Thursday, August 4, 2016



Hyundai has announced that this past month was its best July ever in sales with the 75,003 vehicles sold representing an increase of 5.6 percent over the numbers for July 2015.

Driving those overall numbers (pun intended) are the South Korean automaker’s two crossover SUVs, the Tucson and the Santa Fe.

In fact a closer look at the sales numbers reveals the Tucson and Santa Fe were two of only three Hyundai vehicles that showed an actual increase for the month, the other being the Accent.

The other six vehicles in the Hyundai portfolio all showed slight declines for the month of July, though the Sonata’s total for the year-to-date is up slightly from the same time period for 2015. (For a complete look at the report, go to

All this is just a round-about way of getting down to what I actually am writing about here, which is the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate I recently had the pleasure of driving for a week. (Strangely, though it has been around for over 10 years now, I have yet to have the Tucson for a week’s test. But I digress.)

I have followed the development of the Santa Fe casually for quite some time now. In May of 2003 I attended a preview of the then two-year-old crossover that, at the time, was getting a new 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine that seriously upgraded the vehicle’s performance. The next month I went out and bought a Santa Fe Limited 3.5L for my wife (she drove it and actually picked it), and it still is in the family with my son. That’s a serious lifespan.

The Santa Fe of today, however, is a much different vehicle from the ones of the early years. There’s no question the esthetics have undergone a major overhaul. With the redesign of 2007, the Santa Fe definitely moved upscale in luxury features, cabin comforts, and overall appearance compared to the more utilitarian vehicle with its funky styling that I had.

That’s especially true with the Limited Ultimate version that comes with a plethora of standard equipment that includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, unique five-bar grille, 8-inch touchscreen navigation system with Android Auto and a multi-view camera system, hands-free liftgate with auto open, keyless operation and push-button start, heated and ventilated front seats, leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a panoramic sunroof, and more.

They’re all included in the $39,400 MSRP. Top it off with a optional Ultimate Tech Package (adaptable cruise control, emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, electronic parking brake with auto hold, HID headlamps) plus the $895 destination and delivery charge and the total for the test car came to $42,545.

I’ll be up front here. That is a lot more than what I paid for my 2003 Santa Fe Limited 3.5L, even accounting for inflation. But it’s a lot more vehicle, too.

Under the hood is a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque and mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. When it comes to fuel consumption, that combination is clocks in at 17 miles-per-gallon city, 23 highway, and 20 combined, which is typical for the segment.

The first couple of days I drove it, I was looking for more oomph, but then I had spent the previous week in the Cadillac ATS-V with its less than four-second zero-to-60 mph clocking, so my judgement was probably a little skewed. Everything is relative. The Santa Fe’s horsepower and torque numbers are easily competitive in the midsize SUV segment.

After driving it a while, I still would have liked a bit more throttle response, and I got it when I switched from normal to sport mode, which essentially keeps the engine revs a bit higher for that extra boost. There’s also an eco mode, btw, with all the modes selected by pushing a button to the left of the steering wheel. That’s one of several new features added for 2017 along with the new multi-view camera system, a third-row USB outlet, and second-row cupholders.

All in all, this is a vehicle worth considering if a mid-size SUV is in your future.

What I liked about the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate: This is a good-looking vehicle with ambiance that rivals entries in the luxury segment. The ride is comfortable and quiet, and getting back to the third row seats is made easy by the standard second-row captain’s seats in the second row, and the third flips down with the pull of a cord at the rear. (FYI, the Santa Fe is offered with six- or seven-passenger seating depending on the trim. If you just want five-passenger seating, there’s the Santa Fe Sport.)

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate: I couldn’t find much of anything to not like about this vehicle.  Storage space behind the third row is listed as 13.5 cubic feet, but most of it is vertical. For serious hauling, you’ll have to lower the third-row seats to get 40.9 cubic feet.

Would I buy this vehicle? If it was in my budget, yes. And you don’t have to spend over $40,000 to get one. While the top-of-the-line Limited Ultimate with all-wheel drive carries an MSRP of 41,150, the base SE trim with front-wheel drive starts at $30,800.

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