2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS
2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS. Click image to enlarge
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2007 Hyundai Entourage, by Greg Wilson

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2007 Hyundai Entourage GL Comfort, by Jil McIntosh

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2008 Hyundai Entourage

Oshawa, Ontario – It wasn’t all that long ago that minivans seemed to be on their way out. Ford dropped the Freestar, Mazda abandoned the MPV, and GM discontinued two of its models, all the while rumbling that the Uplander and Montana SV6 would eventually also follow the fate of the departed Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza.

But then, seemingly overnight, gasoline went from relatively cheap to horrifyingly steep. And just as quickly, the massive SUVs that were once considered the only possible way to get one’s family safely to school and soccer were out on the front lawns with “For Sale” signs on their windshields. It’s time for the minivan to rise again.

Save for Mazda, the import manufacturers stuck with their vans, and when in 2006 Kia completely redesigned the Sedona that it had sold in global markets since 1999, Hyundai spun off a sister version of it for 2007, the Entourage.

2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS
2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS. Click image to enlarge

For 2008, Hyundai has tweaked the van slightly. The 3.8-litre V6, found in all of the L, GL, GLS and Limited trim lines, rises to 250 horsepower from the previous 242, while torque rises from 251 to 253 lb-ft, and the four-speed automatic transmission is now a five-speed. As before, all models have ABS and six airbags, but the electronic stability control that was only on the top-line model in 2007 is across-the-board for 2008. That helped it earn a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which means the top ratings for front, side and rear crash protection, plus the stability control. Of all the 2008 minivans tested, only the Entourage, Kia Sedona and Honda Odyssey have earned the “Pick”.

Only the Chevrolet Uplander and its twin Pontiac Montana SV6 come in two wheelbase lengths; like the others, the Entourage falls into the “long wheelbase” category, and from headlamps to taillights it’s longer than the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, but shorter than the Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, Nissan Quest, and the long-wheelbase versions of the GM vans.

Surprisingly for its nameplate, it’s far from the least expensive of the bunch. With a sticker of $30,995 for the entry-level L trim line, its starting price is higher than everything except for the Odyssey and Quest. (Keep in mind that I’m comparing the MSRP stickers of each vehicle; automakers regularly come up with limited-time cash prices or finance deals for the sole purpose of rendering my reviews inaccurate.) The company is going for value instead, and given that all minivans now come standard with a number of features that were often previously missing on the base models, buyers will have to study the lists of features and decide what’s important, because there’s a lot of overlap.

2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS
2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS. Click image to enlarge

All minivans in Canada come with air conditioning, dual sliding doors and power front windows as standard equipment, which wasn’t always the case, and which made these items more of a deal when they were “thrown in” for a low starting price. But the Entourage also includes power second-row windows, for example (which don’t go down all the way, for safety’s sake; most of the competition has fixed second-row windows). The Entourage has cruise control, an option on the base GM vans; heated power mirrors, which are unavailable or extra-charge on all Grand Caravans except for the very top trim line; seat side and curtain airbags that are unavailable or extra-charge on the GM vans, depending on the trim line; and electronic stability control, missing on the base Kia Sedona, and only found on the top trim line of the Nissan Quest.

Other features on the Entourage L include CD stereo with six speakers, floor mats, conversation mirror, rear privacy glass, windshield wiper de-icer, keyless entry and variable intermittent wipers. Moving up to the $33,395 GL adds 16-inch alloy wheels, dual power sliding doors, power rear quarter glass, rear parking assist and roof rack side rails. My GLS tester, at $37,495, adds 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, heated leather seats, power driver’s adjustment, dual-zone climate control, trip computer, compass, power rear tailgate, wheel-mounted audio controls and a glass babysitter – oops, sorry, make that a rear-seat DVD screen. Go all the way to the $39,495 Limited, and you’ll get a driver’s-side memory system, auto-dimming mirror, power-adjustable passenger seat, garage door opener, power-adjustable pedals, sunroof and the entirely unnecessary rain-sensing wipers.

