Built on the Santa Fe platform, introduced in 2007 and discontinued after 2012, Hyundai’s upscale Vera Cruz came in three trim levels - GL, GLS, and Limited – and, in 2008, could be had with or without full-time all-wheel-drive.
Power for all three models was provided by a 3.8 litre V6 that developed 260 horsepower and 257 foot-pounds of torque. This powerplant was essentially a punched-out version of the engine found in the 3.3 litre V6 Santa Fe and propelled the Vera Cruz adequately, but not much more. This was not an especially powerful SUV, and its powertrain lacked the sophistication and refinement of some of its Japanese competitors. That said, it did what it was supposed to, and returned reasonable, but not outstanding, fuel economy: 13.9 L/100 km in town and 9.0 L/100 km on the highway. There was but one transmission choice: a six-speed transmission only, with Hyundai’s Shiftronic manual shift feature.
The Vera Cruz was larger than the Santa Fe, but not by much. With the second and third row seat folded flat, interior volume was 2458 litres, compared to the Santa Fe’s 2213 litres. Seating for seven also came standard on the Vera Cruz, but, just for the sake of argument, you could also order a Santa Fe with the same seating capacity.
The 4WD system on the Vera Cruz was full-time and had a front-drive bias. A dash-mounted knob allowed you to “lock” the system into a lower ratio 4WD and moderate off-roading was definitely do-able. If, perchance, you left the vehicle in the locked mode when you got back on terra firma, it reverted back to the default setting once your speed got over 30 km/h. But, like most SUVs, the Vera Cruz wasn’t really designed to be taken deep into the boonies in the first place. Brakes were four-wheel discs all round and the Vera Cruz had ABS and electronic brake force distribution as standard equipment.
Behind the wheel, you were definitely greeted with an upscale ambience. For example, you could order a port wine-coloured leather interior, and Hyundai designers did a nice job with instrumentation and switchgear. If you stepped up to the top of the line Limited model, “premium” leather seating was part of the package. All models came with heated front seats, and the Limited added a back seat entertainment system and upgraded stereo.
One safety recall to report from Transport Canada, and it’s significant. Apparently, on some models, the brake light stop lamp switch may be improperly installed. This can lead to either having no brake lights at all, or having the brake lights permanently illuminated. This recall also ties in with a possible glitch in the brake-transmission shift interlock, which could prevent the vehicle from being shifted out of Park.
The U.S.-based National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration also has a couple of safety alerts regarding Thule aftermarket trailer hitches and wiring harnesses. In a nutshell, these could short circuit and cause various electrical problems. Dealers will set this right, no charge.
NHTSA also has 19 technical service bulletins for the 2008 Vera Cruz. Many of these are electrical in nature – the Navi system and electronic throttle control system, for example – but there are also advisories on irregular engine speed during warm-up, and various vehicle weight labeling issues.
Not a lot of love from Consumer Reports. This organization gives the ’08 Vera Cruz an “average” prediction rating, and singles out the electrical and fuel systems as potentially problematic. That said, according to C.R., some 70 per cent of Vera Cruz owners would buy one again. To put that in some kind of perspective, the industry leader in this category is the Kia Sorento, with some 83 per cent of buyers claiming to be potential repeat buyers. The lowest number: the Dodge Journey, with a mere 46 per cent. Some comments from Vera Cruz owners: “good quality, spacious, great ride”, “great SUV except for transmission” Poor fuel economy seems to be a common refrain from Vera Cruz owners.
Marketing researcher, J.D. Power is equally lukewarm about the Vera Cruz. This organization seems to have issues with overall mechanical quality and interior design quality and gives the ’08 Vera Cruz an “average” rating for predicted reliability. Comfort and instrumentation get top marks.
A three year old Vera Cruz seems to be going for anywhere from the low-$20,000 range, up to just under $30,000 for a fully-equipped Limited. About $5000 separates the two trim levels these days.
2008 Hyundai Vera Cruz Limited
Original Base Price: $35,995; Black Book: $21,295 - $27,975; Red Book: $23,900 - $26,500
Engine: 3.8 litre V6
Horsepower/Torque: 260 hp / 257 ft. lb.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Alternatives: BMW X5, Mazda CX-9, Subaru Tribeca, Acura MDX, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Highlander, Subaru Tribeca, Nissan Murano, Honda Pilot.