DETROIT – Hyundai Motor America says its all-new ’07 Veracruz large cross/utility vehicle is its best attempt yet at attracting upscale customers.

The 7-passenger vehicle, which slots in above the midsize Santa Fe CUV and churns out an estimated 260 hp from its 3.8L V-6 engine, will be unveiled today at the 2007 North American International Auto Show here.

The Veracruz joins the burgeoning large CUV segment in the U.S., alongside the Mercedes-Benz GL, new GMC Acadia and upcoming Mazda CX-9.

Hyundai says the Veracruz will attract buyers of traditional body-on-frame SUVs who are seeking more comfort without sacrificing power.

“(The) Veracruz is an exceptional vehicle at the right time for this developing segment,” Steve Wilhite, chief operating officer, says.

“The vehicle’s designers recognized that the needs and desires of traditional SUV buyers weren’t being met and focused on meeting those needs in an elegant and ingenious way. The result is a spacious crossover

The Veracruz is powered by the same V-6 mill as the Hyundai Azera large sedan, producing 263 hp in the sedan but kicking the same torque rating of 257 lb.-ft. (348 Nm) for both vehicles.

The Veracruz’s output is greater than the Honda Pilot’s 3.5L 244-hp V-6, but below the new Acadia’s 3.6L’s 275 hp.

The all-aluminum engine has intake-only continuously variable valve timing as well as a variable intake system, resulting in improved cylinder efficiency at low and high rpm, Hyundai says.

The auto maker claims less idling vibration than the Lexus RX 350 due to new semi-active engine mounts that Hyundai says will harness engine vacuum, creating a dynamic response to offset engine vibration.

As previously announced, the Veracruz V-6 will be mated to Hyundai’s first-ever 6-speed automatic, developed by Japanese supplier Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. The transmission features a manual mode operated via the gear selector, as well as “wide ratios that ideally suit the engine’s capabilities,” Hyundai says.

Expected highway fuel economy is 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km), the auto maker says, which exceeds the highway rating of a 2-wheel-drive Honda Pilot (24 mpg [9.8 L/100 km]).

Hyundai also anticipates an Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) classification.

The Veracruz is offered in South Korea with a 3L turbocharged diesel. An HMA executive earlier told Ward's the auto maker was developing a diesel mill that would meet U.S. regulations but gave no indication if it would be for installation in the Veracruz.

The CUV rides on a new unibody platform, for which Hyundai says it benchmarked “the best crossovers in the world.” A McPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension are used, providing “a supple, confident ride” while isolating the cabin from road imperfections.

Electronic all-wheel drive is optional and uses wheel-speed sensors to monitor conditions and deliver torque when needed, the auto maker says. A multi-plate clutch sends power to the rear wheels and a push-button AWD lock mode can split torque 50/50.

The Veracruz will be offered in three trims when it goes on sale in the first quarter at U.S. Hyundai dealers: GLS, SE and Limited.

GLS versions get standard 17-in. 5-split-spoke alloys while the SE and Limited grades receive 18-in. versions of the same wheels.

Steering for the Veracruz is power rack and pinion and provides a tighter minimum turning radius than that of the Lexus RX 350 and Nissan Murano, Hyundai says.

Veracruz’s design language will enhance the Hyundai brand image on a global basis, Joel Piaskowski, chief designer-Hyundai Design Center in Irvine, CA, says. “Fluid lines, combined with the integrated headlights and taillights, envelop Veracruz to create a unified aesthetic.”

Hyundai says the CUV’s sculpted bumper creates the illusion of added height, while character lines and a fast profile give Veracruz an image of style and functionality.

The CUV’s grille has a flat-lined upper chrome bezel and curved lower bezel, while the beltline rises from the wraparound headlights, following the “tapering greenhouse to include the prominent taillights,” Hyundai says. A rear spoiler and dual chrome exhaust tips complete the look.

The Veracruz’s interior was inspired by boutique hotels, the auto maker says, noting its brushed metal accents, flocked bins and glovebox. Blue lighting illuminates all gauges, switches and buttons, as well as the vehicle’s front cup holders.

Task lighting is provided by a soft blue spotlight in the overhead console.

Materials used in the Veracruz’s interior are soft-touch and low-gloss. Panel fits are zero tolerance, Hyundai designers say.

The auto maker claims cabin noise is reduced to levels less than the RX 350’s, with the use of attached acoustic dampening sheets to the doors and chassis, a steel plate beneath the engine and four layers of interior carpet padding.

Standard features on all trims include what is becoming Hyundai’s calling card, electronic stability control, as well as 10-in. disc brakes with antilock system and electronic brake force distribution.

Also standard are air conditioning with cabin filter, steering wheel audio/cruise controls, heated power side mirrors with puddle lights and side turn signal repeaters, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, six airbags, tilt and telescoping steering wheel and a 50/50 fold-into-the-floor third-row seat.

The GLS offers an optional premium package that includes heated front seats, a power driver seat and a backup warning system.

The Veracruz SE, which Hyundai says is the sportiest trim, adds auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass; roof rack; center storage console with a cooling system; auto-dimming exterior mirrors; and automatic headlights.

A Premium and Leather Package includes leather seating and a power tilt/slide sunroof. An Entertainment Package consisting of a rear-seat entertainment system with an 8-in. (20 cm) LCD monitor can be added to the Premium and Leather Package.

The Veracruz Limited includes all the standard and optional features of the GLS and SE and adds a one-touch power tailgate, chrome door handles and windshield wiper deicer.

An Ultimate Package includes power-adjustable pedals, blue backlit sill scuff plates, rear-seat DVD system and rain-sensing wipers. Also part of the Ultimate Package is a proximity key, which unlocks doors when in range of the vehicle.

A 6-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system is standard in GLS and SE grades. A 315-watt Infinity AM/FM/XM/MP3 stereo with CD changer, subwoofer and external amplifier is standard on the Limited trim and available on the SE trim.

A 10-speaker, 605-watt Infinity system with Logic 7 surround sound is offered on the SE and top-of-the-line Limited trims, Hyundai says.

Pricing has not been announced, but Wilhite earlier told Ward's the Veracruz will begin just below $30,000 in the U.S.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com