2019 Hyundai Santa Fe First Drive: Flawed And Fantastic

To sports aficionados, Park City, Utah, is synonymous with all things winter: lots of snow, lots of slopes, lots of mountains, lots of ski lifts. But here I am enjoying 7,000-foot Olympian views in August. There are no falling flakes in sight on this 72-degree Fahrenheit day. So, where does the all-new 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe fit in? Well, it’s got the thrill and excitement of a resort vacation – but in the off-season. All the goods are still there, but some of the best stuff is invariably closed for the true enthusiasts.

This isn’t to say that the fourth-generation Santa Fe is a bad vehicle. Built in Alabama, the updated crossover is actually quite good, and consumers will be pleased with their purchase. It’s just not made for adventurous excursions beyond, say, the occasional family camping trip. Case in point, the new HTRAC all-wheel-drive system.

For the first time in a Hyundai vehicle, an AWD system is optimized via a direct link to drive modes, of which the new Santa Fe has three: Normal, Sport, and Smart. And they’re appropriately color coded (e.g., a red speedometer border for Sport) so you’ll never have to guess which drive mode you’re in. Because you will, in fact, be guessing as my co-driver and I barely sensed the difference when switching between drive experiences. Perhaps this was due to the varying degrees of road surfa...