Climbing and Descending a Very Steep and Slippery Grade - 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Long-Term Road Test

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Long-Term Road Test

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Climbing and Descending a Very Steep and Slippery Grade

August 27, 2013

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Regular followers of our long-term update pages may remember past stories of the Wall of Death, a particularly steep climb near my dad's place on the Oregon coast. It leads up to the top of "The Dog," a nearby summit that provides a spectacular 360-degree view of the coastline and the inland countryside behind this initial ridge of coastal mountains.

The place names are my father's own personal joke. You'd have to know his sense of humor to understand that the climb up this abandoned caterpillar track is not really a Jackass stunt of Steve-O proportions. It is, however, steep and covered with leaf litter and ball bearing-sized pebbles that make it quite hard to walk down without landing on your keester more than once.

Two-wheel drive is no good here. All four wheels need to participate. Good thing our 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is the all-wheel-drive model.

The Dog is so named because, well, it looks like one.

The cat-track from dad's garage to the picnic table atop The Dog is slightly less than a half-mile long. Over that distance it climbs 403 feet, which gives it an average gradient of 17 percent.

But there are some flat and even short downhill sections along the way, so the uphill parts are steeper than the average gradient to make the math work out. The Wall of Death represents a hundred yards or so of 40-percent gradient, maybe more.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

The all-wheel-drive system in our 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe includes a 4WD lock button. It locks the center differential and forces a 50/50 front-rear torque split for a bit more traction on loose surfaces like this.

Even with that I felt the need to make a run at the Wall to comfortably get past the steepest part. And the Santa Fe's manual shift mode turned out to be handy insurance against an unwanted upshift when I lifted slightly to negotiate an awkwardly placed bend at the bottom of the hill.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Plenty of V6 power and good traction saw us to the top without much drama. We found ourselves parked and tramping around in the grassy meadow at the summit in no time.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

But the million-dollar view had fallen on hard times. It was slightly overcast, and a thick blanket of out-of-season fog obscured the ocean 1,940 feet below.

Still, even on a bad day The Dog is spectacular. And we could still hear the surf crashing onto unseen rocks below. I love it up here.

Then the dinner bell rang.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Our AWD Santa Fe has another button that engages hill descent control. So of course I tried it on the way down.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

I selected first gear, engaged the HDC button and kept my foot off the brake pedal as we started to descend. The system began manipulating the brakes independently as needed, each one making ABS activation grunting noises in turn.

Things were going great until I intervened and brought the Santa Fe to a stop so I could get out and take pictures. I promptly slipped and fell on the leaf-covered steep slope, nearly throttling my camera. When we set off again the car picked up a tad more speed than I would have liked before HDC cut back in to reign in the proceedings once more.

Make no mistake: the Hyundai Santa Fe is a crossover that will never ever see the midway campground on the Rubicon Trail unless dropped in by helicopter. But its 4WD lock button and hill descent control does distinguish it from many other crossovers out there. It's a soft-roader, but there's a wee bit of a hard edge to it.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,788 miles


  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    Vey surprising capability in a car that will almost never attempt these manuevers. Good for you for testing them out. I might have been a little fearful that the cat converter would start a grass fire, though.

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    Nice writeup, Dan, it is good to see real world examples of what a soft-roader can and cannot do. And now I get to go to work all nostalgic over western Oregon, which could make for a long day.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Why do we forever "reign" things in anymore? Does anyone remember that the phrase refers to pulling back on reins attached to horses or oxen, and has nothing to do with any form of monarchical government?

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    come to think of it, you guys pushed the CR-V over some rough roads on a trip, but not the steeps. The AWD crossovers seem to be more capable than I would think they were. Maybe it is more a matter of ground clearance for some.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    A few days ago on the 'Vette dyno write-up a commenter was wondering why anyone would want to live anywhere but Southern California. Well, here's a good reason.

  • I'm an almost-lifelong resident of Southern California, but I happen to like this thing called "weather". So yeah, I live in the wrong place. :P

  • Yup Stovt, but NorCal is pretty good too...

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @desmo - the wife and I are strongly considering a move to northern California. Its where she's from, and I wouldn't mind being closer to Yosemite. and apparently there are some good places to get a drink in the Bay Area and just north of it...

  • Great article, Dan. I own the exact model depicted in the story, only in Black, and it is truly the most amazing vehicle I have every owned, especially considering the modest $37,000 I paid for it, full-loaded. As we are currently experiencing the coldest week in decades, I particularly enjoy the ability to "start" my car from my phone, tablet or computer as well as the heated steering wheel. It is also superb in the snow, although I haven't had the need yet to lock the 4WD or utilize the downhill decent. I am way past making apologies for driving a Hyundai, it's an amazing machine with way more bells and whistles than it's closest competitors.

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