2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: Climbing and Descending a Very Steep and Slippery Grade
August 27, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our AWD Santa Fe has another button that engages hill descent control. So of course I tried it on the way down.
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