Hyundai makes nice move to upper end
2008 Veracruz crossover SUV a study in luxury
Think of Hyundai's Veracruz as the "blue light special."
The nickname doesn't mean the crossover carries Kmart pricing. In fact, this model may be the best test of Hyundai's strength in the market's upper end.
But in its most luxurious form, the Veracruz greets passengers with elegant blue-lit scuff plates upon opening the doors. Blue light cools the instrument panel, the reading lamp, even the cup-holder rings. And, yes, this is a special experience.
2008 Hyundai Veracruz Ltd
BASE PRICE: $36,445.
POWER: 3.8-liter, 260-horsepower V6; six-speed auto transmission.
SAFETY: Power disc brakes with anti-lock braking system, traction control, electronic stability control.
FUEL ECONOMY: 15 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway.
TOWING: 3,500 pounds.
STANDARD: Leather seating; heated front seats; power front passenger seat; dual-zone automatic temperature control; rear climate manual; Infinity CD/MP3 changer audio system with subwoofer and external amplifier; power tilt & slide sunroof; power tailgate; windshield wiper deicer; backup warning system; power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; 115-volt power outlet; rain sensing wipers; proximity key with immobilizer and keyless drive.
When Hyundai arrived on our shores in 1986 with one model, the Excel, the South Korean carmaker was so desperate to gain a foothold that it sought buyers with marginal credit while providing marginal quality at a price they could afford.
More than 5 million sales later, Hyundai carries the J.D. Power seal of approval for its quality and a merger partner in fellow South Korean carmaker Kia. The two brands (merged by Hyundai's acquisition of bankrupt Kia in 1998) are seeking to distinguish themselves from each other. Kia covers the low end of the economy, while Hyundai goes upscale. Upon its introduction last year, the Veracruz was discussed as a possible contender for a new Hyundai luxury brand, along the lines of Lexus, Infiniti or Acura.
Hyundai made no bones about its luxury aspirations, calling the Veracruz a "luxury utility vehicle" and comparing it to the Lexus RX350, which costs $11,000 more. Across three trim levels, the GLS, SE and Limited, the Veracruz is sold in front-drive or all-wheel-drive in base prices, ranging from $27,595 to $36,445. The review car was a Limited with all-wheel-drive.
Veracruz Limited comes with all the equipment found standard on the SE and adds leather seating, heated front seats, power front passenger seat, automatic temperature control, a 315-watt Infinity audio system with CD changer, power tilt and slide glass sunroof, power tailgate, chrome door handles, conversation mirror, windshield wiper de-icer and backup warning system.
Add the Ultimate Package of options and you get the aforementioned blue backlit scuff plates, power-adjustable pedals, integrated memory system, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 605-watt Infinity AM/FM/XM/CD-changer/MP3 audio system with Logic 7 surround sound, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with an 8-inch LCD monitor, 115-volt power outlet, proximity key and rain-sensing wipers.
Veracruz's sculpted design features three-tiered headlights adjoining a grille with a flat-lined upper chrome bezel and a curved lower bezel bearing the Hyundai "flying-H" emblem. Character lines and a swept profile connect the wrap-around headlights to the large, prominent taillights and rear fascia. Chrome accents the skin, while large wheel arches represent muscular stability.
Interior space surpasses that of the Mercedes-Benz GL, even though the Veracruz is 9.7 inches shorter. Acoustic luxury comes from dampening sheets applied to the doors and unibody, a steel plate beneath the engine and four layers of carpet padding. Engine noise is reduced through electronically controlled engine mounts, a multi-curvature dash, custom hood insulation and a pillow tripod joint that lessens vibrations from the driveshaft at idle.
With seven adults in all the seats, space becomes a little close but access is fairly facile. Access to the third seat requires flipping a lever to slide the second row forward. With an option package, you can get an automatic power lift gate for easy loading.
Brushed metal accents and blue backlighting for all interior gauges, switches and buttons create a romantic ambience. Even the front cupholders are ringed with blue light to aid nighttime driving, while a soft blue spotlight in the overhead console provides subdued task lighting.
The Veracruz has plenty of straightforward power behind a 3.8 liter, double overhead cam V6 with 24 valves. The peak 257 pounds-feet of torque flow through a six-speed automatic that manages the power efficiently.
Fuel economy falls in line with others at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway with all-wheel-drive.
BY RICHARD WILLIAMSON
Scripps Howard News Service
Sunday, April 13, 2008