The good times are still rolling for Korean automaker Hyundai. It seems as though the company does very well in every market segment they compete in. Even the small, sporty Veloster tuner car is tough to keep on dealer lots. For the 2013 model year, they have reinvigorated their midsize crossover Santa Fe with the style, grace, and technology that you normally see in formidable Japanese luxury CUVs such as the Lexus RX. Upon first glance, newcomers would be hard pressed to differentiate a Hyundai from its Japanese competitors. Have you seen or experienced the Hyundai Genesis or Equus? If not, I suggest you do some homework.
Now in its third generation, Santa Fe is offered in two distinct models: Sport and Long Wheelbase (LWB). We were able to tool around with the Sport in high altitude, which is available in dealerships now, while the 3-row, 7-passenger LWB will arrive a few months down the road. During an entertaining drive in Utah, auto journalists explored the impressive features and capabilities of the Santa Fe Sport around Robert Redford’s Sundance Ranch, Park City, and Utah’s Winter Olympic Park. The $24,450 (base price) Santa Fe Sport features all-wheel drive; Active Cornering Control; 40/20/40 second row spilt seating; and rear window shades. Did we forget to mention Hyundai’s typical 10-year warranty? Talk about a safety and security blanket.
Santa Fe has been a success story for Hyundai since its debut, yet, there has always been a gap in the vehicle lineup when considering families. So this Korean CUV represents a huge opportunity for the brand. As the head of a household of four, including three girls, the Santa Fe Sport is quite impressive. I can only imagine what opportunities the LWB model will present. My wife owns a 2010 Toyota Venza and it is far from suiting an active lifestyle. For one, there is no option for a hitch nor could one be installed by Toyota. It has the glass top, so we also couldn’t get roof rails either. Hauling bikes for a family ride was out of the question. And it is far from SUV-like off-road, actually driving more like a Camry than a utility vehicle. Consequently, it is scheduled to be sold after two years of disappointment. The Santa Fe on the other hand, has an optional hitch, AWD, Downhill Brake Control, and Hill Assist Control for venturing down rough roads to campgrounds, lakes, and beaches.
For the day’s evaluation my drive partner Arv Voss and I picked out a fully loaded, Frost White Pearl exterior and Black /Saddle interior Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T priced at $35,925. With altitude elevations of 8,347 ahead of us, we were initially skeptical of the power output from the 2.0-liter Twin-scroll Turbo 4-cylinder with 264 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. Yet, we realized no obvious signs of any lack in overall power. The thing is, turbo engines are actually more impervious to high altitudes since they work harder to compress the thinner air in order to meet original boost levels. Also available for the Santa Fe are a 2.4-liter, 190 horsepower 4-cylinder engine with 181 lb-ft of torque and a bigger 3.3-liter V6 with 294-horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque; all of which receive Hyundai’s 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic Manual Shift Mode and Active Eco which helps in achieving better fuel economy. Families will be happy to know that fuel economy for the 2.4L is 22-mpg city, 33-mpg hwy and 26 combined mpg — that’s better than most four-door sedans! This is due mostly to a fitness program that enabled the 5-passenger SUV to lose 266 pounds for a new total of 3,459 pounds while the 7-passenger shed 397 pounds from the Veracruz model it replaces. Fit Fathers will respect that move.
Another striking technology on the 2013 Santa Fe is a fully active DYNAMAX AWD system by Magna Powertrain. It operates initially as a 95% FWD when there is no rear traction needed. For example, on loose gravel it would interact instantly since the system is constantly monitoring wheel rotations. Or you can put it in lock using a switch on the left panel of the steering wheel for full-time AWD. That’s exactly what I did since I enjoy the security of knowing all four wheels are initiating grip. Moreover, Active Cornering Control provides traction from side to side through torque vectoring manipulation. Specifically, brake control manages left to right traction while the center coupling monitors front to rear traction. When the limit of lateral grip is met, torque vectoring kicks in and ensures that torque is applied to the rear axle first, and then applies braking to the outward rear wheel reducing understeer and forcing the Santa Fe to tuck in. Sounds like something on a German car right?
Our vehicle was pretty special in other areas as well. The second row seats recline and slide; the rear windows have curtain shades; the front and rear seats are heated; the Panoramic roof brings in sunlight; a Proximity Key with push-button start is convenient; the 40/20/40 second row spilt seating adds flexible configuration options; and the 12-speaker Infinity sound system is just what the doctor ordered. The Santa Fe also provides a cooled glove box; heated steering wheel; de-icing for the windshield wiper; and a stain resistant cloth interior (leather is optional). How many times has your child spilled hard-to-clean juice on the seats? I wasn’t as excited about the next generation touchscreen multi-media system. The 8” screen with rear view camera is nice and tech savvy, but its operations were a bit confusing and actually diminished the ease of use and comfort of the prior generation.
Add all of the aforementioned features to a sleek and dynamic silhouette with 19” alloy rims; dual chrome exhausts tips; a rear spoiler; a chrome grille and door handles; and LED lighting, and you have one highly desirable family sports CUV. But don’t let me be the judge. There are six buildable combos for the Sport model and ten for the LWB version. Vehicles are available at dealers now for your picking.