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2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited AWD Review

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  • SEE ALSO: Hyundai Veracruz Specs, Pics, Prices - Hyundai Buyers Guide

    2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited AWD

    When someone mentions "midsize luxury crossover", "Hyundai" is probably not the first word to come to your mind. But the Veracruz, its newest, and largest, crossover is meant to change that.

    Based on a stretched version of the platform that underlies the Korean company's smaller Santa Fe, the Veracruz offers a spacious seven-passenger interior and a smooth, quiet driving experience. V6 power, to the tune of 260 horses, is standard; there are no four-cylinder models. If in looks and mien it is aimed at luxury crossovers like the Lexus RX350, the Veracruz is priced competitively with the middle-class alternatives, the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.

    There are three Veracruz trim levels. The GLS, at around $27,000, offers V6 power with a six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, alloy wheels, an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system, filtration air conditioning, a full complement of airbags, and more. The SE gets larger wheels, a power driver's seat, and upgraded interior and exterior trim for about $1,000 more. At the top of the line is the Limited, with premium features like leather seating, heated power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, an upgraded audio system, power for the tilt and slide sunroof, tilt and telescope steering wheel, pedals, and tailgate, memory for the driver's seat, mirrors, and steering wheel, upscale exterior and interior trim, puddle lamps, a backup warning system, and proximity key ignition all part of the package.

    That's a little over $34,000 in front-wheel drive trim. Add $1700 to any trim level for an all-wheel drive system. In addition to the previously-offered rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system, developed in conjunction with Korean electronics company LG, is available this year, packaged with a high-quality Infinity Logic7 surround-sound audio system.

    You could be excused for taking a cynical position and viewing the Veracruz as a vehicle people would buy only on price, if they couldn't afford one of the established luxury-brand alternatives only if your last look at a Hyundai was 20 years ago. You'd be wrong today. Hyundai has worked its way up the ladder the old-fashioned way - by building consistently improved products. I've just spent a week in an almost fully-optioned all-wheel drive Veracruz Limited. With an MSRP of $38,405 including destination, "cheap" does not apply. Would I say that it's worth that not-trivial price? Yes, as much as any other vehicle is today. Its build quality and fit and finish are as good as any competitor's, as is the chassis refinement. The drivetrain is more than competent. The Veracruz was comfortable, spacious, and well-designed.

    APPEARANCE: The Veracruz points to a new direction for Hyundai. Only the undulating shoulder line is reminiscent of earlier Hyundai SUV styling. The two-box crossover shape is clean and smooth, with an interesting interplay between curved surfaces and angular edges and a well-raked windshield and backlight. In front, the small chrome-trimmed half-elliptical grille is cut out for the corporate logo in an unusual fashion at the bottom, with a larger lower opening actually providing most of the radiator air. Large L-shaped headlights give an upscale look, and contrast-colored textured plastic lower bumper fascia, wheel arch trim, and lower side panels provide visual interest without the heavy look of `90s SUV cladding. The Limited has puddle lights in its outside mirrors for ground visibility at night, and touchpads for keyless entry on the front door handles. At the rear, the taillights echo the shape of the headlights, and two oversize stainless steel exhaust tips hint at V6 power and refinement.

    COMFORT: Walk up to the Veracruz Limited with the "key" fob in your pocket, press the pad on the door to unlock, and get in. Also notice the blue-lit "Veracruz" script in the stainless steel scuff plate. Keep the fob in your pocket, or place it in the receptacle on the rotary start/stop switch, and turn the switch. The engine is quiet, and there is virtually no vibration as it idles. Interior materials are standard for the entry-luxury/near-luxury class, leather seating surfaces and door inserts, with plastic "woodgrain" and "metallic" trim. They are done tastefully, with very good fit and finish. Instrumentation is backlit in blue and easy to read, and shaded from glare. The new navigation system is simple to use. It does replace the standard CD changer with a single-play unit hidden behind the screen. The power-adjustable, heated front seats provide first-rate comfort and support, with the driver's cushion height-adjustable. The perfect driving position, important for both comfort and safety, is easily attained by virtue of a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescope steering wheel - with a leather rim and cruise and auxiliary audio controls - and power-adjustable pedals. Front seat storage is good, highlighted by a cooled center console box. Second row passengers are in business class, with adjustable legroom and seatback angle as well as useful storage spaces and cupholders plus local climate controls and vents. A nearly-flat floor and adequate width allows reasonable three-across seating. The third row is accessed by folding either second-row seatback, and is good for people up to 5-6 or so. With it up, luggage space is tight, but it easily folds flat into the floor. And the second row can also be folded down, easily giving enough space for a bicycle, no disassembly necessary. The power liftgate is a convenient feature.

