Hyundai is more adventurous than we thought
A Santa Fe has crossed the Antarctic. We take it for an expedition of our own
Try imagining a car journey that’s so hard it takes 100 years. A Hyundai Santa Fe has just crossed the Antarctic continent and back, a 360-mile epic that passes the South Pole both ways. This completed the expedition abandoned by Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1916. This time around, the Hyundai was driven by Shackleton’s greatgrandson, Patrick Bergel. A touching resonance.
The Hyundai is the frst passenger vehicle to make the crossing. In fact, before this expedition, no one had done the full traverse rather than reaching the pole from one side of the continent or the other.
To handle the conditions, the Santa Fe was left with its standard engine, a 2.2 diesel, albeit with an extra block heater, but ftted with huge fotation balloon tyres, running with portal reduction hubs, and new suspension arms with suitably supersized Fox shocks. But the regular transmission was left in place.
We were ofered a go in it and took it to the only logical place – the Milton Keynes Snozone. An indoor ski slope with real snow. Bergel drove this Hyundai to the end of the earth. We drove it in a big shed in Buckinghamshire.
My word, those tyres add some heft to the visual impression. It towers over you. The door handles are at shoulder height. Just getting in is an exercise in minor mountaineering.
I set the Santa Fe to a tentative crawl and it claws its way to a level patch halfway up. The steering is mushy and the body pitches and rolls. Gradually given more of the power, it comes more alive. It kicks back the snow, the tyres shouldering the load.
At the bottom of the slope is an actual piste-bashing machine. The Snozone people say they’re staggered a wheeled vehicle went up where that giant tracked contraption normally has exclusive access. But then, the Santa Fe has gone undefeated by unimaginably more intractable terrain than this.
Santa Fe Antarctic Edition – ideal for chilly mornings in the home counties