Performance » 7
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
The steering is vague off-center
Car and Driver
the transmission can't handle full throttle from a stop; the engine revs to high heaven but the acceleration simply isn't there
The transmission is generally responsive, but it frequently needs to kick down for maximum power.
the six-speed automatic transmission is sometimes caught hunting around for the appropriate ratio
Hyundai added some new powertrains to the Santa Fe lineup back in 2010--marking improvements to both performance and fuel economy--and those are still looking ahead of the curve even this year.
The 2.4-liter Theta II four-cylinder engine in the Santa Fe has direct injection and makes 175 horsepower. With it, you'll have enough power to move this tall wagon rapidly—albeit with a little economy-minded indecision from the six-speed automatic 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. Because of how much better it works with the transmission, we'd probably pick the V-6.
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.
In any of its variations, the Santa Fe handles responsively but with a somewhat rubbery, uncommunicative feel; in exchange for that, you get ride quality that's well controlled, without much body motion, and with a relatively quiet cabin.
The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe has powertrains that stand out in its class, though otherwise its performance is unremarkable.