2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS
2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS. Click image to enlarge

The Entourage shares its 3.8-litre V6 with the Sedona, and it’s among the most powerful in the segment, topped in horsepower only by the Sienna, and in horsepower and torque by only the Town & Country’s optional 4.0-litre V6. Its official published fuel economy numbers – 13.2 L/100 km in the city and 8.8 on the highway according to EnerGuide, and a combined 12.8 L/100 km while under my care – are about the average for the segment. Most of the competition hovers around those numbers, save for the 3.5-litre V6 in the Honda Odyssey EX-L and Touring models, which uses a cylinder deactivation system to earn 12.4 city and 7.8 highway (the least-expensive model equipped with that engine is $40,590, however), and the Toyota Sienna, with a 3.5-litre that returns 11.7 and 8.1 in front-wheel drive configuration.

The Entourage’s 3.8-litre is a strong performer, but I’d prefer that power to be delivered in a more linear fashion. Set your right foot at moderate pedal, and the Entourage ambles on its way; give it more throttle, and it takes off far more briskly than you’d expect for a van this big. It’s great when you need to get by traffic at highway speeds, but for everyday city use, its twitchiness gets tiresome. The brakes bring down the speed as they should, but a little less pedal travel would make it feel more confident. Handling is in line with the segment, with good weight and wheels that go exactly where you point them; road feel isn’t expected in this type of vehicle and so isn’t missed. The ride is big and smooth, and I didn’t detect any squeaks or rattles, even on some of the rougher rural roads in my neighbourhood.

2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS
2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS
2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS. Click image to enlarge

A big, roomy van, the Entourage has very comfortable seats. Second-row chairs that fold into the floor are still unique to Chrysler, and if you want a flat cargo floor, you have to unlatch the Hyundai’s seats and pull them out. It’s not a simple task, given their weight, but on the other hand, they’re a lot easier on the passengers than Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go seats, which use thinner foam so they’ll fold properly, and can get very hard very quickly. A cargo well at the very back of the Entourage lets you fold and drop the third-row seats flat, so that with second row removed and third tucked away, you’ve got the flat floor of a cargo van.

Cubbies are everywhere, of course; top marks go to a huge dual-compartment glovebox, a storage area below the dual power outlets to hold items being charged, and a tray with cupholders between the front seats that can be folded down out of the way, or pulled open to lengthen it so that passengers in the second row can use its integrated cupholders.

Controls are big and simple overall; the seating position is good, with full visibility (I also like the old-fashioned tilt wheel stalk, in place of the more common lever that must be pulled out and then pushed back into place); and while some colleagues complained that the power liftgate on their 2007 test vans didn’t always work properly,

2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS
2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS. Click image to enlarge

I had no difficulty with mine, meaning either Hyundai fixed a known problem, or I just got a good one. If it’s the latter, the Entourage comes with the company’s standard warranty of five years or 100,000 km on just about everything.

Overall, minivans are a tough segment to rank: as with any utility vehicle, there isn’t a “best” one, but the one that contains the features you need, at the price that fits your budget. The Entourage isn’t the cheapest and it isn’t the biggest minivan on the block, but it offers a wide range of features in each trim level. Named the 2008 “Best New Minivan” at the Automobile Journalists’ Association of Canada’s Canadian Car of the Year awards – defeating the redesigned Grand Caravan and Town & Country that a gambler would probably have played as a sure thing – it’s most worthy of a spot on your test-drive list.

Pricing: 2008 Hyundai Entourage GLS

Base price: $37,495
Options: None

A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,610
Price as tested: $39,205
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Hyundai Entourage

    Related articles on Autos

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  • 2007 Hyundai Entourage, by Greg Wilson
    Test Drives

  • 2007 Hyundai Entourage GL Comfort, by Jil McIntosh

    Competitors
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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Chrysler Town & Country
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Honda Odyssey
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Kia Sedona
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Nissan Quest
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Pontiac Montana SV6
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Toyota Sienna

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