Hyundai’s current Santa Fe SUV has the looks and now its got some zip with the launch of a sporty range-topping variant called the ‘SR’. This is not a ‘stickers and stripes’ gloss over – Hyundai is way too smart for that – and, for example, the SR runs brakes from Italian specialist Brembo.
The Hyundai Santa Fe SR really is good news for large SUV buyers looking for a sporty edge - rivals like Kia Sorento, Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger just don’t have a variant to match. We’re thinking the Product Planning departments at Kia, Ford and Toyota might be doing some overtime right now.
Armed with an impressive armada of products across most market segments, there’s no doubt Hyundai is on a roll in Australia. For the six months which ended in June, the Korean giant ranked as our fourth most-popular automotive brand with sales of 50,099 vehicles – comfortably ahead of the likes of Mitsubishi and Ford.
Hyundai Santa Fe SR Overview
The Hyundai Santa FE SR is based on the previous range-topping seven-seat Highlander grade which means it is comprehensively equipped with features such as automatic HID Xenon headlights, LED DRLs, 7.0-inch touchscreen satellite navigation, 10-speaker premium audio, heated and ventilated front row seats, heated second row seats, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning with vents for all three seating rows, twin-panel panoramic glass roof, front/rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
Sporty additions for the SR model start with a bodykit comprising a front spoiler, side skirts and a motorsport style rear diffuser. Then there are 19-inch OZ Racing wheels with high-performance Michelin tyres.
Underneath is an Australia-developed suspension system including springs from specialist H&R Performance and braking package from Brembo of Italy with bright red four-piston monobloc calipers front and rear.
All of that with change from $60K - $59,990 to be precise. And that folks is great value.
Hyundai Santa Fe SR Engine
Propulsion comes exclusively from Hyundai’s excellent 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. Hyundai restricts the 2.4-litre petrol engine to the entry-level Santa Fe Active model.
So we’re talking the ‘R2.2 CRDi’ with a variable geometry turbocharger and third-generation common-rail fuel injection. Maximum power is 145kw at 3800rpm and peak torque is a handy 436Nm delivered from 1800-2500rpm.
Drive is to all four wheels via Hyundai’s own six-speed automatic transmission with sequential manual mode.
For combined-cycle fuel consumption the Hyundai Santa Fe SR scores 7.2l/100kms.
Hyundai Santa Fe SR The Interior
Fittingly for a car with sporty overtures, the Hyundai Santa Fe SR comes with just one interior choice – black leather. And those black leather seats are excellent – heated and ventilated up-front, heated in the second row and the driver scores 12-way electronic adjustment and lumbar support.
The driver is presented with a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel, Hyundai’s usual excellent instrumentation and slick carbon fibre-look dashboard surrounds. To the left is the seven-inch satellite navigation screen and 10-speaker audio system.
Second row passengers are well looked after with good space and shoulder room.
The third row – like most SUVs – is best for youngsters.
And, like all current Hyundai’s, material choices are top-notch and it’s all screwed together to world-class standards delivering a solid ‘last-forever’ feel.
Cargo space is 516-litres with all seats in-place or 1615-litres when folded.
Hyundai Santa Fe SR Exterior & Styling
As soon as we first laid eyes on the latest Santa Fe, while acknowledging it is Hyundai’s best design work so far, we did float the idea that some after-market ‘tweaks’ could make it look ‘hot’. Paint choices for the SR are ‘Creamy White’, ‘Sleek Silver’, ‘Titanium Silver’ or ‘Phantom Black’ - we’d go for the white of our test car as it best highlights the black alloys.
White paint also best highlights the SR’s unique and nicely crafted bodykit – front spoiler, side skirts and a race car-like rear diffuser.
Same for the black plastic wheel-arch protectors which blend nicely with those 19-inch OZ Racing wheels. While the wheels nicely full the wheelarches, interestingly they’re sized the same as the standard wheels on the Highlander. “For us it wasn’t about the wheels being bigger and wider, or having a different offset, but about spoke design and the required caliper clearance,” explained Hyundai Australia’s Product Planning boss Andrew Tuitahi.
