2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD Road Test Review

By : Trevor Hofmann
  Hyundai has refreshed its bestselling Santa Fe for 2017, so we tested the long-wheelbase XL in Luxury trim to find out if it’s still up to snuff. First off it drives great value at just over $32k thanks to a standard 7-occupant seating, 290-hp V6, Eco, Normal, and Sport modes, 18-inch alloys, lots of metal detailing and LEDs, a windshield de-icer, remote entry, heatable powered seats, A/C, a 5-inch touchscreen, backup camera, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB and aux jacks, no-charge metallic paint, loads of safety gear and .......
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
 
The Santa Fe is far and away the bestselling mid-size SUV in Canada, which is a sizeable feat considering it sells into one of the
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
most profitable segments in the mainstream volume-branded auto sector. The only other model Hyundai achieves number one status with is the lowly subcompact Accent that totally blows its competitors off the sales chart by selling more than twice as many units as its next closest rival, but this is a category that most would normally expect the value-oriented brand to do well in.

Like the Accent, Hyundai makes the Santa Fe in two unique body styles. The most popular is the smaller five-passenger version that goes by the name of Santa Fe Sport, its sales reaching 22,967 units over the first 11 months of 2016, and 26,685 for the previous full year. That's pretty impressive considering it's continued forward more or less unchanged since its last complete redesign in 2012 for the 2013 model year. Its sales have actually been remarkably steady with
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
27,580 down the road in 2014, 26,010 in 2013, and 23,394 in 2012, while its very well designed predecessor posted similar numbers in its last couple of years.

The larger Santa Fe XL replaced the near premium Veracruz in March of 2013 as a 2014 model and has seen its sales increase year by year, with 2013 resulting in 3,210 down the road, 2014 seeing 4,894 deliveries, and 2015 attracting 6,561 buyers, while so far this year Hyundai has found a total of 7,604 new XL owners, with December's tally still yet to be finalized at the time of writing. That's the kind of success an automaker wants to see, the two Santa Fe models combining for 30,571 year-to-date sales, which means it's second only to Ford's 36,147 mid-size SUV total, but the Dearborn-based domestic automaker needs three completely unique
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
models to achieve that total, a much more expensive way to get the job done. If you combine one more Hyundai Motor Group SUV that rides on the Montgomery, Alabama-built Santa Fe's platform architecture, Kia's Sorento, the YTD total reaches a shocking 45,213 units, which not only leaves Ford in the proverbial dust, but also FCA's three Dodge and Jeep branded mid-size SUVs that only managed 35,313 deliveries.

By comparison, industry heavyweights Toyota and Honda only sold 25,657 and 6,678 mid-size SUVs respectively, the former needing four totally different models to achieve its total and the latter requiring two (although all but five sales were for the Pilot). Toyota's most popular SUV, the Highlander, was only capable of luring
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
in 11,859 buyers over the first 11 months of the year, which is less than Kia's 14,642 Sorentos and Ford's 14,262 Explorers, amongst others.

So why is the Santa Fe so incredibly popular? In a nutshell, it was a superbly designed, impressively crafted SUV when the third-generation model debuted in 2012, and it still is one of the more attractive, best built, and most value-packed mid-size SUVs four years later.

Hyundai loaned me a renewed for 2017 Santa Fe XL for a weeklong test recently, and I was once again reminded why this family of SUVs remains at the head of their class. Before getting into the details, take note my "renewed for 2017" reference
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
was because both Sport and XL models just received mid-cycle makeovers, which slightly modifies the grille and completely overhauls the lower fascia of the former and even more dramatically changes up the frontal design of the latter. Being that I tested the XL I'll mostly limit my comments to this 215-millimetre longer wheelbase, seven-passenger model from this point forward and leave the Sport to cover in a future review.

The outgoing XL has never been able to match the Sport for styling, an exceptionally difficult challenge. The smaller of the two is a great looking SUV that could easily wear a premium badge, its rear end treatment, particularly the taillights, amongst the nicest in the industry. Truly, if Hyundai's design team doesn't
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
get the replacement for this SUV right, and plays it "safe" like it did with the current Sonata, a bland and easily forgettable design compared to its daringly different yet elegantly tasteful near-premium predecessor, its first-place status may be in jeopardy. The Sonata's sales have fallen off a cliff since its redesign, and it's not only because SUVs are selling at a much faster rate than mid-size four-doors these days. Others in the family sedan class are still doing well, Chevy's Malibu proving this point by growing its sales exponentially this year, but the Sonata is too common a design to pull new buyers into Hyundai showrooms let alone keep once faithful followers singing its praises. If you see a Sonata, Ford Taurus and Subaru Legacy coming toward you, you'll be hard pressed to tell the difference.

