Joy Ride: 1000 Miles in the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz
Back from a weekend driving up and down the state of California, rolling nearly 1000 miles onto the odo of our long-term 2008 Hyundai Veracruz crossover. Just me and five beautiful Persian ladies. Allow me to tell you more. About the Hyundai.
This is one sweet ride. I was impressed by the Veracruz during last fall's 2008 Sport/Utility of the Year competition; though it didn't win, the Hyundai was easily in the top three or four among a strong field. And now that we've got a fully loaded Limited AWD in our long-term fleet, my admiration for the Veracruz grows every time I get behind the wheel.
The DOHC, 3.8-liter six, making 260 horsepower, easily hustled the six of us up the I-5 in a stream of traffic doing a steady 80 mph. Partnering the engine, the six-speed automatic is brilliant, shifting smoothly, keeping the engine in the meat of the torque band without undue fuss. Ride quality is quite good, even though I kicked an extra 4 p.s.i. into the tires in anticipation of our fully loaded, extended high-speed cruise. Perhaps most impressive is the cabin's quiet. Little wind, road, or powertrain noise intrudes. You can hold conversations from front row to third without yelling.
Criticisms? The seats are compliant but lower-back support is lacking. The power rear liftgate is really slow going up or down. And the navigation system is clearly something Hyundai is learning. Even with voice guidance on, on complex street grids it's difficult to judge when the system wants you to turn. The system also offered some truly bizarre routing options, at one point literally guiding us in circles around San Jose and at another juncture sending us in completely the wrong direction (and, yes, I carefully checked the "route options" and "destination" tabs to be certain they were correct). Undoubtedly Hyundai will serve up a better system when it gets around to Nav 2.0.
You wouldn't call the Veracruz an exciting machine; it doesn't have the sizzle or "driver's DNA" of, say, the 2008 SUOTY-winning Mazda CX-9. Yet you have to admire its quality and execution. Panel tolerances are tight, materials are rich-looking, controls are thoughtfully laid out (you can mute the nav system with an easily accessible button). Just opening the driver's door summons an element of luxury, as the chrome step plate lights up "Veracruz" in snazzy blue.
The Veracruz is also a stunning value -- so much so, in fact, that you have to wonder why anyone would buy a Lexus RX 350 instead. The Hyundai flat-out matches the Lexus in driving poise and refinement, and it blows away the RX in standard features. The Veracruz Limited AWD starts at $36,445, including dual-zone climate control, six-speed auto, leather seats (heated up front), power glass moonroof, plus front-side and front/rear head curtain airbags. Add navigation and a few other options (as on our long-term car), and the sticker tops out at just over $38K. The RX 350, in contrast, starts at $$39,665, and it's only got a five-speed automatic. Also, you'll pay extra for leather, heated seats, moonroof...dress it up like the Hyundai, and the Lexus rings up at more than $45,000. The Hyundai even has a better warranty: five years/60,000 miles versus four years/50,000 miles for Lexus. Think Hyundai chose that additional year/10K miles by accident? Neither do I.
Given the virtues of the Veracruz, it's going to be interesting indeed to see what Hyundai develops down the road (starting soon with the Genesis coupe). Meantime, this versatile, roomy, highly refined crossover belongs on any family-vehicle shopping list.
By Arthur St. Antoine - Motor Trend