Hyundai Santa Fe SR On The Road
Hyundai has always made a big play about its local suspension tuning. And rightly so – for the factory to authorize local development and then fitment of unique specification components on the assembly line in Korea is a big deal.
For the Santa Fe SR, the team used as its base the Santa Fe Sport Package from Hyundai’s Korea-based customizing team and eventually settled on the standard Santa Fe dampers which are sourced from Mando in Korea, but added orange-painted springs from H&R Performance. These are six per-cent stiffer in the front and 11 per-cent stiffer in the rear than the standard Santa Fe springs.
Brakes come from Brembo and - apart from the red-painted calipers - we have 340mmx28mm front discs and 302mmx22mm rears. Hyundai says from 60km/h to zero, the Santa Fe SR stops eight per-cent faster than a regular Highlander model.
Dimensionally the 19x8 OZ Racing wheels are identical to the Highlander’s alloy wheels but, as we mentioned, the shape of the SR model’s wheels provides better clearance for the Brembo brake calipers. Tyres are 235/55 R19 Michelin Latitude Tour and, it must be said, these are very much on-road tyres rather than ‘get me to Cape York’ tyres.
All of which is important because it’s the wheels/tyres/suspension which make the Hyundai Santa Fe SR tick. And that’s not to overlook Hyundai’s torque-rich 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.
And that’s not a back-handed compliment to the regular Santa Fe Highlander which keen steerers would enjoy anyway.
But the combination of those firmer H&R Performance springs and the meaty Michelin rubber does make a noticeable difference to the driving dynamics. Over our high-speed mountain roads rest route, swapping cogs manually in Hyundai’s excellent six-speeder, the Santa Fe SR gave a polished performance highlighted by a ‘pointiness’ going into corners, lots of grip mid-turn and plenty of precision on the way out.
Of course this is an AWD SUV so, at the limit, there was some understeer – but even so, this is the sporty Santa Fe model we always suspected lurked within the minds of Hyundai’s local Product Planning team.
Hyundai Santa FR SR Issues
Hyundai’s in-house developed six-speed automatic transmission matches the world’s best but isn’t it time for an eight-speeder? The SR model needs a link to Hyundai’s global motorsport activities – a subtle badge or stripe here or there in powder blue/orange would do the trick until we get to see something from their N-range.
Hyundai Santa FE SR Verdict
As we said at the outset, Hyundai is much better than wheeling-out some ‘stickers & stripes’ fluff. Suspension modifications and Brembo brakes cut to the core of what makes the Hyundai Santa Fe a winner.
There’s a bit of a European theme going on actually with the Hyundai Santa Fe SR. That would be a high-performance diesel kind of thing.
For sure Hyundai’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel punches above its weight and that, in combination with those sporty black OZ Racing wheels, the Brembo brakes and the Michelin tyres…well it would be right at home in Berlin or down on the Amalfi Coast.
We really liked this sporty SUV and tip our caps for Hyundai’s local team for stepping-up to the plate and getting it done.
Hyundai Santa FE SR The Competition
Finding a sporty full-size SUV under $60,000 is nigh-on impossible. That’s what makes the Hyundai Santa Fe SR really fly in our book.
For example, Volkswagen only offers one R-Line Tiguan model – the $114,990 V8 twin-turbo diesel.
Back in the real world…Kia’s all-new Sorento is excellent but the range-topping Platinum ($55,990) is a Sante Fe Highlander rival, not an SR competitor.
Same for the Ford Territory ($56,740 for the Titanium AWD TDCi). This is a luxury full-size SUV – one of the world’s best in fact – but there’s no ‘FPV-ised version.
Land Rover has the all-new Discovery Sport SD4 SE (140kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel) priced at $59,000 but it doesn’t quite match the Hyundai Santa Fe SR for specifications and certainly has no sporty overtones (great car though).