2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

Get ready to be thoroughly impressed 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

As far as compact crossover SUVs go, the Tucson has always delivered excellent value, loads of features and decent driving dynamics, but for me at least, it’s never been a looker, that is until now. All-new 2016 Hyundai Tucson? You had me at hello.

OK, it’s an overused movie line, the inspiration of which comes from watching too many back-to-back episodes of USA Network’s Suits (which drops a lot of classic movie lines), but I could definitely see Gabriel Macht’s Harvey Specter emerging from the leather-lined back seat of this third-generation Tucson as he arrives at Pearson Specter Litt, his Manhattan law firm, or maybe that’s pushing it. Harvey’s more of an Equus kind of guy when he’s not at the wheel of his Bentley Continental GT. Instead, let’s say that Patrick J. Adams’ Mike Ross and Meghan Markle’s Rachel Zane wouldn’t look out of place up front while heading out of town for a weekend getaway, but as is often the case I seriously digress.

I wasn’t too far off the mark when it comes to the Tucson, however, its completely revised styling now brandishing a broader, deeper and more masculine looking version of Hyundai’s trademark hexagonal grille up front and center, my tester’s finished with an elegant matte titanium-tinted surround around its five lower sides, the four topmost vertices combining together to form a thicker extension that flows into the gorgeous wraparound headlights, a design that’s not dissimilar to the brand new Audi Q3, albeit even more masterfully penned, making me think that ex-Audi, current-Hyundai design boss Peter Schreyer was not only influential with future-think Audi styling some ten years ago, but that his ideas were the driving force.

Nice details such as standard LEDs within the projector headlights, optional LED DRLs over the fog lamps and yet more LEDs around the body-color mirror housings add dazzle no matter the time of day or night, while even more upscale HID headlights with steering wheel-responsive adaptive cornering low beams and LED taillights enhanced the styling and safety of my top-tier Limited AWD tester, complete with Ultimate package.

The same matte-silver treatment used for the grille trim coats a classy under-tray up front, the rocker trim down each side, and bumper cap in back, surrounded by rugged matte black cladding all-round. My tester filled the Tucson’s black fender flairs with a gorgeous set of machine-finished 19-inch alloys featuring dark grey painted pockets on 245/45R19 all-seasons, while those aforementioned taillights pay visual homage to the Tucson’s larger Santa Fe brother thanks to their multi-angled shape that ideally finishes off a rear end design replete with large rooftop spoiler, big rear reflectors at each corner, and twin rectangular chrome exhaust tips poking through a diffuser-style lower valence. Topping my Winter White example off was a cool black roof, the result of its massive panoramic glass sunroof that came as part of the aforementioned Ultimate package. All in all, from its purposeful grille, down its longer and lower flanks, past meaty rims and rubber to its obviously wider rear quarters, the new Tucson delivers a substantive stance that makes it look as if it’ll take to the corners like a Genesis Coupe.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

OK, it’s not that capable, as few mainstream volume-branded vehicles are, but the new Tucson has graduated from handling flunky to one of the more enjoyable to drive in its compact class. A completely updated platform architecture and a more rigid high-tensile steel body structure, more width and length overall including a longer wheelbase, and riding on a new fully independent suspension with a MacPherson strut/multi-link and stabilizer bar setup both front and rear plus Sachs high performance amplitude dampers at all corners directed by rack-mounted motor-driven power steering, means that athletic road manners join a wonderfully compliant chassis for a truly comfortable ride.

Of course my tester had those 19s previously noted, so I can’t say for sure how the stock 225/60R17 all-seasons would manage corners, although by all points and purposes ride quality should improve. Either way I can tell you that the Tucson’s standard ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist were more capable than ever, while downhill brake control and hill start assist were helpful in hilly areas. The Tucson also features standard traction and stability control plus vehicle stability management that weren’t really needed in the sunny weather I experienced during my test drive, while I also had no need (fortunately) for the standard tire pressure monitoring, immobilizer and alarm, or six airbags.

I’m looking forward to testing the upgraded SUV with its base 2.0L GDI engine, a direct-injection, 16-valve, DOHC 2.0-liter four-cylinder with dual continuously variable valve timing that puts out 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque and comes joined up with a six-speed auto featuring Shiftronic manual mode plus an overdrive lock-up torque converter to improve highway efficiency, but I was happy to start my 2016 Tucson experience with the upgraded 1.6T. That’s the only way Limited trim comes, and while the 1.6-liter direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder’s 174 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque might be a bit shy of premium compact ute output levels its segment-first seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox certainly wasn’t. It boasted quick seamless shifts and steering wheel-mounted paddles, while the Tucson’s standard Drive Mode Select enhanced the overall experience by allowing adjustment of transmission and throttle response as well as steering effort via three settings including Eco, Normal, and Sport. The Sport setting is quite noticeable, allowing a snappier go-pedal and higher revs between shifts or when prompted by those paddles, while Eco certainly helps to ease fuel consumption.

