It's no secret that the launch of Hyundai's Santa Fe in '01 has helped the company grow from selling 90,000 units a year in 1998 to 375,000 in 2002. Thus, in order to stay viable in an increasingly competitive market, Hyundai has added displacement, power, and revised gearing to its car-based SUV, along with a new four-wheel-drive system.
Nothing has changed about the Santa Fe's appearance, but the '04 model is now available with an optional 3.5-liter V-6, bringing engine choices to three, including the 2.7-liter V-6 and 2.4-liter I-4. The 3.5-liter Sigma engine, borrowed from the XG350, makes 219 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm and 195 horsepower at 5500 rpm. This is up 37 lb-ft and 22 horsepower from the 2.7-liter's performance and results in an almost 1.5-second drop in its 0-60-mph time.
The new Shiftronic five-speed transmission pairs well with the 3.5-liter V-6, and we were pleasantly surprised by the refined shifts and overall smoothness of the gearbox's operation. All 3.5-liter Santa Fes are now offered with a full-time electronic 4WD system designed by BorgWarner; the 2.7-liter remains available with a mechanically engaged 4WD.
Hyundai is all about building value-packed cars, and the Santa Fe 3.5L is no exception. It offers big V-6 power, plenty of torque, and a polished five-speed automatic for about $1000 less than its nearest competitor. Though its overwrought exterior styling may never grow on us, it's hard to overlook the value the Santa Fe presents.
|2004 Hyundai Sante Fe 3.5L|
|Price as tested||$22,999|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, 4wd, 4-door, 5-pass|
|Engine||3.5L/195-hp V-6, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|0-60 mph, sec||9.7|
|1/4 mile, sec/mph||17.02 @ 81.09|
|Braking, 60-0 mph, ft||132|
|600-ft slalom, mph||57.7|
|On sale in U.S.||Currently|