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2007 Hyundai Entourage Road Trip
Hyundai Entourage minivan tackles long trip from Toronto to Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
By Bill Roebuck
For many summers, my wife and I have packed essential clothing and picnic supplies and headed off -- most often in one of a variety of minivans -- with our two children for various Canadian destinations, some of them fairly remote.
Our kids have had the opportunity to play with 'bergie bits' broken off from passing icebergs on the shores of Newfoundland, have kayaked on the chilly summer waters off Tofino on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in B.C., and have dipped their toes in Lake Erie at Point Pelee, Ont., at the most southerly point in Canada you can reach on four wheels.
For our vacation in the summer of 2006, we decided to go someplace in Canada we hadn't been before -- Quebec's Îles de la Madeleine. The archipelago is located in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 100 km off the coast of Prince Edward Island.
Our transport for this trip was a 2007 Hyundai Entourage, an all-new minivan from the south-Korean automaker, and its first-ever minivan. We felt qualified to offer it a fair evaluation, given our history of long-distance driving vacations.
It's about 20 hours of intense driving from Toronto to Souris, P.E.I., where we caught a five-hour ferry for the trip to the Magdalens, as the islands are often called in English.
This 65-km long, narrow group of about a dozen small islands offers a variety of landscapes, from long, clean beaches, red and white rock bluffs, and calm bays and lagoons. One of the things that impressed us most was the silence. Coming as we do from busy, noisy southern Ontario, Îles de la Madeleine offered welcome relief from the constant din of life in the Big Smoke.
Six of the islands are connected by long, narrow dunes, all passable on well-maintained, two-lane paved highways. Of course, dunes also mean great beaches, and they're everywhere. There are so many, and they're so long, we never found them crowded.
Another notable characteristic of this vacation spot is the wind. With the possible exception of Signal Hill in St John's, I doubt we've experienced any place windier. That naturally attracts windsurfers, kite boarders and kite flyers to the islands. We stopped at a park set up especially for enjoying wind sports and noted that others were marked on our map of the islands.
Although the vast majority of the other licence plates you see here are from Quebec, we never felt out of place as English-speaking Ontarians. The residents are very friendly and helpful. This part of Quebec is proud of its Acadian heritage and touches of the joie de vive of the culture are seen in the colourfully painted 'traditional' houses that dot the towns and countryside. Pinks, purples, bright canary yellows and fresh greens and blues gleam in the sun and add to the sparkle in the air.
You can't talk about Îles de la Madeleine without mentioning the food. It's a combination of French and Acadian cooking. Unexpectedly, some of our meals were incredible gourmet treats, with amazing flavours provided by the freshly harvested ingredients. We didn't have time to experience all of the local delicacies, and missed out on a first-ever chance to taste seal meat, which we saw on a few menus. No doubt, an epicure would enjoy a satisfying holiday here.
Our Entourage minivan proved an ideal travelling companion, both for the long drive to the east coast, and while visiting all the island's hotspots -- and many spots that were definitely well off the beaten track.
The powerful 3.8-litre V6 engine, with 242 hp and 251 ft-lb of torque (more than its main competitors) proved itself again and again, even when climbing steep, gravel-covered sideroads. The Magdalens certainly aren't flat -- in fact, there's several high rocky outcrops on the larger islands (the locals ski on one of them in the winter).
The Entourage also is comfortable, spacious and easy to drive. Here are just a few other highlights that stood out in our top-of-the-line GLS Premium, including some surprises for its price range.
This minivan's two trip odometers and compass are ideal for long road trips. The drop-down convex conversation mirror makes it easy to keep tabs on kids in the back without have to turn away from the road.
Passenger comfort always is at hand, with standard dual front climate controls. Rear passengers get their own controls. Second-row passengers can roll down the windows on both powered sliding doors.
The entertainment system in our Entourage suited long-distance travel. The stereo has great sound from its six speakers. It includes a CD player and a cassette deck. The DVD player is one of the best we've used, with its big 10.2-inch screen.
Multiple cupholders -- about a dozen -- and storage spaces throughout are very handy. A boon for long-distance travellers is the two-compartment glove box, ideal for separating maps from other papers.
When it comes to safety features, the Entourage is state-of-the-art in its category. It has a Five-Star crash test rating from the International Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and best of all, it boasts a half dozen airbags -- including side curtain-type bags for all three rows.
After 10 days and about 4,800 km of driving, we concluded the Entourage is an ideal vehicle for long-distance vacationing as well as everyday use at home. Both it and the Magdalens deserve our accolades.
Bill Roebuck is the editor of CarTest.ca.