This week, we’re driving the new long wheelbase (LWB) 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited, a luxurious V6 powered seven seater that stands tall in today’s crowded crossover market.
Built in Korea, the LWB Santa Fe may have the same name as its “distant cousin” short wheelbase (SWB) Santa Fe Sport, but the two differ greatly.
Specifically, Sport is an American built five-passenger, four cylinder, Hyundai crossover that is assembled on a completely different platform many miles from South Korea.
With this sometimes confusing Santa Fe relationship now hopefully made clear, the new generation 2014 Santa Fe Limited offers three-row seating for six or seven passengers on a longer body stretch design than previous efforts. With lots of standard luxury amenities, driver and passengers will enjoy the extra cabin room and also more cargo space, the latter most welcome for trips to the home center.
As noted in past Hyundai brand test drives, the Korean-based company has come a long way since its initial Santa Fe first hit American soil in 2000. Back then, mechanical woes and quality concerns were the norm, something Hyundai had to quickly correct. Not only did they rectify the misgivings, they began to build on perhaps the most important ingredient of a successful vehicle: namely, consumer confidence.
Today, both Hyundai and corporate twin Kia build some of the better vehicles on the road, with emphasis on safety, enhanced structural layout and mechanical competence. Notable are a bevy of consumer magazine recommendations, and relying on the industry’s first 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty as its trump card. Although many manufacturers nowadays offer the 100,000-mile warranty, few extend to the buyers Hyundai’s most impressive 10-year duration.
Under the hood, Santa Fe LWB features just one engine choice, an impressive 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 that develops 252 lb. ft. of torque and spirited acceleration. We were surprised that Santa Fe’s fuel mileage was actually better during our week long test than the EPA numbers listed on the sales sticker. With 18 city and 25 highway the expectation, we several times realized over 25 MPG for an entire run, including in town driving.
Power is transferred via a finely built Shiftronic six-speed automatic, and there’s even an active Eco button that calibrates the transmission shifting to be more fuel mileage friendly. On the road, Santa Fe is very quiet, reserved and comfortable on the freeways although I wouldn’t call it a great handler when pushed in corners. The Limited comes with 18-inch tires on lightweight alloys as standard fare, but our tester added a $4,850 Limited Technology Package that also features 19-inch tires and alloys.
The technology package features a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, eight-inch touch screen Navigation, Infinity Logic 12-speaker 550-watt surround sound stereo, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, dual climate control, and much more.
As for safety, Santa Fe’s expansive list includes every item expected and then some, from four wheel ABS disc brakes to blind spot detection with rear backup safety camera. Notable are rear view mirrors that tilt down when backing up, saving the beautiful 19-inch alloys from rubbing against those dreaded concrete curbs.
The cabin is most impressive, offering top quality surroundings for a most comfortable overall transportation experience. Our tester came in front drive form, but rest assured an AWD version is available for those who live in the snow belts.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 110.2-inches, up to 80 cubic feet of cargo space with seats down, 3,904 lb. curb weight and a 18.8 gallon fuel tank.
Santa Fe is already a winner at Hyundai showrooms, where both LWB and SWB models await your visit. Both receive Test Drive “recommendations,” and with current dealer incentives lowering the price substantially, now might be your best time to buy.
Likes: Power, new design, interior room, fuel mileage better than expected, safety.
Dislikes: Fuel mileage could still be better, expensive options, rear seat headrests impair view.
(Greg Zyla writes weekly for BestRide.com and other GateHouse Media products).