″-inches of legroom is remedied by thinner front seat backs beneficial to rear-knees. Center occupants get the proverbial immense rear-center armrest  shove in the back. The Avalon’s rear quarters are genuine “full-size” with 39″ of legroom.

These “Two A” sedans both have 16 cubic feet of trunk space. Only the Hyundai expands into the cabin with split-to-fold rear seat backs, while the Toyota makes do with a center pass-through. Blame the torsion bars and Infinity subwoofer under the rear parcel shelf of the Azera for obstructing at least one suitcase.

 GRADES: Azera: B   Avalon:  B+

Gotta Have that V6 and Slushbox:

– In any Lexus the drive-train is supposed go about its work inconspicuously and thank you for asking it . The 2013 Toyota Avalon carries-over the sequentially injected 3.5 VVL twin-cam gasoline six from the Lexus ES. In more mundane work you’ll forget it’s running. Good for 268 horsepower and 248  pound-feet @ 4700 rpm.

Step into the throttle, though, and the silky 6-speed autobox will drop two full transmission gears to get past a left-lane dawdler with oomph. Enough to make 60 miles-per-hour in 7+  seconds. The Avalon’s 25 combined miles-per- gallon is beyond the reach of other “full sizers” that don’t burn diesel or have electric hybridization.  GRADE: B

– The DOHC 3.3-Liter gasoline twin-cam V6 turned sideways over the 2013 Hyundai Azera’s front wheels might be fractionally smaller than the Avalon’s. But the addition of direct-injection allows for higher compression (11.8:1), makes 293 impressive hooves. And 255-pound-feet at a lofty 5200 rpm. The 6-speed slushbox occasionally gets hung-up at the crossroads.

Switch off Eco Mode, and despite a tardy initial throttle  the 7.4 second run to 60 mph is astonishing.  But 22 combined mpg returned by the Azera is strictly average.  Although the recommended premium octane fuel is not. Hyundai does makes a better sounding V6. It’s in the Genesis.    GRADE: B-

In Remembrance of the Luxo-Barge:

– Make no mistake about it. The Hyundai Azera loves to pitch. And dive. With more than 60% of the 3800-pounds atop, the front driven wheels are gonna eventually need that stability control. Sumo-sized 19″ wheels bound by wide 245/40 all-season Hankook rubber are apt to slam over broken or buckled roadway.  Though the cabin is normally hushed from the outside, the quivers betray some questionable build quality in the guise of a rattle emanating from a vacant front passenger seat.

At low speeds this Hyundai suffers from under-boosted steering. In hustled freeway lane-changing response becomes darn near a guessing game. Four wheel brake discs are linear-firm 3/4-ths of the way to the floorboard. After that they tend to lose steam, as they are probably getting hot.   GRADE: C+

– “Just” 18″-inch wheels fitted with 225/45 all-season Michelins and smaller front brake discs in the Toyota Avalon = lower un-sprung mass = decent chassis control and improved steering response. It’s not that steering feel is on fire. But less weight loading into the corners of this front-driver = less proclivity to rotate. Roll is better mitigated than in the Azera. It’s amazing that the Avalon gives up 300 pounds in this contest,  yet it still comes away feeling more solid.  It shows as  impacts over the bad stuff are nullified without much chassis quake or shake. GRADE: B

Supermodels Need Enthusiasm:

Starting at $32,250 and fully optioned at $37K the 2014 Hyundai Azera is the curvaceous cover model for “GQ Magazine“. Cabin treatments are a level above much of the trim in the company’s prestige Genesis sedan. It makes a concerto of “Welcome” and “Farewell” cabin chimes. It all builds up high expectations in the dynamics department. Where it is a bit of a let-down. The 2014 Lexus,…oops, Toyota Avalon might not be the stuff of cheesecake posters for teenage boys.  And at $42,000 with lower feature contenting is isn’t quite the value as the Azera. Yet it does have an enthusiastic side to it. Bestowed with Lexus-like craftsmanship,  the Avalon nudges past the Azera in this comparison.

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