9.20.2016

All-American From Korea: The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD

Front view of 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate.
The headline above may cause some controversy, so let's establish what I meant, right off the top.  By "All-American", I'm not talking about place of manufacture, the source of the engine or transmission.  All that is Korea.  No, by "All-American", I'm talking about hitting the target of what American families in 2016 seem to want in a vehicle...and in this case, hitting pretty close to the bulls-eye.



Rear view of 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate AWD
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD.
The Santa Fe is a close cousin to, but not an identical twin of, the Kia Sorento we reviewed earlier this week.  Same platform, engine, and only one MPG different in the EPA test (17 city/22 for the Santa Fe compared to 17/23 for the Sorento).  It's the details that make the cars different.

Both, in top-of-the-line trim, come loaded (click here for a list of the Santa Fe Limited Ultimate's features), but equipped identically, the Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD is $2,400 less than the Sorento SXL AWD V6.

Interior view of 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate AWD interior.
The Santa Fe's instrument panel is a bit more driver-centric than the Sorento's, with controls not spread out as far from the driver's reach.  Having driven the Sorento just three weeks earlier, it was still fresh in my mind.  And Mrs. TireKicker and I took the Santa Fe up Highway 50 for a lap around Lake Tahoe, with a side trip (roughly) midway around to Truckee.

Map of Folsom-Tahoe-Truckee trip
Folsom to Lake Tahoe, Truckee, around the lake and home (Source: Google Maps)
There are a lot of twists and turns on that route...and being able to keep my hands closer to the steering wheel when reaching for controls was a major plus.

What kept running through my mind that day was how much more....American....the Santa Fe felt than the Sorento.  And that's not a criticism of the Sorento or the Santa Fe.  It's just that if I were buying, I'd cross-shop the Santa Fe against the Chevy Traverse and the Ford Explorer, but I'd compare the Sorento to the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander.

Which would I choose?  Tough call.  The Kia puts the extra $2,400 into nicer cabin surroundings. It feels like a more premium piece.  On the other hand, $2,400 buys (as of this writing) one thousand gallons of gas, which at the combined average of 19 miles per gallon and figuring 15,000 miles per year, works out to a little over a year and four months' worth.  I'd love to tell you that'd be an easy, logical call for me.  But the truth is,  I'd wrestle with that one. Sixteen months of free gas versus how the vehicle (Sorento or Santa Fe) made me feel over a four-year long and possibly longer span of ownership.

I'll get back to you on that one.

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