Hands-On with the Hyundai Santa Fe GLS and Limited

Last fall, Hyundai released their beautiful new Santa Fe Sport 5-passenger Crossover CUV. This week they’re releasing their 6 and 7 passenger Santa Fe, the Limited and GLS. Hyundai gave us the opportunity to really put these vehicles to the test on the curvy and mountainy roads of San Diego and Julian, California.

The 2013 Santa Fe GLS (7 Passenger) and Santa Fe Limited (6 Passenger) still feature the Sport’s luxurious look and feel, smooth and attractive curves, and comfortable ride, but now it’s bigger, stronger, faster. It’s 8.5 inches longer and, surprisingly, there’s 35% more volume. Both the Sport and GLS feature a standard 290HP 3.3L V6 engine. The Santa Fe Limited is the 6 passenger model and has two large captain seats in the second row. The 7 Passenger GLS has a 40-20-40 bench as the second row. Both have a double seat third row, and all back seats fold almost entirely flat for a ton of storage room.

As you can imagine, the Limited model comes with most of the premium bells and whistles, standard; the GLS can be configured almost the same way. Standard to the 6 Passenger Limited is 19″ (sexy) wheels, power liftgate, proximity key with push start, gorgeous leather seats, 4.3″ display with rearview camera, dual zone automatic temperature control, instrument panel cluster LCD screen, a 115-volt power outlet (!), and some other premium details. The GLS has 18″ wheels and YES essential stain resistant cloth seats. Both are 6-speed automatic with shiftronic shifting, and they’re both available in all wheel drive. With the upgrade packages, you can add automatic headlights, 8 inch touchscreen navigation system, leather seating, heated seats for 1st and 2nd row, heated steering wheel, and more. The few features that are only available on the Limited mode is the phenomenal panoramic sun roof, 12-speaker Infinity 550 watt audio system, and rear side window sunshades.

We took out the Limited 6 Passenger AWD Santa Fe driving from the hills of San Diego, east through the mountainous trails to Julian, California. What a smooth ride! The handling was great and it felt more like driving a car than an SUV. It had some real pep too! We took the Santa Fe onto the dirt without a problem, but it’s not quite an off-roading vehicle. It’s a bit longer than the Santa Fe Sport, but it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a boat. Again, it doesn’t feel nearly as big as an SUV. The backup camera helps, as does the amazing turning diameter (36.9″ versus Ford Explorer 38.8″). It’s light too, 13% lighter than the Ford Explorer.

It was as comfortable driving as it was sitting in. As a 6’2″ male, the first two rows of seats were extremely comfortable. I was even able to fit in the third row, though it’s not ideal for long rides. There was power seating, heated seats, and lumbar support, but unfortunately no memory seating for different keys or drivers. There’s a really cool feature where you can turn the steering style from normal to “comfort” or “sport”, and loosening or tightening the steering wheel based on personal preference. The instrument panel has a beautiful mix of analog and digital displays. The instruments panel with LCD screen has all the info you could possibly care about while driving (i.e. directions, music, standard gauges), and the steering wheel has all the necessary buttons and controls to keep you from getting distracted.

With a 6 and 7 passenger vehicle, what’s more important than safety? As we just mentioned, the driver has controls and information at their fingertips without having to take their eyes off the road. There’s voice commands for the navigation system and also for hands-free Bluetooth calling. Hyundai offers a subscription service for Blue Link which is much like OnStar. Blue Link delivers a myriad of information to your vehicle, but also offers a service if you’re ever on the road and need some help. Other safety features include hillstart assist, downhill brake control, brake assist, and a traction control system–all are standard. There’s 7 airbags including a knee airbag for the driver.

Verdict

The Santa Fe GLS and Limited seems to be the ultimate family car. Santa Fe has a ton of space and it’s just as great for carpools as it is for moving furniture. The external design is really attractive and it’s definitely going to appeal to younger parents. With luck, the Santa Fe 6 and 7 passenger can put an end to the classic/dated mini-van. The Santa Fe is rated for 18MPG city, and 25 highway, but somehow we managed 26MPG, which was quite surprising. Also, it only requires regular unleaded fuel.

What blew us away was the luxurious look and feel of Santa Fe. There’s also not a huge pricing gap between the base model and loaded up model. The GLS starts at $28,350 and tops out at $33,400. The Limited starts at $33,100 and tops out at $36,000. Add $1,750 for all wheel drive. Coming in under $40K, it’s a lot of car for the money. Hyundai is also supposed to have the second best residual value of any car brand (Honda is #1), which is comforting.

Since we’re tech-enthusiasts, we’ll leave off with our tech impressions. The Limited model we took out had just about every feature we could want, however there was nothing cutting edge. For music, the Santa Fe is top notch. You can plug in your iPhone to the USB and have all your music show up on the nav screen, album artwork, info, and more! Then there’s CD, AM/FM, HD Radio, XM, Bluetooth audio, and AUX audio. The navigation was good, but pretty average. It’s intuitive enough and the voice activation worked well. It’s even upgradeable ($) with the included SD card. We absolutely loved having charging power throughout the Santa Fe (front middle and back) including a 115v power adapter. You could charge a laptop! Santa Fe has the technology that all cars should have today, it’s just missing some of the more cutting edge features like air conditioned seats, lane switching sensors, or automatic parallel parking.

Has Hyundai converted us into Hyundai people? Only time will tell, but it was a fun experience getting to take out the Santa Fe on such a scenic hike. We were out there with a bunch of other bloggers and while Hyundai taught us, it also felt like we taught them. They observed our usage behavior and recorded all of our feedback. This is part of their process for improving and enhancing their vehicles, which is great!

The 2013 Hyundai GLS 7 Passenger and Limited 6 Passenger are currently available, as of this week.

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