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By Reed Berry
I wonder how Santa Fe got its name. I have to assume that a couple of Hyundai executives were driving through New Mexico one day trying to come up with something creative and, after eliminating cities like Alamogordo (sounds more like a skin condition), Albuquerque (how many people can actually spell it?) and Truth or Consequences (would anyone under 40 even know that this city was named for a classic TV audience participation show?), they arrived in Santa Fe and came up with the perfect name for a crossover SUV.
Okay, so that story probably has nothing to do with how this vehicle was actually named but, much like a scenic drive through the Southwest, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate is nice to look at and once you’re in it you’ll want to stay a while. In keeping with Hyundai’s tradition of sculpted styling, the new Santa Fe looks great inside and out. It’s big and spacious and, with three rows of seating, has plenty of room for family, friends or Uber passengers – whatever your particular needs may be.
I’m glad I’m just road testing an SUV and not actually shopping for one at the moment. There are so many on the market, some of which are very impressive. Picking one would really be quite difficult so, as intelligent car buyers tend to do, you must consider the price/value relationship. The Santa Fe line has four trim levels (each available with front wheel or all-wheel drive) that range in price from the front wheel drive SE at just under $31,000 to the all-wheel drive Limited Ultimate at around $41,000 so, from what I can see at first glance, there seems to be quite a bit for your car buying dollar.
Most newer SUVs are designed to be much more streamlined than the big, boxy behemoths of the past and Santa Fe is no exception. In fact, Hyundai has become known for exceptional exterior design so, not surprisingly, Santa Fe has a sleek, fresh look. The low-profile roof rails, bold five-bar grille and chromed dual exhaust adds to the sporty appearance and gives the vehicle a look of quality and attention to detail.
On the inside, Santa Fe is driver friendly and very comfortable. I appreciate the fact that everything has been intelligently arranged for maximum convenience. Unlike a number of vehicles I’ve driven recently that have managed to hide them or make them difficult to reach, the USB and auxiliary jacks in Santa Fe are in plain view at the base of the console. Not only are they easy to access, they are illuminated to help you find them easily at night.
Convenient steering wheel mounted controls allow me to manage everything from cruise control and radio volume to my hands-free Bluetooth phone calls. The premium audio system with surround sound does a decent job and sounds fairly crisp. Of the HD radios I’ve experienced in various vehicles over the last several years, this is certainly among the best with clear sound and a minimum of drop out and muddiness. A big, bright 8-inch touch screen facilitates control of the infotainment system and navigation, and there’s a cool multi-camera system that not only includes a back-up camera but also serves to provide a simulated overhead view to further assist you in safe backing.
Santa Fe is big on interior comfort. Whereas most crossovers tend to pamper only the driver and front seat passenger, the Santa Fe Limited Ultimate comes equipped with big, comfy captain’s chairs in the first and second rows. The third row has 50/50 split bench seating. Front seats are heated and ventilated; second row seats are heated. Seating surfaces are leather, as are the steering wheel and shift knob.
As for engine options at the various Santa Fe trim levels, well, you really don’t have any. Santa Fe is equipped with a 290-horsepower V6 engine – period. It’s a fairly large vehicle and some may think a V8 would be necessary. Actually, the the V6 operates very smoothly and efficiently, as does the six-speed automatic transmission with which it is paired. The combination provides impressive power as I make my way down the coast from Long Beach to Orange County.
The vehicle’s handling is exceptional. Unlike some crossovers and full size SUVs that can be a bit unwieldly and make you feel as though you are driving an apartment building down the street, Santa Fe is pleasantly agile and makes maneuvering through traffic quite easy. Steering is firm and responsive and, so you can adjust the driving characteristics to your liking, there is a drive mode selector allowing you to switch between Eco, Comfort and Sport.
One of the most impressive things about the Limited Ultimate is the long list of standard features, including a panoramic sunroof and hands-free liftgate. There are four 12-volt power outlets throughout the vehicle and there are even climate controls and a USB outlet for third row passengers. Many safety features are also standard, such as blind spot detection and several strategically placed air bags (including a driver’s knee airbag) for maximum occupant protection.
Additional safety features are included in my test vehicle’s $2,100 Ultimate Tech Package, such as lane departure warning and automatic braking with pedestrian detection. The tech package also includes Dynamic Bending Light, a cool system that allows the lights to move in the direction of the curve as the driver turns the steering wheel. What a cool new technology. Well, it isn’t really that new when you stop to think that the 1948 Tucker (read about it in your history book or see the movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream”) had a center-mounted third headlight that moved in the direction the car was turning. So, it may not be new but it is still a very cool feature on Santa Fe.
Cargo volume is respectable for a vehicle of its size. There is a full 80 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats and 40.9 cubic feet behind the second row. Behind the third row, it drops considerably to a mere 13.5 cubic feet. Not an abundance of space but sufficient for a few bags of groceries or a couple of small suitcases.
Another of Santa Fe’s highlights is the exceptional warranty coverage, with a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty a 5-year/60,000 mile limited warranty and five years (unlimited miles) of 24-hour roadside assistance.
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For more information on Hyundai products, go to www.hyundaiusa.com.
Name of vehicle:
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate
As Tested: $41,990
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City / Highway / Combined):
3.3-liter gasoline direct injection V6
290 HP @ 6,400 rpm
252 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
6-speed automatic with Shiftronic manual shift mode
Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS)
Front: MacPherson struts with gas-filled damper and stabilizer bar
Rear: Multi-link with gas shock absorber and stabilizer bar
4-wheel, 4-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)
19-inch alloy wheels
Overall length: 193.1”
Overall width (excluding mirrors): 74.2”
Overall height: 66.9” (with roof rails)
Curb weight (pounds): 4,017 (FWD)/4,169 (AWD)
EPA size classification*:
* Passenger car classes are designated by the EPA based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two-seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions.