2006 Hyundai Santa Fe Review
Competence, practicality, value.
The Hyundai Santa Fe offers good handling, particularly in the two-wheel-drive version. The front-drive Santa Fe proved to be more fun and more responsive than the heavier four-wheel-drive models. It doesn't feel top-heavy like some SUVs. The brakes are refreshingly responsive, even before the antilock brakes kick in.
The 2.7-liter V6 produces 170 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Those are good numbers. EPA-estimated City/Highway fuel economy is 19/25 mpg with front-wheel drive, 18/23 mpg with four-wheel drive.
The 3.5-liter V6 comes paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. It offers lots of throttle response once it's going. It's a little lethargic off the line and the throttle response isn't linear, but the owner should be able to calibrate his or her foot to it. The 3.5-liter engine develops 200 horsepower and 219 pound-feet of torque. EPA-rated City/Highway fuel economy is 17/23 mpg. The front-wheel drive 3.5-liter Santa Fe, equipped with trailer brake, is rated to tow up to 3,300 pounds, enough to handle a small boat trailer.
Santa Fe models equipped with all-wheel drive use one of two different systems, depending on whether the 2.7-liter or 3.5-liter engine supplies the power.
We found the mechanical full-time four-wheel-drive system that's available with the 2.7-liter V6 capable for light off-road driving in Southern California. The system appears to do a good job of sending the torque where it's needed, especially with the traction control (standard). This system is compact and clever and was developed by Austrian four-wheel-drive specialists Steyr-Daimler-Puch. The system combines proven engineering in innovative ways. A planetary differential inside the front transaxle splits the drive torque equally between the front wheels, and 60/40 between the front and rear axles. A viscous coupling between the front and rear axles overrides the differential if the wheels at either end begin to slip. This is a simple, purely mechanical system that's been around for decades, and it works very well with no attention whatever from the driver. All four wheels are driven all the time, with the coupling limiting the difference in speed between the front and rear axles. So if a front wheel starts to spin, torque is immediately re-directed to the rear, and vice versa.
Santa Fe 3.5-liter models come with a new and more sophisticated electronic system that Hyundai calls InterActive Torque Management (ITM). This system still requires no driver input. It drives only the front wheels most of the time, but monitors their traction with a computer, and distributes torque to the rear wheels only when necessary. The main advantage of ITM is optimized fuel economy with all-wheel-drive traction. A 3.5-liter Santa Fe with all-wheel drive gets an EPA rating of 17/23, comparable efficiency to the lighter front-wheel-drive version. The electronic ITM system available with the 3.5-liter V6 was developed by U.S. gearbox veteran Borg-Warner. It relies on a series of wet clutches mounted just ahead of the rear axle. A computer monitors wheel speed, throttle position and steering angle, and engages the clutches when necessary.
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