Review and photos by Paul Williams

San Diego, California – It’s been a few years since I attended the press introduction of the Hyundai Veracruz in “Beautiful British Columbia.” At the time I recall thinking it was a well-executed vehicle, but wondering if consumers would be interested in such a big and pricey Hyundai.

Turns out they wouldn’t be – at least, not many of them – but not necessarily because the market wasn’t there for a bigger, roomier Hyundai. The problem, according to Michael Ricciuto, Hyundai Canada’s National Manager, Product and Strategic Planning, was that people didn’t know what a Veracruz was, and over the years there wasn’t much marketing from Hyundai to support it. After all, Hyundai already had a big winner and great nameplate recognition with its Santa Fe, and all that it seemed to lack from the perspective of buyers looking for a six- or seven-passenger SUV was room for six or seven passengers.

Enter the new Santa Fe XL, an SUV that extends the familiar five-passenger Santa Fe – now called the Santa Fe Sport – by 215 mm, and adds 100 mm to the wheelbase to make room for the required third row. At 1,790 kg for the FWD version and 1,895 kg for the AWD version the Santa Fe XL weighs 45 kilograms less than 2012 Veracruz; 171 kg more than Santa Fe Sport.

First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL hyundai first drives First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL hyundai first drives
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe. Click image to enlarge

In addition to the extra row of seats, the other key distinguishing feature of the 2013 Santa Fe XL is its 3.3L V6 engine that makes 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque (30 hp more than the now-retired Veracruz). This engine – officially designated the Lambda II 3.3L GDI – is gasoline direct injected and more fuel efficient than the 3.8L V6 that powered the Veracruz. Mated to a six speed automatic transmission, the engine is new to the Canadian Hyundai line-up, although it is used in the Azera sedan in the US. The use of this engine makes the Santa Fe XL the only V6-powered SUV in the Hyundai model range. It also gives it the highest towing capacity at 2,268 kg (5,000 lb); the Santa Fe Sport is tow-rated for up to 1,588 kg (3,500 lb).

Visually, the Santa Fe XL and the Santa Fe Sport (voted the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s 2013 Best Utility Vehicle, by the way) are similar, both featuring Hyundai’s appealing “Fluidic Sculpture” design. But the shape of the larger Santa Fe XL accentuates the increased passenger and cargo room behind the B-pillar, while presenting a unique grille design, new alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust outlets and a flush-mounted tow hitch design.

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