When so set, the 1.6T’s EPA fuel economy rating is pretty impressive at a claimed 24 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 26 combined, although if thriftiness at the pump is your prime objective the same engine used in Eco FWD trim is a fair bit better at an estimated 26 city, 33 highway and 29 combined. The base 2.0-liter FWD model is good for 23 city, 36 highway and 31 combined, incidentally, which is still very competitive.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

I should mention here that the Tucson’s optional AWD system incorporates some sophisticated ki.. First off it sends 100 percent of engine twist to the front wheels unless slippage is detected, at which point up to 50 percent will automatically be allocated to the rear. Additionally, you can select AWD lock if you want a pre-set split of torque between its axles for ultimately slippery conditions or when off-road. That’s different than most others, by the way, but what makes it truly special is Active Cornering Control (ACC), a technology that automatically redirects power to the tires with the most traction. A torque-vectoring effect occurs when the system automatically adds brake pressure to the inside rear wheel and torque to the outside rear wheel, which reduces understeer and improves overall handling, not to mention feel. Improved handling is especially impressive considering the 2016 Tucson is a larger SUV that really shouldn’t bite into corners better than its smaller predecessor, but it does.

To help you get a grip on how much larger the new Tucson is when compared to its predecessor, its overall length of 176.2 inches has grown by 2.9 inches, while its 105.1-inch wheelbase gives you 1.2 inches of additional roominess between the axles. Likewise its 72.8-inch width makes it 1.2 inches wider than the outgoing model, and its 6.4-inch minimum ground clearance, which is a difference of 0.3 inches, helps to reduce its overall height by 1.4 inches to 64.9 inches, allowing for a lower center of gravity, which aids handling.

Along with a larger passenger compartment, which included thoroughly comfortable front seats in my tester with lots of powered adjustability, as well as superb rear outboard seats that even offer good lower back support, not to mention rear seat heaters, also part of the Ultimate upgrade, the new Tucson’s luggage area grows by 5.3 cubic feet to a total of 31.0 cubic feet when its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks are upright, whereas its max capacity increases by 6.1 cubic feet to 61.9 cubic feet when the rear row is flattened. After accessing the cargo bay via an available powered liftgate, you’ll need to walk around to the rear side doors to lower them, but when you do they flip down easily and lock into place with a solidity few in the class can match.

That’s a theme that permeates the entire 2016 Tucson, quality. Move up front and refinement levels come extremely close to the majority of premium compact CUVs. A totally soft-touch dash top wraps overtop the instrument panel to its midway point, and that doesn’t include the curving stitched leatherette shroud that covers the primary gauge package and center stack, while the same high-quality soft synthetic material is used for the door uppers front and back, the rear door treatment normally reserved for premium compact brands.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

The gauges of my fully-featured Limited are large, easy to read and attractively laid out, bisected by a useful 4.2-inch color multi-information display; steering wheel meaty, leather-clad, heatable and substantive in the hands; weighty high-end key fob hidden away in pocket or purse while proximity-sensing passive entry and pushbutton ignition enhance convenience (try that in a Porsche Macan); upgraded eight-inch full-color high-resolution infotainment display featuring navigation and an enhanced version of the standard Tucson’s rearview camera with active guidelines (you’ll need to pay close to $50k to get that last item in an Audi Q5) ultra-simple to use and deep with functions; switchgear from steering wheel and dash to doors tighter fitting, better damped and made from higher quality composites than many premium brands; while a really nice woven cloth headliner surrounds the aforementioned panoramic sunroof. Hell, even the overhead console is a cut above its peers and some luxury SUVs (Cadillac XRS, I’m looking at you) with an attractive design rimmed in brushed aluminum-look detailing. Audible and visual lane-change warnings help to keep everyone safe, but hold on. I’m getting way ahead of myself.

If you have yet to figured out what I’m trying to say, the new Tucson is one of the best equipped mass-market players in the compact SUV segment, but not only in higher trims, it gets a comprehensive standard convenience and safety features menu too. For just $22,070 plus $895 for freight and pre-delivery prep, the base Tucson SE includes automatic headlights, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, a trip computer, cruise control, Bluetooth, variable intermittent wipers, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 five-inch color display audio system with satellite radio plus iPod, USB and aux inputs, filtered air conditioning, a sunglasses holder, power windows and remote locks, a rearview camera, powered heatable side mirrors with integrated blind spot mirrors, a six-way driver’s seat with height adjustment, reclining rear seatbacks, a rear center armrest, solar control glass, rear privacy glass, plus a rooftop spoiler.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

Along with all this standard kit, my Limited tester included a raft of features from lower trim levels, those not already mentioned including a leather-wrapped shift knob, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, roof rails, powered front seats, a powered liftgate and much more, while my Limited model also included leather upholstery, dual-zone auto climate control, and great sounding premium audio. Lastly, features already mentioned aside, the Ultimate packaged added front LED map lights, ventilated front seats, lane departure warning, collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Additionally, these safety upgrades help so-equipped Tucsons achieve a best possible Top Safety Pick + from the IIHS.

Like so many other Hyundai models, the only thing separating the new Tucson from luxury status is its badge, and really, are we all so shallow to let flashy marketing get in the way of a great value proposition that also happens to be a thoroughly impressive compact SUV? Not at all. The world is filled with highly intelligent people who aren’t emotionally motivated by glitz and glamor, and such savvy shoppers will find the new Tucson irresistible.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

So on that note let’s give Hyundai a hearty welcome to the competitive compact segment. Yes, I know the Tucson has been with us for a long time and had its fair share of success, but this is an entirely different level of SUV capable of moving the brand up in the minds and hearts of small SUV buyers. What I mean is that Hyundai won’t need to sell the Tucson solely on price and a 10-year or 100,000 mile powertrain warranty anymore, but they still will and thanks to that and what I think is one of the best compact SUVs in its segment they’re going to clean up.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press.

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