After trying out the midrange GLS version of the Tucson, which stands as the new dominant force in the compact crossover class, we now got a chance to try out the top-of-the-line version: the Hyundai Tucson R eVGT 4WD Premium.

The body is the same upscale design cooked up by Hyundai's design bureau in Germany, a product of what Hyundai calls as their Fluidic Sculpture philosophy. From nose to tail, the Tucson is simply edgy and stylish, and is a huge step forward from the design of the previous model. The premium variant gets a few nice touches on the outside, with chrome trimmings on the grille, larger wheels and

Inside, there are no big differences between the two. The seats are still great, and the dashboard is still one of the most modern ones in the class. The steering wheel feels great to get a hold of again, with the anatomic grips and wrapped in leather, and has audio controls on the left and buttons for the cruise control on the right.

As expected, this R Premium version also comes with all the bells and whistles available. The audio unit is the same as the GLS, and features the same iPod connectivity along with a USB and an aux-in port. On the ceiling is a panoramic sunroof, while all the seats are lined in premium leather, though the heaters for the front seats are still something I haven't found a use for in a tropical country. Instead of a manual aircon, there's a fully automatic climate control system, and the key can be kept in your pocket as the Tucson Premium gets a push-button start system. Headlamps and wipers are all automatic, and the rear view mirror dims automatically too.

The Tucson Premium also has a great deal of safety electronics, including stability control, traction control and even hill descent control and hill start assist. 6 airbags are standard, along with anti lock brakes and 4 wheel discs. A rear view camera makes parking much safer and easier as well.

The biggest change is the engine. Where the GLS had the excellent Theta-II gasoline engine, this 4WD R version gets a diesel CRDI motor, complete with an electronic variable geometry turbo and intercooler. Unlike the old wastegate turbo in the previous Tucson, the new eVGT CRDI has an impressive output of 177 metric horsepower and 392 newton meters of torque. The engine is very potent and smooth, something that Hyundai's diesels have been known for lately, and the 6-speed automatic is a great match for it.

Punch the throttle and the Tucson will lunge forward rather quickly for a diesel, as the lag has been reduced by the new turbo system. The powertrain has been optimized for power, and hence doesn't return as good fuel economy figured as expected, with 9.2 kilometers per liter in city limits and 15.4 on the highway, only marginally better than its petrol counterpart.

The drivetrain is now 4WD, and activates automatically under slippery conditions or can be manually overridden at the push of a button. As such, the Tucson is capable of light to moderate off road trails. The suspension is also quite high tech in the Premium version, which automatically adjusts the dampening of the shock absorbers to the situation to either return better comfort or handling.

Going into this review, I already had a lot of high hopes for this car, and indeed most of them have been met. The only real issue is the price, which at PhP 1,698,000 is already knocking at the price range of the 7-seat SUV class, and already over half a million more than the GLS we tested earlier. However, considering the high level of kit, the Tucson Premium is relatively good value for the features (compared to the class), though I'm still partial to the excellent value of the midrange Tucson GLS Theta-II.