Jumbo SUV a ca­pa­ble car-pooler

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - ALAN SIDOROV

ON a sunny day in late sum­mer, I drove from Whistler, B.C., to Rich­mond, B.C., to pick up my Hyundai XL test ve­hi­cle. It’s a bit of a slog get­ting there from here, which may sound funny to those who don’t know the area.

The first part, the Sea to Sky High­way, is a won­der­fully scenic drive. How­ever, past Van­cou­ver, there’s a stretch that seems al­ways to be un­der con­struc­tion — full of traf­fic, or­ange cones and changes in speed limit that, if one were to obey them, would cause road rage and col­li­sions as far back as Stan­ley Park. I’m glad that sort of com­mut­ing is not part of my daily rou­tine.

The XL Lim­ited may, from a dis­tance, look like a regular Santa Fe, but it’s quite a bit big­ger and has dif­fer­ent body­work from the wind­shield pil­lar back. My test car was a six seater, with cap­tain’s chairs in the sec­ond row. I could ac­tu­ally make my­self rea­son­ably com­fort­able in the third row. For kids, it would be an ideal place for a long road trip, with nice big win­dows and rea­son­able dis­tance from parental su­per­vi­sion.

From the driver’s seat, the XL ac­tu­ally feels big­ger and taller in some ways than it looks. There‘s a sense of sub­stance, and build qual­ity is ex­cel­lent. Most of the styling cues, in­clud­ing ag­gres­sive head­lights, are de rigueur for this class of ve­hi­cle, so in that sense they’re generic-look­ing. But the over­all ef­fect is clean, not too busy, and the er­gonomics are well thought out.

Work­ing my way back through those con­struc­tion zones, the in­te­rior was a serene enough place to make the ex­pe­ri­ence tol­er­a­ble. On the Sea to Sky High­way, the stretched Santa Fe han­dled solidly enough. It’s a ca­pa­ble ve­hi­cle, al­beit not one which would en­cour­age any sort of sporty driv­ing.

There were three steer­ing set­tings — com­fort, nor­mal and sport. None of them were op­ti­mal by my ad­mit­tedly fussy stan­dards, but nor­mal is, well, nor­mal for a fam­ily hauler. I would ac­tu­ally have pre­ferred skin­nier wheels and tires for bet­ter grip in West Coast rain and a cheaper re­place­ment cost. Mas­sive steam­roller tires seem all the rage these days, a tri­umph of styling and mar­ket­ing over dy­nam­ics.

The Santa Fe XL is pow­ered by a by 290-hp six-cylin­der en­gine which makes about 252 pound-feet of torque. Tow­ing ca­pac­ity is 5,000 lbs or 2,268 ki­los, and the driv­e­train is more than ca­pa­ble of haul­ing a few toys.

I keep com­ing back to the term “ca­pa­ble” to de­scribe the XL. It han­dled dirt roads with far more aplomb than any mini­van, and should do well in win­ter if ap­pro­pri­ate tires are fit­ted. It also has a re­ally good war­ranty and rea­son­able fuel econ­omy for its size.

With this stretched Santa Fe Hyundai has built a ve­hi­cle that is very well­suited to an out­doors-ori­ented Cana­dian fam­ily. Great for car pools, too. Alan Sidorov is an ex­pe­ri­enced au­to­mo­bile racer, prod­uct tester and free­lance writer. You can reach him at www.

spdt.ca

DEREK MCNAUGHTON / POST­MEDIA NEWS

The Hyundai XL looks like a regular Santa Fe, but it is big­ger and has an in­te­rior that makes driv­ing in heavy traf­fic tol­er­a­ble.

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