First Drive: 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT Review

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Sechelt, BC—Without features like skid plates, tougher cladding, or retuned suspension attributes we’re seeing with other family-friendly off-road SUVs, the XRT isn’t the off-road warrior Hyundai is positioning it to be, especially after seeing it in LA for the global reveal. That said, for most families hitting the unbeaten path, it checks the boxes with higher ground clearance, 18-inch wheels wrapped in 30-inch all-terrain rubber, and stealthier blacked-out features. Plus, we can expect more aftermarket accessories for XRT down the road.

New Santa Fe has distinct H-shaped details, including the headlamps. Photo: Amee Reehal

It’s certainly more rugged than the luxe, range-topping Ultimate Calligraphy we also reviewed, and the XRT’s optional 277 horsepower 2.5L turbo boasts an impressive 311 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s enough power for families to comfortably go off the beaten path (backed by 4,500 lbs. towing capacity).

Performance and Driving Impressions

Two engine choices for the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT. Photo: Amee Reehal
  • Standard: 1.6L Turbo Hybrid Electric (6-speed AT) with 232 hp and 271 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Optional: 2.5L Turbo (8-speed DCT) with 277 hp and 311 lb.-ft. of torque

For the burlier XRT grade, we’d skip the standard 1.6L turbo hybrid and go for the more powerful 2.5L turbo paired with the 8-speed auto. Our Santa Fe XRT here, in the gorgeous Rockwood Green Pearl, found the latter powertrain that proved to be capable enough to handle highway vehicle passing duties, enough torque when needed, and smooth handling. 

Here, the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT is pulling around 2,500 lbs. Photo: Amee Reehal

Plus, XRT, when properly equipped with the towing package, is rated at 4,500 lbs. of towing capacity to haul those small toys to the cabin or lake, and the 1.5 inches of ground clearance will easily conquer low-level rock-climbing and difficult dirt roads. We hit some messy logging roads, found the XRT maintained a surprisingly comfortable ride and soaked up the massive potholes without any issues. Of course, the 30-inch all-terrain tire fitment with 245/60R18 tires makes all the difference here. 

The beefier tires and darker look are exclusive to XRT. Photo: Amee Reehal

As my colleague Jeff Wilson, who reviewed the Ultimate Calligraphy with the same 2.5L turbo engine, states, “Supple yet composed, the Santa Fe still manages to keep its handling in check when asked to hustle on the curvy BC coastal roads.” I’d concur with the XRT as well. The larger, knobby tires make for a marginally noisier affair on the road compared to the 21-inch alloy wheels on other trims, but it’s not a deal breaker (nor all that noticeably, frankly). 

The Santa Fe Ultimate Calligraphy with the more prominent 21-inch alloy wheels is unavailable with XRT. Photo: Amee Reehal

We didn’t drive the more eco-friendly 1.6L turbo hybrid, but based on what the 2.5L had in store, any less potent with the 6-speed transmission may fall short. But that really depends on how families are using the XRT — if fuel economy and bold styling matter, the hybrid turbo is probably the better choice. 

XRT Interior: Off-Road Convenient Features

Clean layout with improved visibility in the redesigned model. Photo: Amee Reehal

Inside all 2024 Santa Fe SUVs, expect an expansive cabin that takes advantage of its large, boxy design, offering ample headroom for rear passengers. Benefiting the XRT, placing the large screen below the sightline makes off-roading easier with better visibility; you can see what’s ahead, and the redesigned centre stack layout looks cleaner. 

Upfront, the large storage space between seats will come in handy when hitting the road. Photo: Amee Reehal

The pair of wireless charging pads are front-and-centre—they’re not just super grippy for bumping around on uneven terrain; the large space is also convenient for placing other random stuff when on the go. Below, there’s also a large pass-through storage area for larger items like purses, bags, and lunch kits. 

Enlarged liftgate and clever storage ideal for outdoor enthusiasts

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT in the Rockwood Green Pearl rear trunk storage with 3rd row flat folded down2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT in the Rockwood Green Pearl rear trunk storage with 3rd row flat folded down
Santa Fe’s new liftgate opens high to the sky for more space to hang out and tailgate party. Photo: Amee Reehal
2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT in the Rockwood Green Pearl centre stack storage bins2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT in the Rockwood Green Pearl centre stack storage bins
A clever dual-opening storage lid with a large drawer below. Photo: Amee Reehal

For camping and hauling gear, the third row folds flat, and the boxy, rectangular design makes storage of larger items that much more convenient. Add the Santa Fe’s enlarged liftgate to the mix, it turns this storage space into a terrace-like function perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Another cool feature is the centre armrest storage with a reverse opening lid so that 2nd-row passengers can access it; below, there’s also a large, deep drawer for storing even more stuff. 

XRT Styling: Blacked-Out Looks

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT in the Rockwood Green Pearl front profile parked in the forest2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT in the Rockwood Green Pearl front profile parked in the forest
The Rockwood Green Pearl is exclusive to the XRT grade. Photo: Amee Reehal

The XRT’s distinct styling is what really sets it apart, taking advantage of its longer wheelbase. Aside from the high ground clearance and burlier tires, this Santa Fe variant gets a nice dose of blacked-out details, including dark chrome and black trim elements. 

A hidden handle in the C-pillar allows easier access to the roof. Photo: Amee Reehal

XRT also has black roof rails with cross bars, and like all models, there’s a handy little hidden handle built into the exterior C-pillar: accessible when the rear door is open and using a provided key, the black panel opens to expose a handle where you can place your hand, step on the rear tire, and access gear up top more easily. 

A departure from the jellybean SUV look, the new Santa Fe takes on a more boxy design. Photo: Amee Reehal

Based on our initial impressions of the new Santa Fe styling last year, our writer said: “Looking at the new Santa Fe from all angles, it’s hard not to think about a Land Rover product. While the very horizontal front fascia with neat H-pattern LED headlights has a very South Korean touch, Santa Fe’s side profile, due to an upright windshield and a sloping roofline, reminds us of the current Land Rover Defender. From some angles, some would even argue that the Santa Fe is the reincarnation of the early 2000s Land Rover Discovery.”

Takeaway

With the burlier Santa Fe XRT, the Korean is taking full advantage of the growing outdoor enthusiasts, who have been overlanding in popularity, particularly since the pandemic. And why not? As families seek more adventure-filled pastures on the weekends while maintaining a stylish mid-size SUV for daily duties during the week, the conveniences of all-terrains wheels, an elevated ride height, nifty interior storage solutions, and darker looks straight from the dealership floor make abundant sense. 

We suppose the XRT may not be an off-road beast, nor is it trying to be. But it offers just enough for weekend warriors and families alike to hit the outdoors. Hyundai’s reimagined Santa Fe is unlike anything we’ve seen from the automaker, and the XRT adds that extra layer of distinction—whether you’re hitting the dirt or the local grocery store. 

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