My neighbor is a pretty laid back guy. It's the rare occasion that he'll ask me about any of the test cars that are parked in my driveway and in fact right next to his house. But he did ask about the black Hyundai Veracruz.
He was surprised when I told him it was a Hyundai and that it cost $35,000 and rightly so. Hyundai has a reputation of building relatively inexpensive vehicles. But I advised my neighbor that from time to time the Korean company does in effect go upstream.
The bottom line is that the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz Limited AWD that we test drove for five days seemed to us to be worth every penny of its $38,320 price tag.
First, it was chock full of just about every automotive creature comfort. The only thing it lacked was a rearview camera. Still, it had a backup warning system, moon roof, tire pressure monitoring system, three rows of seats and a power tailgate. The 50-50 spit third row folded creating a perfectly flat cargo floor. And the driver and passenger seats were heated.
For 2008, the Hyundai Veracruz made some previous options standard equipment: memory settings for the power driver seat, exterior mirrors and steering wheel, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, adjustable pedals, proximity key with immobilizer, rain-sensing wipers, 115-volt power outlets and lighted door scuff plates. There was also a 150 watt electrical plug in the back.
All of it gave the Veracruz a touch of luxury, or at least the feel of a premium vehicle depending on what you're used to which it definitely needs. The Veracruz is trying to be a hybrid of sorts. It's targeting the affordable Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, while offering the kind of upscale amenities found in the Lexus RX350 and Mercedes-Benz M class.
I found the audio system first rate. It featured satellite radio, a 605 watt premium amplifier with subwoofer and MP3 capability. There were 10 speakers, surround sound and a CD changer hidden behind the audio panel. The vehicle also had a navigation system and a touch screen.
This all sounds great but it would be far less than that if the technology and creature comforts were wrapped in a crappy package. That wasn't the case. The Veracruz had the ambience of a stately study.
The interior was a soft caramel colored brown. Fit and finish were good. The sight lines were excellent. And the Veracruz was comfortable and easy to drive. It had ample power to handle the expressway traffic here and it maneuvered well. What's more, it was pretty easy to park.
My only driving complaint was that numerous times we found the turn signal still operating when on the expressway. There was no lane change signal.
The 2008 Veracruz was moved by a quiet 3.8-liter V6 that made 260 horsepower and almost a matching 257 pounds-feet of torque. The engine was mated to a six speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability and it had continuously variable valve timing. The engine had a weight saving aluminum block and cylinder heads.
In this gasoline prohibitive time, the Honda Veracruz had a EPA fuel rating of 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the HWY. Annual fuel cost was estimated at $2,335. But that was based on the assumption of gas at $2.80 per gallon.
Still, the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz proved to be a nicely done crossover vehicle. It led the increase in consumer interest in CUVs the last year by being up almost 344 percent. There's got to be a reason why its score was double that of the next nearest CUV.