2007 Hyundai Veracruz

Are you ready to LUV another Hyundai? Meet the Veracruz, the latest offering from the Korean automaker – it’s being billed as a Luxury Utility Vehicle. As such, it sits at the top company’s SUV ladder.

With an overall length of 4,840-mm, the Veracruz is 165-mm longer than the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe. Most of the increase (105-mm) is found in the wheelbase – essentially the Veracruz rides on a longer, wider Santa Fe platform. The expanded dimensions make it one of the largest (it’s near full-sized) SUV on the market – Hyundai claims the Veracruz has more cargo volume than a Mercedes GL450.

Hyundai Veracruz SUV CUV

Veracruz is another design styled by Joel Piaskowski and his California Design Studio. Rather than tarting up the Santa Fe, Piaskowski elected to give the Veracruz a more distinct look, which helps to distinguish it from most Asian offerings.

Inside, the cabin spares no expense and so it speaks to Hyundai’s luxurious aspirations. The materials and comfort/convenience features are good enough to shame some other luxury manufacturers who regularly charge significantly more than the $39,995 that the Veracruz GLS commands. Leather is standard, the materials soft to the touch and there’s some decent brushed metal and pseudo-wood accents. Combined it creates the visual and tactile impressions required of a premium vehicle.

The base Veracruz GLS comes with an XM satellite-equipped radio/CD audio system with 6 speakers, power windows/locks/mirrors/moonroof, 8-way power driver’s seat, remote keyless entry with alarm, heated front seats, automatic climate control, separate rear heater controls, auto dimming rear view mirror with compass, a trip computer, mirror-mounted puddle lamps, tasteful interior ambient lighting, a centre console with built-in cooler box, rain sensing wipers and 18-inch wheels.

The up-level Limited, listing at $45,995, adds an Infinity AM/FM/6-disc CD changer with 10 speakers (including a sub-woofer), premium leather, HomeLink, power passenger seat, keyless ignition, auto-dimming side view mirrors, power adjustable pedals, a 115-volt outlet, memory system for seats, steering and outside mirrors, as well as a rear seat DVD-based entertainment system with an 8-inch widescreen and wireless headphones.

Mechanically the Veracruz is powered by a 3.8L V6 that’s rated at 260 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque and Hyundai’s first six-speed automatic transmission. All models sold in Canada are equipped with an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system. The system features a handy transfer case lock button, which splits the power 50/50 when the going is slippery or muddy. The combination also delivers a handy 1,591-kilogram (3500 lb.) towing capability. A front wheel drive version is available in the US.

In the passive safety column Veracruz gets six standard airbags (two front and two side seat-mounted air bags as well as a pair of drop-down side curtains), active front headrests and seatbelt pretensioners. The active list counts anti-lock brakes (with electronic brake distribution), traction/electronic stability control and a welcome rear back up warning system.

Veracruz arrives as a seven-seater with a 60/40 split middle row and 50/50 split 3rd row that folds flat into the floor which allows a myriad of cargo/passenger configurations. Getting in and out of the rear seat is fairly easy, as the middle seats fold and slide forward. The third row is large enough to accommodate a six-footer, but still comes up short – the seats cushions are mounted on the floor so you sit staring at your knees. The result is the third row is best left for occasional usage and for kids to fight over.

The Veracruz’s other forte, power and utility aside, is its quiet and refined ride. Double door seals all but eliminate road and wind noise, which leaves the muscular exhaust note as the lone intruder. The suspension follows this lead, as it has been tuned with an eye to comfort. The good news is that the pampered ride does not come at the expense of handling. Considering the vehicle’s size, it tackles twisty back roads better than most of its peers.

The Veracruz is yet another impressive effort by Hyundai. Given the lengthy list of standard features, flexible utility and high quality rankings (as judged by J. D. Power) the Veracruz is bang on target. Some may have a problem swallowing the Limited model’s all-in price ($50,000+) at first. However, driving it will change more than a few minds.