The outgoing Santa Fe XL suffered from a similar aesthetic numbness, the sharp cutting-edge
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
lines of the stylish Sport rounded out to the point of anonymity, the lovely swept up rear quarter windows and angularly complex taillights of the former becoming big blobs of nothingness melded into a nondescript hind end… nothing to see here folks, move along. The new 2017 XL should do a better job of keeping would-be buyers interested, although not so much because Hyundai has completely redesigned its backside. The rear quarter windows remain less interesting than the Sport's, and the shape of the taillights still lack creativity, but the lenses are now more interesting thanks to greater complexity to their lens design along with optional LEDs. Likewise, Hyundai has revised the bumper with new vertical reflectors surrounded by chrome-trimmed edging, the latter mimicking a similar bumper treatment to the much more appealing frontal design.

This
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
is the angle that will sell more Santa Fe XLs. I'm not going to pretend that all of a sudden this Hyundai is a visual match for the aforementioned Kia Sorento, which is one of the most attractive SUVs in any segment, but it certainly comes across as more upscale than its predecessor, with a stronger looking version of a very similar and still rather generic trapezoidal grille, a freshening of its headlight clusters with the option of full LEDs, a much more distinctive and appealing lower engine vent, and stylish vertically stacked LED driving lights cupped in metal brightwork trim at each corner. Their design actually has aerodynamic relevance, with integrated venting that aids airflow around the front wheels. From front to back the overall restyling result is simultaneously more elegant and masculine, an impressive bit of cosmetic surgery on what was previously a soft and saggy face.

Stepping
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
past its new machine-finished 18-inch alloys with grey painted pockets, these a thoroughly up-to-date and quite sporting addition albeit not as alluring as the multi-spoked 19s in upper trims, the door of my Luxury-trimmed version opens via proximity-sensing keyless ease, the square black buttons integrated into otherwise chromed exterior door handles not as slick as some rivals that offer hidden touch-sensitive access, but the familiar interior, mostly carryover from the first rendition of this third generation Santa Fe, continues to impress.

This is just the third rung of five available trims, starting with a base FWD model that's followed by Premium, Luxury, inappropriately named Limited (I'm sure they'd sell as many of these as people would buy) and appropriately named Ultimate
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
that's new for this year (and really nice). Luxury and Limited trims get the option of six seats due to a middle row of captain's chairs replacing the usual bench, whereas the Ultimate can be had with a gorgeous Saddle leather interior. Only two trims are offered with a factory tow package, rated at 2,268 kilos (5,000 lbs) of maximum trailering capacity, these being the six-seat Luxury and Limited, so I suppose if you require seven seats and have the desire to pull a boat or camper you'll need to ask your dealer to install one from the accessories catalog, buy an aftermarket system or look elsewhere. Strange.

The base FWD model starts at a very reasonable $32,199 plus freight and fees, and comes very well equipped with a standard direct-injected, 24-valve, DOHC 3.3-litre V6 with dual continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT) that's capable of 290
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, a well proven six-speed auto with manual mode, Drive Mode Select with Eco, Normal, and Sport settings that make adjustments to throttle and transmission response, 18-inch alloys on 235/60 all-seasons, a chromed grille, auto on/off headlamps, LED DRLs, heatable power-adjustable side mirrors, chrome door handles, roof rack side rails, a rear rooftop spoiler, solar front glass, rear privacy glass, a windshield wiper de-icer, remote entry, seven-passenger three-row seating, three-way heatable front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with two-way powered lumbar support, tilt and telescopic steering, a multifunction trip computer, steering wheel-mounted audio, cruise and phone controls, an all-new centre stack design, manual climate control with A/C and auto-defog, 5.0-inch LCD colour touchscreen infotainment, a rearview camera, Bluetooth hands-free, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with satellite radio, iPod, USB and auxiliary input jacks,
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
trailer tow pre-wiring, downhill brake control, hill start assist, an alarm, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, plus more. Of note, there's no charge for metallic paint either, my tester's dark Storm Blue looking especially nice.

For $37,049 Premium trim adds all-wheel drive, LED side mirror turn signal repeaters, proximity keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a heatable steering wheel, dual-zone auto climate control with a CleanAir ionizer, a 12-way powered driver's seat, heatable second-row outboard seats, rear side window sunshades, third-row HVAC vents and controls, a 115-volt cargo area power outlet, a powered liftgate that opens on its own if you stand behind it for at least three seconds with the key fob in your pocket or purse, rear parking sensors, blindspot
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist, etcetera; while my $42,199 Luxury-trimmed tester came with everything above unless replaced with something better such as considerably larger and more advanced 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while additional niceties include LED fog lamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass and Homelink garage door opener, leather upholstery, two-way memory for the driver's seat and side mirrors, a four-way powered front passenger's seat with height adjustment, fabulous sounding 12-speaker Infinity audio, and a panoramic sunroof.

I mentioned the price of the Luxury model a moment ago, but that's not the automatic $2,500 discounted cash price Hyundai Canada is offering without even asking,
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
the no-haggling-required result being $39,699 plus freight and fees. Of course, you can push for more if you want, plus your trade could potentially work on your behalf or against you, depending on what you're driving, pushing, dragging, or flat-bedding into the dealership, but suffice to say it's a lot of SUV for the money.

