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2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Frank Washington | 7/17/2013, 6:50 p.m.
First impressions are important and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD made a good one. From the earliest moments ...

First impressions are important and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD made a good one.

From the earliest moments of the test drive, the 2013 Santa Fe had a premium ambience. The 3.3–liter direct injection six cylinder engine was quiet. The 290 horsepower it generated gave Hyundai’s crossover some road authority.

There is always security in power and the Santa Fe had it. Mated to a six speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability, the vehicle was as smooth as some of the best luxury utility vehicles on the market.

The all-wheel-drive system was front wheel biased, sending 98 percent of the torque to the forward wheels. But the system had the capability of splitting the torque as needed; sending up to 52 percent of it to the rear wheels.

Although the Santa Fe Limited was a three-row crossover utility vehicle, it did not seem oversized, or truck like. It had ample oomph on the expressways here, lane changes were smooth and it handled the potholes and traffic of surface streets in a normal fashion.

Still, the Santa Fe is a relatively large vehicle and it could have used blind side alert which it didn’t have.

A downside of three-rowed crossover utility vehicles is the ease with which they change lanes. Just a quick glance, a twitch of the steering wheel and you are in the next lane over before you know it. But you can often literally look over the hood of a vehicle that is in your blind side or right next to you and that can lead to trouble.

One of the upsides of electric power steering is that it can be made adjustable. The Santa Fe had three steering settings: comfortable, normal and sport. The normal setting provided some feedback from the road and it was responsive to driver input.

The driver position in the Santa Fe seemed like a button laden control room. Controls were in the steering wheel including cruise control and a redundant set for the audio system. There were controls on the left side of the dash that included the steering wheel heat control, the eco drive control and the 4-wheel-lock. The center stack held the normal audio and climate controls and the navigation screen.

Voice control was impressive. A test is to say a one syllable name to see if the system can select the right person off your smartphone contact list. The Santa Fe’s system passed. So a two syllable name was tried, it got that right too.

Torque could be delivered to any single wheel through the multi clutch plate of Hyundai Santa Fe’s all-wheel-drive system,

The interior was beige and brown with perforated leather seats that looked like they were heated and cooled but weren’t. But the front seats were heated; so were the second row captain’s seats. And surprisingly the third row had its own climate controls.

Third rows are always difficult to access. But in the third row of the Santa Fe, head and legroom were close but it was relatively comfortable. Still, getting out of the third row was a challenge for the fully grown in size as well as chronologically.

A power liftgate and a panoramic sun roof added to the premium feel of the Santa Fe. A 115 volt, three prong socket on the wall panel behind the third row seats seemed like it would come in handy. However, there wasn’t that much cargo space behind the third row. To carry anything sizable, the third row seat had to be folded.

Even though Hyundai has been moving its product line upstream for the last few years, the Korean automaker still believes in value for the dollar. The test vehicle had the optional technology package.

It featured the panoramic sunroof, touch screen navigation system, a 12-speaker, 550 watt surround sound premium audio system, HD radio, heated steering wheel and rear side window manual sun shades. Priced at $2,900, the package was a few extra dollars for a whole lot more.

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD was $38,730 as tested.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.