“We listen very carefully to the market,” says Robert F. Cosmei, vice president national sales for Hyundai. And what they heard was a plea for more “hump” and a little more power. Hyundai has answered their plea. For 2004, you can pack a little more punch into your Santa Fe by opting for a 3.5L V-6 available as an option on GLS models and standard on the LX.
The 3.5L Sigma engine was plucked from the XG350 sedan and shoehorned into the Santa Fe. The iron-block, aluminum-head engine makes 195 hp at 5,500 rpm and 219 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm — 20 percent more torque than the standard 2.7L V-6.
The 3.5L engine is mated to a 5-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission that allows the driver the option of manually shifting gears by moving the lever to the right of the gate.
Hyundai engineers had to do some extensive repackaging of the engine compartment to accommodate the new motor — re-routing hoses and rearranging some components. The engine cradle was also modified with the installation of new motor mounts and the heavier engine necessitated revised spring rates and shock absorber valving for the front suspension.
The 2003 Santa Fe uses the same Borg-Warner electronic 4WD system that’s found on the Acura MDX, but without all of the bells and whistles.
While the system seamlessly transfers traction from front to back when necessary, Hyundai wasn’t able to utilize all of the traction control functions of the system because Santa Fe’s traction control software isn’t compatible with the Borg-Warner system.
Hyundai says that the next-generation Santa Fe that will be built in the new Montgomery, Ala., assembly plant in 2005 will fully utilize the systems capabilities.
What We Think
The engine and 4WD option add $1,400 to Santa Fe’s sticker, which puts the top-ofthe- line XL at $24,999. The 2004 Santa Fe retains its unique styling and, best of all, Hyundai’s 10-year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. While Hyundai has made great strides in quality, it’s still price and warranty that bring most buyers into the showroom. And while those things have helped Hyundai increase sales, it may be a while before they reach their goal — becoming a top-five OEM manufacturer.
|2003 Hyundai Santa Fe|
What is it? A five-passenger, mid-size SUV.
Who’s it for? An SUV buyer looking for good-quality, affordable transportation.
Where’s it built? Ulsan, Korea
Competitors: Honda Pilot, Ford Escape, Toyota Highlander.
|The XG350’s 3.5L V-6 was a tight fit in Santa Fe’s engine bay.|
|Interior materials are better quality than some domestic competitors.|
|Santa Fe boasts 77.7 cu.-ft. of cargo space with the back seat folded down.|