Under the beveled hood is the smooth, purling V6 with variable valve-timing heads and overhead cams, from which 255 pound-feet of torque are sluiced through a five-speed automatic. What's notable here is not the car's off-the-line performance -- though the front wheels pull the 3,629-pounder to 60 mph in an outstanding 6.1 seconds -- but the tenor of it all. The powertrain, carefully isolated from the chassis, has the creamy thrum we have come to associate with Lexus and Infiniti.
Meanwhile, cabin noise from other sources -- wind, tire noise -- approaches that of the whispering Buick Lucerne. This is a very serene cabin and this is important. Just about any manufacturer can cut their margins on subsystems purchased from suppliers (rain-sensing wipers, for instance), but engineering noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) out of a car, well, that's expensive.
There is one exception, however. Whenever the car crossed rough pavement or railroad tracks, there was a disconcerting booming sound coming from the rear multi-link suspension. I would wish for more isolation between the body and the heavy, oscillating parts of the suspension.
Actually, the Azera reminds me in lots of ways of Lexus and Infiniti cars of a few years ago. For example, the quality of leather and the look of the glossy faux wood wrapped around the cabin, on the steering wheel and gearshift (this may be the best fake-tree trim I've seen in a car). The stippled aluminum finish on the gearshift console is very like an Infiniti. The Azera Limited has the same electroluminescent dials that dazzled us in Lexus only a few years ago. As Stravinsky said, good composers borrow, great composers steal.