    SAFETY: The Veracruz surrounds its passengers with a reinforced safety cage, with front and rear crumple zones. Dual front, front seat-mounted side, and full-length side curtain airbags are standard in all models, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system. Brakes are four-wheel discs, with antilock, electronic brake-force distribution, and electronic stability control. It has received a five-star rating from NHTSA for frontal and side impact safety. A backup warning system, standard in the Limited and optional in other models, adds safety when backing in tight spots.

    RIDE AND HANDLING: The aspiration in the luxury crossover class is not raw cornering power. It's refinement, defined by a smooth, comfortable ride and low interior noise levels. The Veracruz fits that description well. No 90s-vintage truck SUV here. The fully-independent Macpherson strut front/ multilink rear suspension is calibrated moderately softly, but not overly so, and the damping is correct so there is no wallowing. The Veracruz is not a small vehicle, but reasonably quick steering and a tight turning circle make back-road driving pleasurable, and parking maneuvers a snap. Eight inches of ground clearance brings peace of mind around smaller road hazards. The all-wheel drive system normally operates in front-wheel drive mode, with torque sent to the rear wheels when necessary. For low-speed, slippery-condition operation it can be locked in 50:50 mode.

    PERFORMANCE: At over 4400 pounds, the AWD Veracruz is no lightweight. But with 260 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 257 lb-ft of torque (at 4500 rpm), and matched to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, its 3.8-liter does its job well. It's a contemporary design, of aluminum alloys with dual overhead cams, variable cam phasing on the intake cams, and a variable-length intake manifold. It uses a no-maintenance steel timing chain, no belts. A semi-active electronic engine mounting system removes most engine vibration. The six-speed transmission improves both acceleration, with lower low gears, and highway economy, with overdrive fifth and sixth gears. It shifts smoothly and quickly, with "Shiftronic" manual-mold shifting allowing manual over-ride when desired.

    CONCLUSIONS: Hyundai expands with the Veracruz luxury crossover.

    2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited AWD

    Base Price			$ 35,750
    Price As Tested			$ 38,405
    Engine Type			dual overhead cam 24-valve aluminum
    				 alloy V6 with continuously-variable cam 
    				 phasing on the intake camshafts
    Engine Size			3.8 liters / 231 cu. in.
    Horsepower			260 @ 6000 rpm
    Torque (lb-ft)			257 @ 4500 rpm
    Transmission			6-speed electronically-controlled
    Wheelbase / Length		110.4 in. / 190.6 in.
    Curb Weight			4431 lbs.
    Pounds Per Horsepower		17.0
    Fuel Capacity			20.6 gal.
    Fuel Requirement		87-octane unleaded regular gasoline
    Tires				P245/60 TR18 Michelin Latitude
    Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD,
    				 and ESC standard
    Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
    				  independent multilink
    Ground clearance		8.1 inches
    Drivetrain			transverse front engine, full-time all-wheel drive
    EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
        city / highway / observed		15 / 22 / 17
    0 to 60 mph				est 8.0  sec
    Navigation Package - includes:
      navigation system (replaces CD changer),
      Infinity¨ Logic 7¨ audio with external 605-watt amp	$ 1,750
    Carpeted floor mats					$   125
    Sunroof wind deflector					$    85
    Inland freight and handling				$   695