It’s nice to have friends who know cars. One friend who owns a Corvette and has rebuilt vintage Triumphs likes to look at the engine of every car I drive, even when there’s often not much to see since they’re often covered.
Another friend always asks about the weight of cars since he’s a pilot and such matters are important. Another friend is keen on sound systems and other friend immediately notices the design and material quality of interiors.
This friend, who owns a Subaru Outback and a vintage Volkswagen bug, took one look at the 2013 Santa Fe I’m driving to the Tour of California and commented: “Look at that; the Big Boys should be worried. It looks like a Mercedes.”
Indeed, the newly designed Hyundai Santa Fe features a modern look inside and out. It’s as if it were created by an architect or engineer with a passion for fine lines and angles.
On the flat and tediously barren open road along Interstate 5 driving North to South, there’s mostly nothing but brown fields, ranches and herds of cattle. So, I couldn’t help but stare at the Santa Fe’s console.
Look at the angles. Look the meshing of the glovebox into the navigation system and the contour of the panels molding into the dashboard. It’s futuristic but handsome.
The second leg my trip has taken me to the base of the famous and infamous Grapevine. It’s the gnarly, steep incline that serves as the unofficial welcome to the wondrous, mad world of Southern California driving.
I’ve now driven 302 miles, primarily on Interstate 5 and mostly with the Santa Fe’s cruise control set at 75 mph. The air conditioner has been on most of the way. I am averaging 24.6 mpg. The Grapevine awaits.
Article Last Updated: July 28, 2023.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.