As already noted there are two more trims to go, the $44,399 Limited upping the ante with 19-inch alloys on 235/55 all-seasons, HID headlights, LED taillights, metal doorsill treadplates, a Supervision gauge cluster with a 4.2-inch colour TFT LCD multi-information display, perforated leather seat inserts, and ventilated front seats; whereas top-line $48,099 Ultimate trim includes dynamic cornering headlights, an electromechanical parking brake with auto-hold, a 360-degree multi-view camera, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, autonomous
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning, this model qualifying for IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus status, whereas all Santa Fe trims received five stars from the NHTSA. By the way, that top-line Ultimate with Saddle leather trim adds a mere $200 to the bottom line while looking every bit a premium SUV.

Of course, the Santa Fe XL is much more than the sum of its parts, these features housed in an interior that was once class leading for its soft touch elements, substantive feeling hardwood-like trim, and nice metallic detailing. These details haven't changed, but it's falling a bit behind some rivals that have been more thoroughly updated since this third-gen Santa Fe arrived. Still impressive, soft touch
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
synthetic flows all the way across the dash top and down each side of the centre stack, across each door upper front and back, and even to the halfway point of the doors where padded inserts meet up with stitched leather-like armrests. The steering wheel, shifter knob and boot are wrapped in stitched leather as well, but Hyundai doesn't go as far as its Sorento cousin that wraps each A-pillar in fabric. All the Santa Fe's switchgear is above par, mind you, some even featuring a similar soft paint to the interior's harder surface panels, while the steering wheel buttons, the window toggles, and some buttons on the centre stack benefit from classy looking metallic detailing similar to the vent surrounds and door pulls, while those vents receive extremely high-quality scrolling airflow actuators.

My tester's mostly analog gauge cluster integrates a rather small monochromatic multi-information
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
display at centre, but as noted the infotainment screen is large, full-colour, and very high in resolution, while it's stuffed full of features such as navigation with detailed mapping, full audio functions including satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, all the usual phone controls, plus apps and more. The previously noted Infinity audio system is very good too, especially for dance and soul tracks that make the most of its powerful external amp and sub.

Unlike some infotainment systems, Hyundai doesn't house the dual-zone auto HVAC controls within, however, these taking up part of the centre stack interface below, which also includes quick-access audio and infotainment prompts. Three-way seat heaters are accessible via massive buttons that would work well with winter gloves, while the front seats are quite wide and therefore should be comfortable
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
for most body types. The driver's seat includes multiple settings including four-way lumbar support that moves up and down as well as in and out, something some luxury brands don't even offer.

The two rear rows offer lots of space for five passengers, the second row sliding backward and forward as well as reclining, while the third row is easy to access due to second-row seats that slide right out of way via convenient pushbuttons. When positioning the driver's seat for my admittedly average-sized five-foot-eight frame I had ample room for comfortable travel in the second row, even when pulling the seat forward to allow more legroom in the very back. I crawled into the third row too, an easy process that presented two comfortable seats I could have been happy with over short distances.

After
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
the powered liftgate released and rose up automatically, I found the 50/50-split third row easy to stow away via pull-straps on the their backsides that instantly popped the headrests down to fit behind the second row. You'll need to walk around each side of the SUV to fold the second row flat, which incidentally is an ultra-convenient 40/20/40 design allowing long cargo like skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable outboard seats, a window view and heatable cushions on their way back from the hill. It's best to slide the second-row all the way rearward when lowering all seatbacks so as to minimize gaps between the seats and load floor that could otherwise trap small items. The end result is a very accommodating cargo hold, good for 2,265 litres (80.0 cubic feet) in total. I left the third row down throughout my test drive as the XL provides 1,158 litres (40.9 cubic feet) in five-occupant form, plenty for my needs, while
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
those needing all three rows will find 382 litres (13.5 cubic feet) at their disposal, which is about the size of a compact car's trunk.

Even your most delicate cargo shouldn't get upset when on the road as the Santa Fe XL delivers an incredibly smooth ride. Truly, it's one of the most compliant in its class. It's not sporty however, so if you're looking for something to tackle the corners the shorter wheelbase (appropriately named) Sport is the better choice. The V6 provides plenty of power, and its six-speed automatic is smooth as whipped butter, but outside of features mentioned within the engine itself Hyundai doesn't include any modern-era fuel saving technologies such as auto start-stop, regenerative braking, or cylinder deactivation, so it's not exactly the most fuel friendly in its class at a claimed 12.9 L/100km city, 9.4 highway, and 11.3 combined.
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Still, this is pretty good for a large, luxurious, V6-powered seven-occupant SUV, while those sales numbers mentioned earlier likely reflect fuel prices that are now lower in most jurisdictions than they were a couple of years ago.

The next generation Santa Fe isn't due until 2018 for the 2019 model year, which means the refreshed 2017 models have long shelf lives ahead of them that, along with their excellent retail price points and no-haggle cash discounts, bode well for future resale values. What I'm trying to say is the Santa Fe, whether in Sport or XL guise, is not only worthy of comparison with any competitive SUV in every respect, but it's a smart financial choice too. Go big or go smaller, but don't drive a competitor home without first spending time in either Santa Fe.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)
 
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