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First drive: Diesel Terracan turns it on

Bonnet bulge: a heart and leg transplant transforms the Terracan.

Hyundai's ageing SUV becomes a cut-price Toyota rival, thanks to turbo-diesel power

14 Jan 2005

"2005 is Hyundai’s diesel year. It is also our rural dealer’s too."Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) is not mincing its words as to what it expects from its diesel Terracan, the CRDi, particularly with an optional "Trek’n’Tow" suspension upgrade.

CRDi stands for common-rail diesel-injection in Hyundai-speak.

Adding $2000 to the Terracan’s asking price, the CRDi is making a value-for-money play for the pockets of medium-sized SUV buyers.

The engine is a 2.9-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder unit known as J3, and marks the first time a non-petrol powered Hyundai has been offered here.

This motor, already a three years old abroad, was developed by Hyundai subsidiary (and diesel expert) Kia, and comes to the SUV diesel party fully prepared: computer controlled lean-burn common-rail direct-injection with air-to-air intercooler technology. A bonnet scoop gives the CRDi-equipped Terracans away.

Power output is 120kW at 3800rpm while the torque top is 345Nm, available from 1750rpm through to 3000rpm.

Along with relative quietness and no black smoke (due to atomised fuel delivery), the CRDi’s competitive fuel consumption is another diesel plus. The ADR81/01 governmental average is 10.1 and 10.3L/100km for the manual and automatic models respectively.

And Hyundai is happy to point out that a New Zealand EnergyWise Rally-entered Terracan CRDi achieved 7.29L/100km to top its (large) SUV class.

Service scheduling remains the same as the V6’s 15,000km, although a 7500km service is recommended, according to Technical and Training Manager for HMCA, Darryl Piper.

Up until now the Terracan relied on a 3.5-litre quad-cam ‘Sigma’ V6 punching out 145kW of power at 5500rpm and 302Nm of torque at 3000rpm.

The gearboxes are identical to the V6’s five-speed manual and Aisin four-speed automatic transmissions, although the final drive ratios are slightly higher for both.

It comes hot on the heels of late last year’s quiet Series II update, which introduced a redesigned grille, headlights, bumpers, tail-lights, fog lights and body cladding, upgraded cabin storage areas, an improved centre armrest and revised interior colour and trim.

To recap, the seven-seat Terracan was released here in September 2001, a couple of years after its South Korean launch.

It was a new in-house design built on a much-modified version of the preceding Hyundai Galloper platform, which was based on the first-generation Mitsubishi Pajero of the 1980s.

So while the Terracan is hardly new underneath, its DNA is pedigree SUV. Which makes HMCA’s "inner strength" claim for it believable – particularly as "outer freshness" is out of the question.

A traditional off-roader role call means that a separate full-length chassis with a live rear axle for extra wheel articulation and a dual range gearbox are present as well as proven.

Its part-time 4WD system can shift "on the fly" from rear-wheel drive to 4WD at up to 80km/h. The up-spec Highlander apportions power to the front or rear axles as conditions dictate automatically.

A "Hill Descent" feature in the automatic models helps keep things moving slowly but surely. It only works in first-gear low-range and reverse.

Like the V6, the CRDi is available in two models – the standard Terracan and well-equipped Highlander.

1 center imageGreater off-road and towing abilities – two areas the existing and ongoing Terracan V6 has come under critical fire for – have also been addressed with the introduction of a heavy duty suspension kit – another first for HMCA.

Called "Trek’n’Tow", it has been developed by local suspension specialists Suspension Technology Australia.

The kit comprises of bespoke US-made Edelbrock shock absorbers, German Eibach heavy duty springs and thump-eliminating Elastogran bump stops in the rear.

The upshot is improved handling, traction and ride, as well as less bodyroll, without a deterioration in chassis oscillation – also known as body flex.

With assistance from a boost in its tow-ball load capacity from 200 to 250kg, the tow pack also helps achieve the Terracan’s 2.5 tonne capacity braked trailer load. There is also a 20mm ride-height raise, for greater ground clearance.

Available for around $2000 (pricing has yet to be finalised) as a factory-backed Hyundai accessory on both Terracan and up-spec Highlander editions, the upgrade can also be retrofitted to existing vehicles.

HMCA says it wants all rural dealers to push the suspension kit – particularly on the heavier CRDi models – as the difference compared to the softer standard set-up is remarkable (see the drive story below).

The suspension upgrade is also aimed at drivers who want a slightly sportier edge to their Terracan – its firmer set-up aids handling and body control. More effective fuel and air filters have also found their way onto all Terracan diesels, with the former to better protect against inconsistent sulphur quality in the fuel (an issue that held the diesel’s introduction back until now).

HMCA hopes that head office will adopt the suspension upgrades for Terracan models worldwide.

It also shows that the Australian arm is capable of bettering on a budget that tailoring a vehicle for specific market needs can have commercial benefits and that testing locally can improve the breed for next-generation models.

To the latter’s end a shipment of Hyundai prototypes have just landed locally for secret hot weather testing – another first for the South Korean giant.

So HMCA is serious about breaking Toyota’s stronghold on the SUV market.

It expects to sell around 300 Terracans a month (last year’s average was just under 150, for a total of 1785 units – up 87.5 per cent from 2003), with around 80 CRDi models forecast. The aforementioned facelift should help.

The split should be 50/50 automatic/manual, with slightly more of the latter slated in rural areas.

In fact, HMCA is counting on an increase in its SUV sales volume (from 11 to 18 per cent), to help it achieve its 50,000 ’05 sales target.

Kicking this along is a host of new model activity.

Inside a year we can also expect the CRDi unit to power the recently released Tucson light SUV, while on the passenger car front there is the attractive new EF Sonata from May and a heavily facelifted Getz in the last quarter.

A diesel version of next year’s second-generation Santa Fe will also help Hyundai’s hopes.

Prices for the 2005 Terracan range, with the CRDi on sale from Monday January 17, are:$35,490 V6 (m)$37,490 CRDi (m)$37,590 V6 (a)$39,490 V6 Highlander (m)$39,590 CRDi (a)$41,490 CRDi Highlander (m)$41,590 V6 Highlander (a)$43,590 CRDi Highlander (a)

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