2007 Hyundai Veracruz first drive review: Pillow flight?

2007 Hyundai Veracruz

2007 Hyundai Veracruz

We’re not sure we know what a “tripod pillow joint” is, but the 2007 Hyundai Veracruz has one, and if that’s what makes it so quiet, maybe we’re about to give up our old-fashioned goose feather model.

Seriously, we took the Hyundai Veracruz for what was a relatively short drive and came away with one primary impression: quality. Hyundai has come from being the stunt-double for Yugo jokes to contender for the leading man role. Granted that Hyundai emulated the erstwhile stars, most notably the Lexus RX350, and memorized not only the lines but the cadence, inflections and mannerisms right down to the raised eyebrow, but if one is to understudy, understudy one of the best.

2007 Hyundai Veracruz grille

The 2007 Hyundai Veracruz has a molded plastic “mesh” grille.

In fact, it’s been widely noted that the Hyundai Veracruz mimics the profile of the RX350. On the other hand, the RX350 is another iteration of the currently popular un-SUV theme pioneered elsewhere. Hyundai asserts that the Veracruz is a crossover. We call it an SUV because we say the Veracruz looks like one and most shoppers will consider it one, especially because Hyundai names the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Nissan Murano as prime competitors.

Whatever the Hyundai Veracruz is, it’s full-size. With the standard third row seat, seven humans of assorted sizes can be accommodated, though adults in the Wayback Seat will make it a point to move up at least one row the next time. The rear seats fold to make a flat cargo floor for sliding big stuff in. But the flat floor doesn’t extend over the seatbacks of the folded second row which not only bumps up but slants up as well. It’s a definite black mark against the utility part of SUV.

2007 Hyundai Veracruz cargo area

The 2007 Hyundai Veracruz cargo area has a step-up that will make it hard to slide in large objects.

Hyundai has remarkably improved its interiors, leapfrogging what should be intermediate steps between Mediocre and Very Nice Indeed. Not only do the inner bits of the Hyundai Veracruz fit and feel firm but the design looks like someone got the job based on merit.

“Thrilling performance” is an overstatement on Hyundai’s part, even with the same 260 hp 3.8-liter V6 used in the Hyundai Azera. It’s smooth and quiet and it has power enough to keep Interstate on-ramp merges a little <i>less</i> thrilling, but “The Joy of G-Force” wasn’t written about the Veracruz.

Not surprising is an automatic transmission as standard equipment. Above and beyond expectations, however, is that it a <i>six-speed</i> automatic. The multiple ratios are not an engineering affectation, just done for bragging rights, but a genuine boon to acceleration and fuel economy.

2007 Hyundai Veracruz interior

The 2007 Hyundai Veracruz interior has moved far upscale from previous Hyundai models.

Right about here someone’s supposed to comment that the Veracruz doesn’t handle like a sports car. Well, duh. The fully independent suspension is well calibrated for its intended owner, cruising over the rough spots in life with aplomb. And that’s really enough. Highway handling is typical for the class, with stability control as standard equipment.

The essential Veracruz comes with front-wheel drive but electronic all-wheel drive is an option, as it ought to be, and while there’s no dual-range transfer case, the Hyundai Veracruz all-wheel drive system includes a locking center differential. It’s useful in deep snow, as typical all-wheel drive systems can send all the power to the axle with the least traction. Locking the center differential won’t let that happen. The lack of two-speed transfer case limits its utility for more rugged off-roading, but buyers in this market aren’t looking for that anyway.

We’re not going to walk through the standard equipment details for the base-level Hyundai Veracruz GLS, the “sporty” mid-level SE and the premium Limited, but Hyundai has not abandoned its generosity with stuff everyone gets. Even the GLS goes beyond the usual upgraded audio with steering wheel audio/cruise controls and keyless remote to include a trip computer and heated side mirrors with puddle lights (called “approach lights” for the benefit of Californians who just don’t understand the other terminology).

2007 Hyundai Veracruz

The 2007 Hyundai Veracruz has a tidy but unremarkable rear end.

Of course, Lexus intenders must be diverted from their intentions and Hyundai’s diversionary tactic is price. Hyundai claims an $11,000 advantage, and indeed, compared to the base price of RX350 ($37,400/$38,800 front-wheel/all-wheel drive), the Hyundai Veracruz GLS is about ten grand cheaper at $26,995/$8,695 respectively. The Hyundai Veracruz Limited, however, starts at $32,995/$34,695 respectively. Shoppers should compare feature-for-feature price based on features they want, but we guarantee that the Hyundai will come in lower comparably equipped, as they say.

Whether the lower price of a Hyundai Veracruz is a good thing depends on the attitude of the owner. For some, only the joy of spending money to impress others by doing so will do: brand über alles. Meanwhile, those others will enjoy the comfort and quiet that comes with a “flying H” on the grille and money left in the bank.

And oh yeah, with every 2007 Hyundai Veracruz, regardless of trim level, you get that tripod pillow joint completely free. What you do with it is up to you, but whatever, we think you’ll enjoy it.