The autobiographies - Hyundai Terracan
A melancholic story, from the start to the end
During 1996, Hyundai Precision & Industries Co. Ltd. (now Hyundai Mobis Co. Ltd.) started developing a successor for their successful body-on-frame SUV, Galloper (Hyundai's licensed 1st gen Mitsubishi Pajero). This successor, Terracan ('Terra' (from the word 'terrain') + 'Khan' (meaning 'king')), was built on a Galloper's chassis with a completely new upper body.
The project soon met many obstacles when the Korean economy crisis hit in 1997, Hyundai Precision & Industries Co. Ltd.'s automotive division integrating with Hyundai Motor Company, and Kia Motors joining Hyundai Motor Company. Project managers and developers were kept changing, and so Terracan's development was going on very slowly.
Terracan was finally showcased as a concept car 'Highland' in 1999 Seoul Motor Show. While it was a remarkable moment for the Terracan project, it was completely overshadowed by the HCD-4 - a Santa Fe concept car that took worldwide attention.
Despite the poor beginnings, Terracan's development continued as Chung Mong-Koo, former Chairman and CEO of Hyundai Motor Co., had a deep affection towards the Terracan as his past was deeply involved with Hyundai Precision & Industries Co. Ltd and the Galloper.
Terracan was released in February 13th, 2001 with a price range of 19,990,000 KRW to 34,700,000 KRW (31,641,000 to 55,173,000 KRW (about 26,567 to 46,311 USD) nowadays), and it immediately faced many criticism. Its design that had both the offroader and the luxury SUV traits made it rather an ambiguous SUV without much uniqueness. Its interior's quality had various inconveniences, such as the spacing, the buttons, and the finishes. The 3rd-row seats were very poorly made and lacked any comfort.
Two engines were offered at first - 2.5ℓ D4BH Intercooler turbo diesel engine and V6 3.5ℓ DOHC gasoline engine - with a standard 5-speed manual and an optional 4-speed automatic transmission. Part-time 4WD with EST (Electric Shift Transfer) and CADS (Center Axle Disconnect System) was standard, and Full-time 4WD with ATT (Active Torque Transfer) was an option. (RWD model was later introduced to lower the starting price)
The 2.5ℓ D4BH diesel engine, which Hyundai had been using for more than a decade, was criticized for its weakness even in 2001 standards - 103ps/3800rpm, 24.0kg⋅m/2000rpm with a top speed of 142 km/h. While the car's acceleration wasn't terrible, its numbers disappointed many consumers.
A much more powerful (207ps/5500rpm, 32.0kg⋅m/3500rpm) V6 3.5ℓ Sigma DOHC engine (from the Hyundai Equus) did remind the consumers that Terracan is Hyundai's flagship SUV. However, the V6 model was very unpopular due to the low fuel efficiency, high taxation, and the Korean market's strong preference for diesel SUVs.
Terracan's lukewarm reception made SsangYong's upcoming midsize SUV, Rexton (Y200), to stand out. Collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, 2.9ℓ Inline 5 Turbo Intercooler D29ST engine (120ps and 25.5kg⋅m (soon upgraded to 132ps)) and 3.2ℓ Inline 6 XGi 3200 engine (220ps and 31.6kg⋅m), highly praised Italdesign Giugiaro design, and many high-tech convenience features made Rexton, despite 5,540,000 KRW higher starting price, a threat to Terracan.
Realizing that the Terracan was considered as 'an overpriced modified Galloper', Hyundai introduced a 2.9ℓ CRDI J3 engine (150ps/3800rpm, 34kg⋅m/2000rpm (145ps for RWD models)) in August 2001. With a 30ps difference and higher fuel efficiency when compared to Rexton, Terracan was finally able to gain some popularity.
And so the time passed without much going on for the Terracan. Its focus on being both an offroader and a premium SUV ended up only attracting the offroaders, as other consumers went with more premium and urban-aspired SUVs - such as Rexton and Sorento. Amidst the ongoing fierce competition in the Korean SUV market, Terracan was updated in December 2003 with an upgraded J3 engine (165ps, 36kg·m) and interior enhancements, while discontinuing the D4BH engine.
Very unfortunately for Terracan, Rexton was updated to New Rexton 3 days after the Terracan's update - featuring 170ps, 34.7kg·m 2.7ℓ XDi 270 engine with a 5-speed Mercedes-Benz automatic transmission. With Rexton now having more luxuriousness and power with a lower tax rate, Terracan was getting overwhelmed.
Hyundai did 2nd major update, 'Power Plus', for the Terracan in June 2004. The J3 engine was upgraded to 174ps, 36kg·m (170ps for RWD models), and the interior was enhanced (once again). Rear taillights were changed, and the V6 engine became no longer available in the Korean market (due to very low popularity).
Nothing dramatic happened for a while, until Rexton upgraded the XDi 270 engine to 176ps in April 2005, and the introduction of Rexton Ⅱ in March 2006. Rexton Ⅱ's (optional) upgraded 191ps, 41kg·m XDi 270 engine along with the latest technological equipment made Terracan a much inferior car in comparison.
To rival Rexton once again, Hyundai tested the 195ps VGT engine on Terracan, but found out that the original 4-speed Aisin transmission couldn't handle the engine's power. They then considered using Hyundai PowerTech's 5-speed automatic transmission, but Kia Sorento showed that PowerTech's automatic transmission had many technical issues.
Hyundai decided to discontinue the Terracan due to its weak competitiveness, low popularity, and the release of its successor, Veracruz. Terracan's production ended in December 2006 and was discontinued in March 2007.
Hawtai Motor, having technological cooperation with Hyundai during 2002-2010, locally produced Terracans from 2004 to early 2010s.
The main rival of the Terracan, Rexton (Y200), was produced until early 2017, when the 2nd generation of Rexton (Y400) was released.
Moon TV, a New Zealand comedy television series, once did a series of destructive tests on Terracan. This video went viral in various Internet communities, as the Terracan's ignition turned on and was able to be driven after all the tests.