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Sub-$60K Hyundai Santa Fe SR to land in 2015

Sports star: While the upcoming Santa Fe SR shares the same turbo-diesel engine as the rest of the range, brakes and suspension have been upgraded, and a tough body kit has been added.

Hyundai has announced Santa Fe SR flagship to join SUV line-up early next year

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Hyundai logo13 Oct 2014

By RICHARD BERRY

A NEW sporty flagship will join Hyundai’s Santa Fe SUV line-up next year with upgraded brakes and suspension, plus a tough body kit for an asking price of less than $60,000, plus on-road costs.

The Santa Fe SR will be the fourth SR variant from the South Korean car-maker which has produced sport derivatives of its i30 and Accent hatches and the Veloster coupe. Unlike the others, however, engine output has not been increased, with the Santa Fe SR powered by the same 145kW/436Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine matched with a six-speed automatic which serves the rest of the line-up.

Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Santa Fe range earlier this week, Hyundai Motor Co Australia chief operating officer John Elsworth told GoAuto the company considered re-tuning the engine but the benefits did not outweigh the costs, with buyers favouring looks over a small power increase.

“Could we do engine chips?” he said. “Ultimately I guess we could but that would be a massive engineering program to deliver typically quite small output increases of an engine that is seriously good anyway.

“We looked at it, but for the cost and the workload we actually didn’t think it would give us too much benefit because, to be honest with you, a lot of the stuff that people who are going to look at this car will want is that exterior and visual differentiation, not necessarily an extra 10kW.

“We just felt that the base engine delivered fantastic performance so with the combination of the body kit and the brakes we think it is enough to warrant it being called an SR.”

Based on the new top-of-the-range Highlander, the SR receives the same enhancements the 2015 update brings such as proximity tailgate, lane departure warning, front parking sensors and heated and ventilated front seats, but it swaps the automatic parking system for a body kit, new wheels, upgraded brakes and sports suspension.

A tough front spoiler, side skirts, and a rear diffuser with integrated exhaust is topped off by 19-inch OZ Racing alloy wheels in matte black wrapped in Michelin 235/55 R19 tyres (there’s a full size spare, too).

It’s not all cosmetic. While the tyres give more grip, the stopping power is increased by eight percent at 60km/h thanks to the Brembo brakes - four-piston monoblock calipers clamp 320mm discs at the front while the rear has a two-piston unit.

H&R performance springs increase spring rate at the front by six per cent and 11 per cent at the rear.

While pricing for the SR is yet to be confirmed, GoAuto understands it will costs less than $60,000 and sit above the Highlander as the range flagship.

The Santa Fe makes up six per cent of Hyundai’s sales with the base Active variant accounting for 19 per cent of the mix, while the Elite takes 32 per cent.

Hyundai anticipates a share of less than 10 per cent for the SR and Mr Elsworth said that while the cars will be freely available to Australia, sales will depend on support from dealers and consumer demand.

“We have free availability so it’s only restricted by how many the dealers order. I think the dealers will have a lot of confidence in that car – it’s a unique offering for the segment and they do have a lot of confidence in selling the volume cars and ordering the cars. They’re going to be pretty gung-ho with it I think.

“There’s no real limit to how many we can make. It’s really determined by consumer demand.”

Made in South Korea, the Santa Fe SR is taken off the regular production line, fitted with the upgraded kit by the car-maker’s customising team and then fed back into the distribution system.

The derivative is specific to Australia, with Hyundai’s local arm sourcing the body kit, brakes and springs through its global parts catalog.

As for future SR variants, Mr Elsworth said there was nothing he could confirm, but that a Santa Fe version was needed to keep up with the trend of sporty SUVs.

“To be honest with you if we had our druthers we’d probably have a sports model of every car line. The brand has moved on now from being just cheap and cheerful to us being able to offer sporty derivatives across the line-up.”“Sometimes these bits and pieces are made available to us. We think there’s an emerging trend and segment within SUVs to offer more sporty derivatives. I think that is because people are coming out of passenger cars into SUVs and a big chunk of them have driven sports derivatives of passenger cars before and they want some of that same stuff in their SUV.

“Let’s face it, a lot of these cars aren’t genuinely taken off road so the whole visual enhancement and driveability enhancement is something people want,” he said.

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