Hyundai Entourage – Troop Transport
Ah, the wonderful world of Minivans. Where parents are relegated to a tin box on wheels. Where you share the same workload as a prison bus driver, only you’re not getting paid and there are no steel bars to protect you from the scoundrels in the back. Can’t imagine owning one? Well, neither could we. But after a weekend with a 2007 Hyundai Entourage the AutoPacific staff is starting to rethink the possibility that these minivan owners may have the last laugh…
Walking up to the Entourage, for me, is like walking up to any minivan: depressing. It’s like I’m walking towards the ‘injection room’ on my last day at San Quentin. Part of the issue is package provisions. It would be very difficult to pack in everything that makes a minivan so great into something with a different image. Most manufacturers have identified the exact ingredients needed to build and successfully sell a minivan. They all take relatively the same shape or form and follow the magic instructions: front-wheel-drive, V6, and two sliding doors.
The Magic Formula
There are reasons for following this magic formula. Being front wheel-drive alleviates that hump in the floor to provide easy walk-through. The V6 provides adequate power to get all seven or eight passengers up to speed: to and from just about everywhere. Having the sliding door helps any parent get the baby seat in, out, and secured into place – with relative ease. Having two sliding doors provides ‘pass-through’ and affords everyone the ability to disband twice as quickly. AutoPacific research has shown power sliding side doors to be highly desirable. Should evolve to standard equipment on minivans in time.
Entourage Makes An Entrance
On sale since April 2006, Hyundai has offered up the Entourage using this ‘magic formula’. Sitting on a purpose-built FWD minivan platform, with a track width wider and longer than the competition, a 242HP 3.8L 24v V6 wit 5spd automatic transmission (only one powertrain available – same engine that powers the Azera) and two sliding doors. Hyundai packed this minivan full of standard features at a fair price with a great (but NOT transferable) warranty.
Experiencing the Entourage First Hand
During the first few hours of evaluating the Entourage I found it easy to get into and out of, it had good get-up-and-go, and handled great for a minivan. Still, I could not shake the ‘minivan’ stigma. I don’t attend PTA meetings and I’ve never been to a soccer practice in my life. The social pressure was just too much for me so I decided to take it down to the beach and go surfing. I used the Hideaway® third row seat feature and slid my 9’8’’ board (inside the board bag) right down the middle of the floor – between the second row captains’ chairs. The Hideaway® third row is definitely a slick feature and a simple, easy way to make room, without taking up any space in your garage. The 60/40 split bench folds up and stows down in a well to make a load flat floor; think of Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go® seats, but with the Entourage you won’t be paying any extra for the feature. (Chrysler knows this however and may make Stow ‘n Go® standard next year.)
On Sunday we took a road trip with the family where a few flaws were noticed with the Entourage. The seats were a little stiff and at speed, over potholes and major dips in the roadway, you could tell there was not quite the articulation in the suspension that one might expect. On flat, level, smooth roadway, the ride quality was wonderful, but under duress you could tell it was being overworked. Another noticeable issue was the wind noise and road noise. Front-wheel-drive vehicles tend to be more prone to this issue and it was apparent in the Entourage. The consensus was that more insulation would have been welcomed.
Although our example only had 11,000 miles on the odometer there were already some squeaks and rattles that were NOT received with much enthusiasm. One squeak came from the dash (center stack) especially if you used the air conditioning, a rattle came from one of the third row seats and three consecutive knocks from behind the glove compartment every so often right after you shut the vehicle off (we checked – no one was in the glove compartment).
We did all appreciate the value offered by the Entourage. It seems to offer a viable option to those price conscious minivan consumers. The Entourage was no slouch in terms of safety, with six standard airbags (side curtains for all three rows), electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear disc brakes coupled with Hyundai ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), and LATCH points (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) which are located in both second and third rows. We were all pretty impressed.
There were dozens of surprising standard features as well, in a vehicle with an MSRP of just over $23K. Some notable features were the tri-zone climate control, conversation mirror (Cool feature to watch what’s going on with passengers), sunglasses storage (unfortunately too small to be useful and located above driver’s head – not in overhead console), retractable hook on the passenger side of the dash where you could hang items (like a purse), reclining second and third row seats, retractable center console (which would provide walk-through to the back when retracted, had an integrated hook and four cupholders) and up to 172 cubic feet of interior volume (which is actually more than the Honda Odyssey). There were also a few cubbyholes, plenty of cupholders and two glove compartments.
Checking Your Tires
I have to give some credit to the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) on the Entourage. It’s better than some vehicles twice the price. It alerts drivers if one or more tires are under inflated but more importantly it actually has an illuminated readout within the instrument cluster that would let a driver know exactly which tire(s) need inflation. That will save you a few minutes checking all four tires… and may someday even save your life?
Closing the Door
I’m not going to lie to you; the Entourage doesn’t exactly get me excited. It’s not sexy. I wouldn’t sneak down to the garage at night to check up on it. Still, it would be in my consideration set. It was convenient, versatile, packed with standard features and safety. After driving the Entourage for a day or two I actually began to think I had the last laugh.
Price or Product
If I were to buy a minivan I would probably buy one based on price rather than product; as I know my kids would probably trash it anyway and paying $35K for a minivan does NOT sound appealing. It would be much easier for me to walk away from the purchase of one of these ‘people movers’ knowing it didn’t drain years off of my social life or retirement fund. I know that if I purchased a Honda Odyssey (for instance) I’d probably end up yelling at my kids, “Don’t put your feet up on the upholstery, don’t spill your ‘sippie cup’ and don’t whack the door with your softball bat – not to mention your sister.” Instead I can take comfort in knowing that I only spent around $23K, I only have to wash it when it rains and if my family drives it into the ground I’m not going to loose any sleep over it; besides I have that 100K mile warranty.
Hyundai expects to sell about 27K Entourages annually.
Hyundai will NOT offer the Entourage (a Kia Sedona cousin) in a short-wheelbase version. If you persist they will gladly sell you to their new mid-size crossover SUV, the Veracruz, which measures about the same length as the short-wheelbase Sedona.
Hyundai Entourage Series: