After months of putting the Tucson through its paces on the daily grind, it was time to set off on an adventure! For years, and through all my travels, I had somehow managed to not spend any meaningful time in a city that held a distinct allure for me because of its architecture and its culture (“Da Bears!”). So we booked a room through Airbnb, booked dinner at Morton’s steakhouse, packed the family up with enough snacks to hold us over for weeks and set out from Brampton with a full tank of gas.
After months of putting the Tucson through its paces on the daily grind, it was time to set off on an adventure!
With only three nights and two days away from home, the Tucson’s trunk space was more than enough for all our luggage, everything fitting snugly under the cargo cover, and with water bottles divvied up in all the door-pocket bottle holders, coffee in the centre console and snacks on the seat between the kids or in the front seat when my wife spent a stint between the kids watching a movie on the iPad.
There are more creative ways to get from the GTA to Chicago – by way of Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is one example – but we had only Friday and Monday for travel and Saturday and Sunday to explore one of North America’s premier destinations. Knowing that with two kids in tow, any estimated travel time (7.5 hours) must be multiplied by about one and a half, we followed Google Maps’ most time-efficient route via the 401, through Detroit and along I-94 to the outskirts of Chicago, where we would make our base for the next few days. In the absence of a navigation system in the Tucson, we appreciated Google Maps ability to guide us around some traffic snarls on the outskirts of Detroit, and even so, with bathroom and food breaks, we were on the road from 10 AM to just after 9 PM.
Upon arrival, rain combined with darkness to block any views of Chicago’s skyscraper landmarks, but the Tucson’s wipers worked overtime to clear the view ahead, blind-spot monitoring keeping me apprised of any risks around me in an unfamiliar environment and the stability of all-wheel drive making some last-minute lane changes less of a stress than they might have been.
Throughout the day, the Tucson was comfortable, its breathable and comfortable fabric seats providing sufficient support over long hours behind the wheel. Although the armrests were padded, they could use a bit more cushioning, or perhaps I need tiny little elbow pillows for my knobbly, scarred elbows... Between door pockets and cup holders and trays and hidden storage, there was a place for everything, and Our Tucson features rubber floor mats with lips around the edges, which contain crumbs and detritus and make it easy to remove and shake out at the end of a long road trip.
On a trip like this, satellite radio is also a comforting presence, with all your familiar channels available throughout the trip, but with a USB port, you can also load your favourite music to phone or music player to help pass the long hours. Conveniently, the width between the front seatbacks is perfect for wedging an iPad 2 (with the 9.7-inch screen) between them for kids in all rear seats to enjoy and parents in the front to easily reach and control.
Although we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore Chicago fully, and our time was cut short due to injury, we still managed to sample some of the Windy City’s charms, from Millennium Park and the neighbouring Maggie Daley Park to deep-dish pizza, the fabulous Art Deco architecture (many with access via tours or businesses on the ground floor) to a legendary steak house that lives up to its reputation and a welcoming and mellow vibe that feels very much like home. Because our trip was cut short, we did not do one of the many architecture tours, from riverboat cruises to open-top double decker buses to walking tours that highlight the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe and so many other icons of the architecture world that put their stamp on Chicago. However, One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s residential masterpieces was conveniently placed on our route away from Chicago (and reasonably close to a Starbucks), so we paid it an early morning visit for the Tucson’s photo op, and to give our kids a glimpse of a work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest designers, and sowing the seeds of interest for a future visit with enough time to properly explore this city and its treasures.
While we normally like to take the opportunity of a long-term trip to get a read on fuel economy, missing receipts have foiled a precise measure, and the trip computer is holding at a steady 9.3 since resetting it at the beginning of the trip, and during the initial stint on the highway, we kept it in the 8s until we hit the higher speed limits and traffic snarls in Michigan. Overall, it’s another test passed with flying colours for the Tucson, a vehicle that exemplifies the all-purpose practicality of compact SUVs, and at a price point that is accessible to many families in the market for a new car.
Pricing: 2016 Hyundai Tucson
Base Price (Base FWD): $24,399
Base Price (Premium AWD): $28,999
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $30,894