{Reaching Higher Ground } {} {Good Drive, with Plenty of Extras}; and Totes the Lightest and Most Powerful Engine in Its Class

The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia), March 5, 2010 | Go to article overview

{Reaching Higher Ground } {} {Good Drive, with Plenty of Extras}; and Totes the Lightest and Most Powerful Engine in Its Class


THERE can be only one ...

It was hard to keep Connor MacLeod's voice at bay when I picked up the new Santa Fe Highlander. True, the only "gathering" this silver warrior was likely to see on our watch was an out-of-control toddler's group at an indoor play centre with red slushies and hot chippies the weapons of choice.

Still, it is easy to dream especially considering the Highlander's revolutionary new engine is causing a "quickening" of its own.

Four years in the making and at a cost nearing $250 million, the R-series diesel is the smallest, lightest and most powerful engine in its class. Hyundai have also drastically reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. In fact the Santa Fe recently outperformed all other SUVs in the Global Green Challenge from the Northern Territory to Adelaide city centre using just 160 litres of fuel over 3150km.

Hyundai have coupled the engine with newly built automatic transmission which is 12kg lighter than its predecessor, has 62 fewer parts and is sealed with transmission fluid that is good for the life of the vehicle.

Until now only Toyota, General Motors and Ford have built their own gearboxes but the Korean company is proving it can run with the big boys.

Comfort

Plush leather seats generous in width teamed with enough room to stretch out in, make the Santa Fe an almost luxurious option even if it's just a quick trip down to the local shops. This applies to passengers in the second row who benefit from rear air-conditioning and seats that recline.

Things are a bit dicier for occupants of the third row which to be honest is best suited for children and adults of the smaller variety. The second row drops flat to increase storage should you need it. We were able to accommodate surfboards and bicycles with little effort. Cup holders are big enough to actually hold that water bottle while the instrument cluster is funky and practical.

On the road

The previous model left little to chance on the road delivering a solid all-round performance both on and off the bitumen. The R2.2 follows in the same vein with a supercool new engine serving to enhance performance. The new common-rail diesel engine uses a variable-geometry turbocharger to increase output. It is the smallest, lightest and most powerful engine in its class and has been coupled with a new sealed gearbox that uses 62 fewer parts and requires no oil changing or any kind of servicing for the lifetime of the vehicle. …

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