THE Aussie family sedan may be on the way out but it seems we’re not quite over sixcylinder power.
Despite the availability of strong, frugal diesels in most large SUVs, plenty of buyers are still opting for petrol engines.
Toyota’s Kluger lacks a diesel variant but remains the secondbest selling large SUV behind its Prado stablemate
Its success has prompted Hyundai to put a toe back in the water in the segment with a new V6 petrol version of its Santa Fe. The company earlier dumped its V6 petrol Santa Fe but has released a special edition run of 300 V6s to celebrate 30 years in Australia.
The new 3.3-litre V6 puts out a healthy 199kW of power and 318Nm of torque but that’s not the special edition’s only plus. It is priced at $39,990 drive-away, cheaper than the four-cylinder petrol Santa Fe.
That price includes leatherappointed seats, metallic paint, 19-inch alloys, rear privacy glass and dual-zone airconditioning.
Hyundai boss Scott Grant says that depending on how the model is received, the company might look at other limited edition runs or “add it to the line-up as a permanent feature”.
“They sell plenty of Klugers. There are other petrol (models) that have ... sold reasonably well in that body style so there’s a segment of the market we’re not talking to.”
He says that for many women on the school run “a petrol is still more appealing to fill up at a bowser than a diesel”.
Grant also believes a V6 Santa Fe may tempt people stepping out of the Falcon, Territory and Commodore as local manufacturing draws to a close. “We feel there’s an opportunity for the traditional large car buyer to come across to Hyundai, number one, as a brand and then into products like Santa Fe or even Tucson,” he says.
The limited edition is also an attempt to give the ageing Santa Fe a boost as it tackles newer models, including the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9.
ON THE ROAD
The special edition is a frontdrive version of the Santa Fe, which immediately presents potential problems with getting V6 power to the ground.
There is a gentle tug at the steering wheel under hard acceleration and you can chirp the front wheels if you’re too enthusiastic with the accelerator but ultimately Hyundai’s engineers have done a good job of harnessing the extra power.
On the open road, it’s easy to see why Australians fell in love with six-cylinder power.
Unlike in a diesel, throttle response is instantaneous when you’re on the move, which allows you to make the most of short overtaking lanes on country back roads.
The sound under full throttle is also more satisfying, while the six-speed auto is slick-shifting, creating a sportier feel than the average family wagon.
Be prepared to visit the service station more often than in the diesel, though. The official label claims an average of 9.6L/100km — we logged about 11.0L/100km on our highway run, although that was fully loaded with five adults and, in the 516L of boot space, their luggage.
On the whole, the rest of the Santa Fe engineering package is up to the job of dealing with the extra power. The steering is well weighted and the suspension keeps the big wagon planted through the bends despite the body lean that’s typical of highriding SUVs.
The 19-inch wheels on our test car meant the Santa Fe didn’t soak up the bumps as well as other versions we’ve driven. However, the ride is still comfortable over all but the most pockmarked of surfaces.
Inside, the Santa Fe shows its age a little. The parking brake is an old-school foot-operated job, there’s no start button and there isn’t a head rest for the middle passenger in the second row.
There’s no built-in satnav but the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto means you can hook up your smartphone and use Google Maps, which works well provided you can get mobile reception.
The diesel Santa Fe is a Carsguide favourite and would still be our pick. However, the V6 is an attractive, well priced alternative for those who can’t yet wean themselves off sixcylinder petrol power.