Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
From a few years ago, me mugging with the bronze buffalo sculpture at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ah, Asheville, We Hardly Know Ya: Hyundai Brings 2016 Tucson to the Beer Capital of the Carolinas


I'm not the kind of guy who gushes over a place I don't like. San Francisco and Las Vegas are both cities some people rave about, but I wouldn't set foot in either if it wasn't for carmakers hosting an occasional event there. Well, I guess I'd go to San Francisco, but only because it's the closest airport to Napa and Sonoma.

So, when I say that I really like Asheville, NC, you know that indeed I do.

The Catawba Brewery tasting room is two blocks from the Grand Bohemian Hotel.
A major part of what I like about it is its medley of craft, as well as major, breweries. Twenty-seven craft breweries are scattered about the Asheville area. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have their east-of-the-Mississippi breweries in Asheville, too. Asheville is unquestionably the beer capital of the Carolinas – maybe even the entire Southeast.

What's not to like for a lover of craft beers?
A temple to beer: the Sierra Nevada Brewery near Asheville.
Sure, there are some other sites in Asheville, such as the Biltmore Estate – yawn – but for me it's the breweries and taprooms. Actually, the Biltmore Estate has become a tourist trap of the first order, fully capable of making the folks running Elvis' Graceland blush with embarrassment. It costs $60 simply to walk through the gate. That qualifies you to spend between $10 and $150 for various tours. Then there's a restaurant and gift shop. Cha-ching!

Although Asheville is just up the road from me (less than 90 minutes by car), I don't visit often enough. So, I was excited when Hyundai announced it would hold its Southeast-regional media introduction of the redesigned third-generation Tucson where? In Asheville.

Grand Bohemian's lobby.
Hyundai put us up at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Biltmore Village adjacent to the Biltmore Estate. This is the same hotel where Hyundai housed us for a similar event for the previous-generation Tucson. It's a wonderful property run by Marriott. Its Red Stagg Restaurant, where we dined our first night, is terrific. The taprooms for three craft breweries are well within easy walking distance: Hi-Wire, Catawba and French Broad Brewing.

Our ride and drive took us through the Blue Ridge Mountains. We even did a little stint on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were loads of twists and turns. Although the Tucson isn't billed as a sport CUV, it performed well on roads best suited for high-performance sports cars. 

What my driving partner and I first noticed about the Tucson is just how quiet it is. We didn't need to talk ourselves into believing it is quiet, we both reached the same conclusion three minutes into our drive.

About three inches longer than the version it replaces, the 2016 Tucson sports the now familial Hyundai hexagonal-shaped grille. Headlights, taillights, daytime-running lights and the optional door-handle approach lamps are LEDs. 
A 164-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine linked to a driver-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission powers the $22,700 base SE grade. Other higher-grade versions use a 174-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to an all-new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (an automatic of sorts) to turn the front wheels. AWD is available on all trim levels.

The base engine delivers a government-estimated 23 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway and 26 in combined city-highway driving. The $26,150 Sport and $29,900 Limited grades deliver 25 mpg in the city, 30 highway and 27 combined. Offering the best fuel economy is the $24,150 Eco trim with 26 mpg city, 33 highway and 29 combined.


Another thing we noticed right off the bat is the extra roominess of the cabin. The longer, wider exterior translates into more passenger space. Hyundai also upgraded the contents, adding soft-touch materials to most interior surfaces.

Among the many high-end technologies Tucson offers is Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, available as an option on Limited models. When traveling between 15 and 50 miles per hour, it will bring the Tucson to a complete stop when sensing an object or person in its path.
 
Phil's Bar-B-Que Pit.

Our ride-and-drive lunch stop was Phil's Bar-B-Que Pit on NC Highway 9 in Black Mountain. The pulled pork was nothing short of awesome. Although we couldn't partake, it also offers several area craft brews on tap.

Hyundai has certainly gentrified Tucson. Like a pair of suede running shoes, it looks upscale, but is fully capable of performing duties typically assigned to less refined CUVs. Oh, and it's covered by that great Hyundai warranty too.

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