The 2.4-liter Theta II four-cylinder engine in the Santa Fe makes 175 horsepower, and it has enough power to move this tall wagon rapidly—albeit with a little indecision from the transmission. The 3.5-liter Lambda V-6 engine makes 276 horsepower feels strong and smooth, even if it isn't as sweet as Toyota's V-6 in the Highlander or even GM's in the Chevrolet Equinox. A new six-speed automatic transmission comes with either engine for the Santa Fe. Front-wheel drive is standard, with an optional electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system that can send power to whichever wheels have the best traction or locked 50/50 between front and rear wheels for light off-road conditions.
Handling in the Santa Fe is responsive but unremarkable in its class, precise but with a slightly rubbery feel.