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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Exploring the New 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe: A Rugged and Adventurous Ride

Hyundai Canada flew us to the Sunshine Coast in BC to test the new Santa Fe. Specifically, we drove the XRT and the blinged-out Ultimate Calligraphy models; both rocked the 2.5L turbocharged engine that produces 277hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, using an 8-speed wet dual-clutch. The underpinnings are the same as the outgoing model but are tuned differently to give the XRT a better towing capacity. Hyundai tweaked the other models to achieve a better fuel economy. It's also good to see that this is the same engine as other Hyundai products, such as the Hyundai Sonata N, which naturally caters to enthusiasts. It gives us a good reliability report of the mechanism under the hood. Interestingly, all Santa Fe's with this engine are assembled at the Alabama plant. 

Hyundai Santa Fe
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

Surprisingly, the base models come standard with a hybrid option: a 1.6L turbocharged engine making 231 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque at 1000 rpm, giving it a smoother city drive. Hyundai took what worked in the previous generation and improved on these factors. We have yet to test the hybrid as it's assembled in Korea and should be at dealerships this summer. We will share our thoughts once we can get our hands on one. Those looking for a plug-in hybrid may be disappointed as Hyundai currently does not plan on offering this vehicle in North America, citing current regulatory changes to PHEVs, which renders them ineligible for government incentives. 

Hyundai has come out with many unique designs lately; in this case, the new Santa Fe takes design cues from the Land Rover Defender, which is quite attractive. This resemblance continues inside, mainly the center console and even the steering wheel, with four little dots referring to the letter H in Morse code. The whole interior feels fresh and well-assembled. The ergonomics are well-balanced, especially in the Ultimate Calligraphy, which comes with a driver's relaxation seat that is ideal for taking a nap or reading and that you can activate with the push of a button. Another unusual feature is that it offers a UV-C Sterilization Tray that can remove up to 99% of the germs on the surface within ten minutes. 

How does it drive? As it comes standard with Continental TerrainContact A/T, the XRT drives differently and lets more road noise into the interior. The transmission is tuned to accommodate the additional towing capacity of 4500 lbs compared to the 3500 lbs capacity on other trims with the 2.5L turbo engines and 2500 lbs of the hybrid. It does come with a fuel penalty of 0.2L/100km, as per Hyundai, which we think is a little conservative for the combined fuel economy of the XRT. As for the Ultimate Calligraphy, it could fool anyone if we told them that the vehicle was from a luxury brand. It feels better insulated from outside noises, and the engine feels even more refined. Hyundai has taken another leap forward. Behind the wheel of Santa Fe, around the twisty roads of British Columbia, we often forget how big the vehicle is; the car feels much smaller. 

Hyundai has certainly designed this vehicle to be more than a family vehicle. In a certain way, Hyundai wants to join the lifestyle and adventuring craze. Certain design elements, like the C-pillar assist handle, allow you to access the roof much easier compared to other SUVs, where you may need a ladder to jump onto it. Our first concern was what would happen if it rained. Would there be an accumulation of water? Hyundai thought of it and has installed drains, so this would not occur. I could easily see this vehicle for Overlanding, especially with its aggressive pricing and 50 available accessories, such as a kayak carrier and crossbar paddleboard carrier. The fact that you can store bikes vertically when removing the front wheel is another hint that this vehicle is a catered adventure for families. Pricing starts at $40,999 and goes up to $53,499 for the Ultimate Calligraphy, which is aggressive for this segment. 

The XRT's sound system felt nice but did not match the 12-speaker Bose sound system in the Ulitmate Calligraphy. Technology-wise, Hyundai now offers a digital key on most trims to let you start the vehicle and open the doors. You also get a fingerprint reader to start the vehicle in the Ultimate Calligraphy. You also get a huge 12.3 cluster incorporating wireless Android and Apple CarPlay. Software for the vehicle receives over-the-air updates, so minor changes to the vehicle's software may no longer require a visit to the dealer. 

Finally, we would have loved to see a hybrid engine attached to the top trim, such as the Calligraphy, to make it stand out even more compared to the rest of the lineup while still getting stellar fuel economy with the top trim. Overall, we were impressed with the vehicle and can't wait to test the hybrid. 

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