Mountain Wheels: Hyundai’s improved Santa Fe tantalizes; Dodge drag action this weekend |

Mountain Wheels: Hyundai’s improved Santa Fe tantalizes; Dodge drag action this weekend

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

There is nothing small, chintzy, short-sighted or inferior in the execution and packaging of the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe, an impressive SUV that really gives competitors like the Ford Edge or larger Explorer a run for their money.

It's attractive, comfortable and spacious — the three-row, seven-passenger variant of the recently relaunched two-row Santa Fe — and it features accomplished highway handling and an absolutely tasteful interior package. It will be redubbed the Santa Fe XL for 2019 and will eventually be replaced by a new eight-passenger, three-row machine the company is developing.

Banish all thoughts of the Hyundais of yore; mine featured tasteful wood trim, sport-bolstered seats and a set of 19-inch alloy wheels to give it a sexier look.

Size is appreciable with the twin captain's chairs in the second row and survivably comfortable rear seats, with rear AC controls hidden away on the right side of the third-row.

I was particularly taken by the Santa Fe's very contemporary design. It takes the angularity of many of its modern contemporaries and manages to smooth it out a bit and make it look more organic.

A large waterfall grille, silver-edged LED fog lamps and even a whimsical smile line at the bottom of the front fascia makes it all quite attractive. Tasteful chrome trim, smooth body lines and dual exhaust ports also improve the looks.

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Part of Hyundai's strength is giving you practically everything you'd ever want in its self-contained models. Options are a rarity, though my Ultimate AWD test vehicle did add a $2,100 smart technology package which provided smart cruise control, automatic braking and pedestrian detection, plus high-intensity headlamps and high-beam assist.

Mine came to $44,500 and was able to achieve or exceed its 22 MPG highway rating.

I should also mention that today brings continued action down the hill at Morrison's Bandimere Speedway and the Dodge Mile-Hi NHRA Nationals, where title sponsor Mopar is showing off with runs by its 11,000-horsepower Mopar Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat funny car. That's a vehicle which is the ultimate extension of the high-powered arms race being fought by Dodge in its passenger car division.

While they're still pushing 800 horsepower with the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, a new option is aimed at hometown drag-racers who'd like to get involved in the sport and have a relatively inexpensive but versatile platform to race as is, or go bananas and build out to be the drag machine of their dreams.

The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 (yes, these are all long names, this one named for the feet in a quarter mile) is the highest-performing, naturally aspirated engine in the nouveau muscle car world. Its 485-horsepower 392 Hemi V8 is delivered with a bombproof TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic, a set of street-legal but totally track-oriented Nexen radial tires and a load of the Challenger Demon's drag racing brake-hold and torque reserve features.

The result is a $45,380 machine you can set up for driver-only racing or keep the passenger seats and turn in quarter miles of 11.7 seconds at 115 MPH. Just tell the kids to hang on.

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