- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

Hyundai is positioning its all-new 2007 Veracruz seven-passenger crossover utility vehicle against venerable competition, models such as Honda’s Pilot and Toyota’s Highlander, boasting a better powertrain performance and more safety features, in addition to high-quality craftsmanship and sophisticated styling. Like other manufacturers, Hyundai clearly envisions a still-growing crossover marketplace in the U.S., as the South Korean manufacturer now includes three CUVs in its product portfolio.

On sale now, the new Veracruz is available in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations. The seven-seater may be optioned at three distinct trim levels. Hardly “entry level” in terms of equipment, base GLS models are outfitted with features such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a multifunctional steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, power windows/locks/heated mirror with turn signal indicators, remote keyless entry and tire-pressure monitoring. This version is impressively priced at $26,995 as a front driver and $28,695 in AWD format.

That same $28,695 entry fee gets you inside a FWD Veracruz SE model, which adds 18-inch wheels, power driver’s seat adjustment, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, front fog lights, roof rack and center storage console with the “Cool Box” feature to the already well-equipped base model. Hyundai Veracruz SE AWD models ring up at $30,395.

Anteing up $32,995 (FWD) or $34,695 (AWD) yields the comprehensive Limited package, which brings leather upholstery, power front passenger seat adjustment, heated front seats, a 315-watt Infinity audio system, power sunroof, power tailgate, automatic temperature control, windshield wiper de-icing, a conversation mirror and reverse warning. Chrome and brushed metal enhancements are also thoughtfully designed throughout.

Veracruz GLS models can be ordered with a $1,950 Premium Package that brings a sunroof, power driver’s seat, front seat heaters, leather wrapped steering wheel/shift knob and reverse warning. At the SE level, this package becomes “Premium and Leather,” commanding $3,350 while adding leather seats and an Infinity audio system, in addition to the GLS’s Premium offering. Additionally, a $1,600 Entertainment Package tacks on rear-seat DVD entertainment, a 115-volt outlet and a conversation mirror (to enable front seat passengers to see rear seat passengers when talking. The Premium/Leather gear is required for the Entertainment Package to be checked.

Finally, Veracruz Limited models get exclusive rights to the $2,950 Ultimate Package, which delivers adjustable pedals, memory settings, a power tilting/telescoping wheel, rain-sensing wipers, proximity key, lighted door scuff plates and the 115-volt outlet and the conversation mirror. Another $250 yields Premium Black/Saddle interior materials.

All models are powered by an all-aluminum 3.8-liter V-6 engine shared with the Azera sedan and rated for 260 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque in front of a six-speed automatic transmission. Continuously variable valve timing helps optimize intake valve operation, while the variable intake system enhancing cylinder “breathing” at both low and high engine speeds. Semi-active engine mounts decrease motor vibration and, as Hyundai gleefully proclaims, allows the Veracruz to idle with less noise and vibration than a Lexus RX350. The transmission includes sporty Shiftronic manual control, and fuel economy rates at 18/25 city/highway miles per gallon as a FWD vehicle and 17/24 mpg with the AWD system.

That electronic all-wheel-drive setup includes a lock mode splitting torque 50:50 front to rear.

The unibody chassis, MacPherson front suspension, multilink rear independent suspension, gas-charged dampers, front and rear stabilizer bars, 245/65-series 17-inch tires and rack-and-pinion steering ensure carlike composure and crisp handling over a variety of road conditions. The optional 18-inch wheels maintain the same 245mm width tire, but the aspect ratio drops to 60 (lower profile).

Safety equipment is plentiful, including dual front air bags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side impact air bags, head curtain air bags protecting all three rows, standard electronic stability control with traction control and adjustable active front head restraints that help reduce whiplash.

Three-point seat belts hold all occupants in place and second- and third-row headrests are adjustable. Solidifying Veracruz’s safety are the five-star safety ratings in both front and side impact collisions awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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