Poor Santa Fe XL. Although getting a new name for 2019, it is actually the old version of Hyundai's Santa Fe crossover. Its equivalent to five passengers has been completely redesigned this year, and the XL will soon be replaced by the all-new 2020 Hyundai Palisade later this year.
But even though it was on borrowed time and was quite long in the tooth, there is a silver lining on this story. For people who need a well rounded SUV with three rows, Santa Fe XL is still remarkably compelling.
Touchy first impression
Santa Fe XL is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 252 pound-torque transmitted through a six-speed automatic transmission. My top trim Limited Ultimate tester sends power to its front wheel, but all-wheel drive is available.
In fact, all-wheel drive is the preference I prefer. The V6 engine offers very low torque, and combined with a sensitive accelerator pedal, it means that it is easy to steer the tires away from a stop light. Having a better power distribution can lead to a more even start on the net.
But with a careful footing, Santa Fe XL has proved to be a smooth operator. The great Santa Fe feels more like a plush luxury saw than a long crossover, thanks to its well-ordered suspension. Hyundai's driving quality is close to rival Lexus ES 300h.
But giant ride as it is, Santa Fe XL, feels different when I raise the pace. Body roll is noticeable, a reminder of this gadget's large size. The Honda Pilot is more complex when in a hurry, while offering a compatible ride.
Everything else about Santa Fe XL's driving experience is good. The steering is well-weighed, while being relatively direct and accurate in its response. The brake pedal is also well-modulated. Highway passing force is respectable. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and feels an urgent need to drop down on the highway, but dragging into the background when I just cross.
Fresh outside, dated inside
Although Santa Fe XL is long in the tooth, I still think it is quite attractive. Inside, it's another story, but I can't say the cottage is poorly designed. The material quality is suitable for a mid-level SUV, and there is plenty of space in first and second rows. Having said that, the third row is narrow and the story just gets worse when you venture into the load carrier to find just 13.5 cubic meters of space with all the busy seats.
So, you can take up to seven people in Santa Fe XL, but good luck finding space for all their stuff. Competitors like the Chevy Traverse, Ford Explorer and Volkswagen Atlas offer more than 20 cubic feet behind their third rows, as well as more cargo spaces behind their first and second rows. At least Santa Fe can pull up to 5000 pounds, just like the other SUVs.
Getting Hyundai's back seats folded is a breeze. The third row disappears in an instant after pulling on a pair of straps, and the middle row is equally smooth with the simple draw on a lever beside each captain's chair. The power-folding rear seat is nice, but nothing beats simplicity – and speed – with conventional folding.
Built-in modern tech
The base Santa Fe XL SE comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a 7-inch touch screen. HD and satellite radio also come standard with a six-speaker stereo. There are much more standard kits than many of Santa Fe XL's competitors.
Conversely, Hyundai is quite stingy with driver-assistant tech. If you want pedestrian-proof collision-reducing braking, adaptive cruise control, lane exit warning and adaptive headlights with automatic headlights, you don't just need to increase up to $ 39,550 Limited Ultimate trim, but then you have to choose Santa Fe XL starting at $ 30,850, but even all equipped falls Santa Fe XL on the cheaper side of the cross-segment with three rows. In this case, I would go out and start with the best Limited Ultimate trim, which comes with 19-inch wheels and key-free access. The inside has a button press start, a panoramic roof view, heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, memory space, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row captain seats, an upgraded 8-inch touch screen display with built-in navigation, Infinityand a hands-free power lift gate out backwards.
The upper trim also features standard glare protection, rear traffic monitoring, rear parking sensors and a 360 degree camera. Of course, I would add the aforementioned Tech package and all-wheel drive for $ 1,750. With all the boxes we checked at $ 44,445 out the door.
Not to be overlooked
Hyundai Santa Fe XL is the type of a lame duck crossover at this time. Soon we will get the brand new palisade to offer American three-tier crossover consumers.
But despite this inherent obsession, Santa Fe XL still keeps very good. It is nicely appointed and fun to drive. And with a base price that undermines many of its toughest competitors, it's still a great way to get three-line tools in 2019.