Newcomers: 2007 Hyundai Veracruz
When Hyundai announced pricing of its all-new seven-passenger Veracruz-starting at just $26,995-Toyota no doubt breathed an irritated sigh of discomfort, especially considering its seven-seat V-6 Highlander, which offers less horsepower and standard equipment, costs nearly $500 more. And Honda? Probably feeling a bit squirmy, too-its Pilot, equipped with fewer horses and goodies, runs almost $700 extra.
More for less is a persuasive formula that’s proved of great value, so to speak, for Hyundai. Yet it hasn’t garnered the brand-copious comparison-test victories in this magazine. Hyundais often come close, but while high on value and warranty, they’ve tended to register a notch lower in such categories as handling and refinement. That said, with each new model the gap shrinks.
While we’re not ready to declare the Veracruz as the Hyundai that bridges the gap-we’ll wait until we can conduct an extensive comparison evaluation-it certainly offers the credentials and dynamics seemingly to be that vehicle. Hyundai sure thinks so. At the press launch near San Diego, the Korean challenger brought along a Lexus RX 350 for comparison. Target: Toyota? Make that Lexus.
The Veracruz crafts a compelling argument as an easy-on-the-pocket RX 350. For roughly $11,000 less, the Hyundai offers more torque (257 pound-feet versus 251) and nearly as much horsepower (260 versus 270) from its 3.8-liter Lambda V-6, while providing two additional seats and an extra cog in its tranny, thanks to a new Aisin six-speed manumatic. Styling? As fresh and clean as the bod of any Lexus sport/ute, with a front fascia that suggests the RX and a rakish D-pillar like a Honda CR-V’s.
The Hyundai Veracruz’s interior is as Lexus as, well, a Lexus, based on the luxuries in our Limited test vehicle. Senior photographer John Kiewicz notes, “Were you to remove the Hyundai logo from the steering wheel, then look around at the Veracruz’s interior, would it make you think you were in a new Lexus? Absolutely.”
Dimensionally, the Veracruz, at 190.6 inches long, 76.6 wide, and 68.9 tall, closely copies the Honda Pilot and the upcoming 2008 Highlander and is a smidge longer than both. Third-row room is paramount in these minivan alternatives-at least the idea of it-and the Veracruz delivers ample space for kids and enough freedom for six-footers on a jaunt. Moreover, access to the third row is trouble-free, as the second-row cushions and seatbacks move forward for easier ingress and egress. And with the second and third rows folded flat, cargo room, at 86.8 cubic feet, dwarfs that (83.3) of a Mercedes-Benz GL450.
Besides wanting a dozen or so additional pound-feet of torque, more responsive on-center steering, and an integrated nav system (Hyundai says this option will be available later in the year), we came away impressed with the Veracruz. Three model trims-base $26,995 GLS, midlevel $28,695 SE, and flagship $32,995 Limited-allow a wide breadth of budgets and tastes, with each level available in front or all-wheel drive, the latter at a $1700 premium that includes an Intelligent Torque Controlled Coupling and a lock mode for a 50:50 torque ratio. The GLS is packed with six airbags, stability control, active front head restraints, rear-seat HVAC controls, heated sideview mirrors, 17-inch alloys, and a six-speaker MP3/XM audio system. Move up to the SE for some sporty flavor, and Hyundai tacks on 18-inch wheels, foglamps, a power driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a cooled front center console. Got more greenbacks in the wallet? Then opt for the Limited, which adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, an ultrasonic backup warning system, and an Infinity audio system with a subwoofer. Options include an Entertainment Package (rear-seat DVD system with eight-inch LCD) and an Ultimate Package (power-adjustable steering wheel and power tailgate).
The Veracruz is a formidable player in the seven-passenger crossover segment and will no doubt be a strong contender in next year’s Sport/Utility of the Year competition. Every automaker, not just Toyota and Honda, should be nervous.
By Ron Kiino
|2007 Hyundai Veracruz
||Front engine, FWD or AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
||3.8L/260-hp/257-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
||4300-4450 lb (mfr)
|Length x width x height
||190.6 x 76.6 x 68.9 in
||8.0 sec (est)
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ
|On sale in U.S.