2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5
Photo: Hyundai. U.S. model shown. Click image to enlarge

by Grant Yoxon

For 2004, Hyundai has added a new, more powerful engine option to the Santa Fe that will appeal to buyers who want more “sport” in their sport utility vehicle.

With the addition of the 3.5 litre V6 GLS, Hyundai now has a Santa Fe to meet the needs (and budgets) of a wide range of buyers. At the entry level, there is the 2.4 litre four-cylinder front-wheel drive GL equipped with a five-speed manual transmission for $22,595. With a 2.7 litre V6, the front-wheel drive GL retails for $24,995. All-wheel drive models include the GL at $27,395 and the more luxurious GLS at $30,195, both with 2.7 litre V6 and 4-speed automatic transmission.

All Santa Fe models are equipped with features most people expect in a car today – air conditioning, power windows, door locks, heated power mirrors, roof rack, AM/FM/CD stereo and rear wiper and washer. GL models have cloth seats, while leather (heated in front) are standard on GLS models. Keyless entry and alarm system is also standard on all models. In addition, the 2.7 litre GLS receives front fog lights, glass antenna, luggage centre package tray, ABS brakes, and a power sunroof.

The new 3.5 GLS is priced at $33,695 and comes with a variety of new features not previously found in the Santa Fe including chrome door handles, climate control, front seat side airbags, traction control, retractable cargo cover and a power driver’s seat.

Although the 173 horsepower 2.7 litre V6 provides more than sufficient power for the 1702 kilogram SUV, Hyundai felt there was room to expand sales to buyers who want more power and luxury features in a compact SUV.

The 3.5 litre engine, sourced from the Hyundai XG350 sedan, adds 27 more horsepower and a not insignificant 37 more foot-pounds of torque. And maximum torque is reached at a relatively low 3,500 r.p.m..

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 GLS
Photo: Hyundai Canada

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 GLS

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 GLS
Photos: Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

Acceleration, both from a standing start and passing is noticeably quicker than the smaller 2.7 litre Santa Fe. In fact, it is easy to forget this is an SUV and not a car, despite its car-like driving characteristics. A high velocity is easily attainable and drivers should be conscious of the need to rein in the Santa Fe when road or driving conditions require caution.

Along with the new engine, the 3.5 GLS receives a new 5-speed automatic transmission with “shiftronic” manual shifting capability and an all-wheel drive system that is quite different from that found in other Santa Fe models.

The all-wheel drive system in the 2.7 litre Santa Fe delivers 60 per cent of the power to the front wheels and 40 per cent to the rear wheels in normal driving. A viscous coupling incorporated into the transfer case adjusts power to the front and rear wheels as required. With the 3.5 GLS, all power is delivered to the front wheels under normal driving conditions. Only when the front wheels begin to slip does the Borg-Warner-designed system come into play, electronically transferring power to the rear wheels.

There is no switching from two-wheel to four-wheel drive. It is fully automatic, available only when needed and completely transparent to the driver. It is an additional traction aid that, along with the Santa Fe’s ABS-based traction control system, helps harness the 3.5 litre’s ample power in adverse driving conditions. It is a bad weather system, not an off-road system. There is no low gear for serious off-roading.

Despite the additional power of the 3.5 litre V6, maximum towing capacity for the Santa Fe 3.5 GLS is only 45 kilograms (100 pounds) more than the all-wheel drive Santa Fe equipped with the 2.7 litre engine. In fact, if towing capacity is a factor, the front-wheel drive 2.7 litre Santa Fe offers the best towing capacity – 1,452 kilograms (3,200 lbs), compared to 1,270 kilograms (2,800 lbs) for the 3.5 litre Santa Fe.

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 GLS

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 GLS

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 GLS

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 GLS
Photos: Hyundai. U.S. model shown. Click image to enlarge

For heavy towing or off-road duties, there are better (and more expensive) alternatives on the market. Where the Santa Fe 3.5 GLS excels in overall driveability. It has a solid, tight body, a comfortable ride, excellent (for an SUV) handling, responsive steering and good braking.

The Santa Fe has a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and double wishbones at the rear, which give the Santa Fe a comfortable ride and car-like handling. Steering is more direct than you’d expect in a vehicle of this size and height. Unlike many larger SUVs, the Santa Fe 3.5 GLS does not feel at all ponderous or heavy. Standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS provide good braking performance.

Standard safety features on all Santa Fe models include front dual airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters, energy-absorbing front and rear crumple zones, rear child safety door locks, and a collapsible steering column. For added safety, the 3.5 litre GLS is equipped with standard side airbag protection.

Among compact SUV’s, the Santa Fe is one of the largest. Cargo volume ranges from 864 litres (30.5 cubic feet) with the rear seats up to 2,209 litres (78 cu. ft.) with the rear seats folded. The seat cushions on the 60/40 rear bench seat pull up and the seat backs fold down, providing a nearly flat cargo floor. There is also a storage compartment beneath the floor.

The interior is also roomy for passengers with lots of head room and leg room for both front and rear passengers. The driving position is typically SUV high, with a good view of the road ahead and excellent visibility to the rear. The seats are firm, but still comfortable; the driver’s seat is eight-way power adjustable with lumbar support. Both front seats are heated. Leather seat coverings are standard on GLS models as are leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob.

Most controls are easy to use, even the audio controls, which is a big improvement over earlier models that used the Clarion-branded radio. However, the climate controls are mounted low on the centre stack and it is difficult to adjust without taking your eyes off the road.

Between the front seats is a dual level armrest/storage bin with a shallow upper compartment and a deep lower compartment. Other features include tilt steering wheel, cruise and audio control buttons on the steering wheel, a small open coin storage to left of the steering wheel, two powerpoints in the lower console and one in the cargo area, a handbrake lever just to the right of driver’s seat, and large power window buttons on the doors.

With its powerful 3.5 litre V6 and lengthy list of standard features, Hyundai has a Santa Fe to compete with the growing number of well-equipped, sporty compact SUVs on the market. Principal among them is the 3.5 litre AWD Saturn VUE ($31,535), Mazda Tribute ES V6 ($34,240), Jeep Liberty Limited ($35,340), Ford Escape Limited ($35,625), the turbocharged Subaru Forester XT ($37,195), Mitsubishi Endeavor Limited ($42,698), and Land Rover Freelander SE ($39,400).

Technical Data:

Base price $33,695
Options $125 ((Metallic paint)
Freight $540
A/C Tax $100
Price as tested $34,460
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sport utility
Layout Transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine 3.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24-valve
Horsepower 200 at 5,500 r.p.m.
Torque 219 lb.ft. at 3,500 r.p.m.
Transmission 5-speed automatic with shiftronic
Wheels and tires 6.5J x 16″ Cast Aluminum Alloy with P225/70R-16 B.F. Goodrich Steel-Belted Radials
Curb weight 1,790 kg (3,946 lbs)
Wheelbase 2,620 mm (103.1 in.)
Length 4,500 mm (177.2 in.)
Width 1,820 mm (71.7 in.)
Height 1,675 mm (65.9 in.)
Cargo space (rear seat up) 864 litres (30.5 cu. ft.)
Cargo space (rear seat down) 2,209 litres (78 cu.ft.)
Maximum towing capacity 1,270 kg (2,800 lbs)
Fuel consumption City: 14 litres/100 km (20.2 mpg)
  Highway: 10.3 litres/100 km (27.4 mpg)
Fuel Regular unleaded
Warranty 36 months/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 60 months/100,000 km

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