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This year Hyundai will be bringing a Custom Hyundai Tucson crossover to SEMA. In collaboration with Rockstar Performance Garage, the Tucson will be outfitted with rock-climbing gear, rugged looks and accessories, and upgrades under the hood as well.
All this got me thinking about the Santa Cruz, and whether or not it might come in any special editions or versions. First let's look into more details about the Hyundai Tucson that will be heading to SEMA. Following that we can imagine what is possible with the Santa Cruz.
The SEMA-bound Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai's SEMA-bound Tucson has a lot of modifications to rattle off here. It has custom bumpers, smoked lights, skid plates, multiple LED light bars, light "spikes", and an upgraded sound system.
Those accessories are just the beginning though. This special Tucson has been raised 6 inches and the fenders have been modified to make space for some 32-inch Mickey Thompson MTZ P3 tires that wrap around KMC 17-inch "Bully" wheels. Suspension also received some attention with new 2.5-inch adjustable coilovers and shocks from King Shocks.
If we move under the hood now, there is new turbo plumbing, a high-flow exhaust and new intake and intercooler systems. All that must make some significant improvements to the 1.6-liter turbo four engine, but Hyundai has given out the details of exactly what those improvements look like in real numbers.
Of note is the fact that there was no mention of changes to the Tucson's AWD system.
So that's the SEMA Tucson. The Santa Cruz is being built on the same platform as the Tucson, so it is theoretically possible for many of the changes that we see on the Tucson to happen to the Santa Cruz as well.
Would there be a market for a more off-road oriented Santa Cruz?
It would have improved suspension, raised a few inches, a skid plate underneath, and hopefully an improved AWD system (that the Tucson doesn't have).
There aren't many competitors in the segment at the moment, but there are a few precedents for vehicles like this. There was the Ford Ranger FX4 which came with " with a special 31-spline 8.8-inch (223.5 mm) Ford 8.8 rear axle equipped with a Zexel-Torsen limited-slip differential, three skid plates, upgraded tow hooks, 31" BFGoodrich All Terrains, 15-inch forged Alcoa wheels, and Bilstein shocks." There is also the Colorado Z71 Trail Boss which has an off-road package as well as some other unique features for functionality and appearance. Finally there is the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro which boasts that it is "ready to help you dominate extreme terrain... [and] is just as comfortable running the dunes as it is towing your boat."
The Santa Cruz isn't meant to have the capability of the Ranger, Tacoma or Colorado, so as far as off-road capability goes, it simply won't measure up to these competitors. I am reminded of the off-road package for the Audi Q3, however, that only added cosmetic bits to give it that look. A similar intention could be taken with the Santa Cruz in an off-road form.
What about a N-Performance Santa Cruz?
A more likely variant would be an N-Performance version of the Santa Cruz. We know that Hyundai is working to develop its N-Performance brand. If the Santa Cruz got some good performance increases, it could be a really popular vehicle for people who want something that is fun to drive, small enough for an urban environment, yet still provides a useful truck bed for whatever you may need it for.