2014 Hyundai Santa Fe FE Limited AWD Saddle

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

In need of a vehicle with space to load up furniture, boxes and misc and drive it to Indianapolis, the redesigned 2014 three-row Hyundai Santa Fe fit the bill. It is slightly wider than its predecessor, and 8.5 inches longer than its little brother the Santa Fe Sport. An SUV that has changed its iteration several times since first introduced, the Santa Fe is a versatile, fit-the-bill vehicle.

While In Indy, we visited some of the highlights of this manageable city, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), on Michigan Rd. Sitting on 150 acres, the IMA has been an important part of the cultural landscape of the city of Indianapolis for nearly 130 years. One of the 10 oldest and largest Museums in the nation, IMA offers an “encyclopedic” collection of more than 54,000 works spanning 5,000 years. A vibrant calendar of public programs and events, exciting and engaging exhibitions, IMA also features a 100-acre nature park and gardens in which to walk and reflect.

Speedway, IN

Some of the Santa Fe models are outfitted with woodgrain trim, some with a gloss finish; we prefer the latter. Somehow the wood trim doesn’t fit the SUV image. Second-row passengers will find the captain’s chair seats comfortable with armrests for support. Knee and legroom is ample. Hyundai’s materials and textures get an upgrade and the cabin is quiet.

Other comforts and conveniences include roof side rails, windshield de-icer, power liftgate, heated exterior mirrors with turn signal indicators, proximity key entry with pushbutton start, heated front and second row seats, manual rear side window shades, rear seat heating/air conditioning, auto dimming interior mirror with Homelink and compass.

Safety features are plentiful on the Santa Fe and include the usual airbags, stability control, ABS, downhill brake control, HIllstart assist control, blind spot detection system and optional backup camera. New options for 2014 include blind-spot monitors and parking sensors, both of which came in handy during this snowy Chicago weather. Snow piles are everywhere.

Since most of our driving was over the highway, and the Santa Fe Limited was packed to capacity, its potential comfort was tested. It performed flawlessly. Hyundai’s six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode is mounted on the center console and shifts easily through the gears; almost unnoticeably unless the vehicle is in ECO mode when the lines become a little blurred. How much gas was saved isn’t known, but we guess not enough to make a real difference. A few times when making turns and looking for power, a noticeable lag was felt, almost as if the engine was turbocharged.

Hyundai’s electric power steering is somewhat improved in feel and design. The Santa Fe has a wide turning radius making it easy to manipulate in tight spots. We navigated the newly designed streets of Speedway, Indiana, craning our necks to look into the windows lined with race cars.

One can select from three driver selectable steering modes: Normal, Sport, Comfort. We drove in “normal” most days, but found the “sport” setting to improve tracking during highway driving. A new suspension design makes for a calmer, smoother ride. The Santa Fe glides well over bumps and uneven surfaces with hardly a jar. The longer wheelbase makes for a better ride, even when equipped with 19-inch tires.

The all-wheel-drive equipped Santa Fe models have torque vectoring control on the rear wheels and an open center differential that distributes power. This system helps when cornering; something we noticed when navigating the snowy roadways.20140301_101641_resized

Sarah Fisher's Headquarters

Sarah Fisher’s Headquarters

A favorite haunt in the Indy area is Speedway, home of the infamous Indy 500 track and surrounds. Relocating in 2012 to Speedway’s Main Street, Sarah Fisher built her $2.5-million dollar facility in conjunction with Speedway Redevelopment Commission. At 33 years old, Fisher is not just an Indy driver who competed nine Indy 500s, she is a CEO, mother, inspirational speaker and co-owner of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Her new facility houses retail space, a office area for the team and space for composite and paint departments along with a fan interactive section.

Still a favorite of this writer, the 2014 Santa Fe is much improved, outside and in. While we don’t see much resemblance to a minivan, we think it’s made the competition just that much stiffer.

SPECS

MSRP: $35,450; total vehicle price $41,290; destination $855

Engine: 3.3-.liter, GDI, V6, 290 hp., 252 lb. ft. torque

Transmission: six-speed w/SHIFTRONIC, Active On Demand All-wheel-drive system w/AWD lock

Wheelbase: 110.2 in.

Length: 93.1 in.

Width: 74.0 in.

Height: 66.1 in.

EPA fuel economy: 18/24 mpg., avg. 20 mpg

Tires: P235/50R18 (P235/55R on package)

Wheels: 18-inch alloy (19-inch on package)

Warranty:  5 yr./60,000-mile new vehicle; 10 yr./100,000-mile powertrain; 7-yr./unlimited mile anti-perforation; 5 yr./unlimited-mile roadside assistance.

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