Hyundai Santa Fe crossover becomes a twosome

  • 10-Apr-2012 09:26 EDT
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Long wheelbase (left) and Sport edition of Hyundai Santa Fe are introduced at New York International Auto Show by Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik.

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe gets more than a restyled body and a complete powertrain makeover; it gets a bigger brother with a third seat row and a torque-vectoring AWD (all-wheel drive) system available across the board. Introduced at the New York International Auto Show, Hyundai’s midsize crossover is now two vehicles, one basically the same size as its predecessor, now called the Santa Fe Sport, and a long-wheelbase version that simply is called the Santa Fe.

The Sport, available this summer, is built on the 106.3-in (2700-mm) wheelbase with overall length of 184.6 in (4689 mm) and has an all-four-cylinder direct-injection engine lineup.The 2.4-L unit is rated at 190 hp (142 kW), and the 2.0-L turbo puts out 264 hp (197 kW). The 3.5-L V6 that had been the optional engine is gone from the Sport lineup.

Although the wheelbase is the same and overall length is very close to the 2012 model's, the platform actually is all-new, and as a result the vehicle is much lighter than its predecessor. At 3459 lb (1569 kg), the mass of the Sport is 266 lb (121 kg) less with the 2.4-L engine. The percentage of high-strength steel, a key enabler for the weight reduction, went from 8% on the previous model to 38%. The door outer skins are among the parts with high-strength steel, a first-ever for Hyundai.

Substituting the 2.0-L turbo for the 3.5-L V6 boosts the mass-savings for the Sport with the optional engine to 300 lb (136 kg). The mass reductions and use of direct injection raise the U.S. EPA window sticker numbers, from 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway in 2012 to 23/33.

The three-seat-row model, built on a stretched wheelbase of 110.2 in (2799 mm), is 8.5 in (216 mm) longer overall. This version, although shown in April, will not reach the market until January 2013. The 3.3-L direct-injection V6 from the Azera, rated at 290 hp (216 kW), is the sole powerplant. It provides 14 hp (10 kW) more than the 3.5-L V6 that was dropped.

The three-seat-row layout didn’t require “squeezing in” the extra row. The wheelbase and overall length increases and the redesign of the interior were sufficient to provide increased legroom for the long-wheelbase model in the second-seat row and leave a reasonable amount for the third row. The front-seat legroom in both models is 41.3 in (1049 mm). Second-seat-row legroom is 39.4 in (1001 mm) in the Sport, but 41.3 in (1049 mm) in the long-wheelbase edition, same as the front seat number; and third row is 31.5 in (800 mm).

The two versions of the Santa Fe were designed simultaneously, and visually the major difference in the silhouette seems to be the longer side rear window and slight changes in body lines after the B-pillar. They also have specific grilles.

The torque-vectoring system on the AWD is claimed as a first of its type in the price class. It combines an intelligent AWD system with the engine controls and the electronic stability system. The computer analyzes signals from the high-speed CAN (controller area network) data bus and both controls front-to-rear torque split through the AWD coupling’s multiplate clutch and individual wheels in the anti-lock brake system (ABS) to minimize understeer or oversteer in hard cornering.

The torque transfer is through a high-speed-switching, variable-rate clutch pack in a torque coupling. The proprietary controller works with the torque coupling, the stability control system, and its ABS servo-controller. An operating example was cited by Michael O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America Vice President of Corporate and Product Planning. “On a dry pavement situation, the driver negotiates a strong left-hand curve aggressively but below the vehicle stability system threshold. Initially, over 95% of engine power is going to the front wheels, but when torque vectoring is commanded, the coupling transfers torque to the rear wheels, the left rear caliper is modulated (by the ABS), and power goes to the right rear wheel. This has the effect of minimizing understeer.” He added that, although it’s referred to as a torque coupling, because of its level of variable control and rate of speed, it works much like a center differential.

The electronics also provide hill assist control (to prevent rollback) and downhill brake control on steep descents, so when the system is operating the driver doesn’t have to keep applying the brakes.

The Santa Fe models have electric power steering (EPS). And although the front-drive models can’t do torque vectoring, they do integrate the EPS with the ABS in split traction situations (one side on a slick surface) or hard cornering to apply up to 8 N·m (6 lb·ft) of countering torque on the steering.

Both new Santa Fe models are the latest applications of Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture exterior styling language. The 2.0-L turbo Sport and the Santa Fe Limited have 19-in wheels as standard equipment; other models have 17- or 18-in wheels. On the inside, heated front seats are standard on the Sport with the 2.0-L turbo and the Santa Fe Limited. They’re also available on all models’ second-row seats, and are standard on the Limited. A heated steering wheel is optional on all models. An 8.0-in touch screen also is an option.

Blue Link, Hyundai’s connectivity system, is standard across the board, and various lengths of complimentary subscriptions for the different levels of service are included, with a year for the basic package.

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