With all the desert freeway driving, we had a good chance to feel the Azera at 80 mph in the flow of traffic, and it easily held its own. It's a very smooth engine.
It was a nice comfortable ride, at least on the terrain we crossed, which did include some bumps. At first we thought the ride and handling felt floaty, but the more we drove it, the tighter it seemed to get. Certainly tight enough for freeway work. Solid and not harsh over speedbumps, although it didn't do sharper railroad tracks as well.
We took the Azera through some uphill curves to a viewpoint over Palm Springs, and at a lightly brisk pace, it didn't really like all those corners. Again, the handling was adequate, but the suspension was built for comfort, not sport. A lot of little corrections were necessary to keep the car on line. If we had driven much faster we would probably have reached the point of wallow.
Coming back down, we challenged the brakes, tentatively. No fade, and good pedal feel, but probably only because the challenge was light. Again, the Azera isn't a sports sedan, it's a cruiser.
The 6-speed transmission, called Shiftronic, along with the engine, are the best features of the Azera. The transmission offers manual shifting with the lever, and it responds well. In automatic, the transmission was very well-behaved, kicking down no more than necessary, which wasn't a lot with the good 262 foot-pounds of torque from the engine. Some impressive stats on the transmission: 26.4 pounds lighter than the 5-speed it replaced, 1.6 inches shorter, and 62 fewer moving parts.
Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to drive the Azera GLS with the 3.3-liter V6 and the same transmission, because at a price that's significantly less than our Azera Limited, if the engine is nearly as smooth, it sounds like a better value, especially since it gets another mile per gallon, rated at 18/28 mpg. That smaller V6 still makes 260 horsepower, and that's pretty darn good.
The Azera Limited with the 3.8-liter engine is EPA-rated at 19/27 mpg City/Highway. We saw 28.5 mpg at a steady 70 mph, and 26 mpg running 75-80 mph in a crosswind out to Palm Springs. After 286 miles including some stop-and-go freeway traffic, we averaged 25.6 mpg. Azera takes first-in-class on fuel mileage.