HYUNDAI SANTA FE HIGHLANDER
Price as tested: $61,490
This month: 1483km @ 11.2L/100km
IN STEPHEN KING’S classic 1983 novel Christine, Arnie Cunningham’s malevolent 1958 Plymouth Fury puts the “fear into four wheels” as it goes about autonomously dispatching Arnie’s rivals in grisly ways, while driving a Cadillac-sized wedge between him and his new girlfriend.
Lately I’ve been wondering if our Santa Fe might have a touch of the Christines about it, too, in so far as there’s something suspicious about the way the heated seats and steering wheel activate with a mind of their own.
Admittedly, having your buns and palms gently roasted pales when compared to being monstered by a tonand-a-half of angry Detroit iron, but on a hot summer day with the excellent air-con cranked to cryogenic, it’s at the very least mildly inconvenient.
The wife, too, thinks there’s something mischievous with the way the speed zones in the head-up display and sat-nav unit aren’t always in kilter with the posted limits on the road. That could be a poltergeist or other supernatural being, right?
Curbing the temptation to dial 1800-EXORCIST, we instead dial 1800-SCEPTICS, who point out that the hellfire and brimstone coming through seats and steering is likely due to the location of the switches just above the dash slot where we stow wallets and phones. Throwing stuff in there sometimes causes stray hands to bump the switch, making us feel the burn.
The speed limit discrepancy is also easily explained as a case of the Santa Fe’s navigation software only being updated at scheduled services, whereas VicRoads can change a posted limit anytime they fancy. Only downwards, it seems. The wife opines that the difference between what the car says is the limit, and that of the occasional revised roadside speed sign, might be the difference between getting pinged and losing your licence. Fair call, but good luck explaining that to the judge.
When not driving the absolute wheels off the Santa Fe at a certifiably insane 80km/h, She Who Must Be Obeyed is often found in the heated and cooled navigator’s chair offering advice on anything from the standard of my driving, to the standard of my driving.
It’s then that I thank someone in Seoul for providing the handy button on the inside edge of her seat that enables the driver or rear passengers to adjust the seat fore and aft. There’s that poltergeist again, I say, as the wife’s seat glides eerily forward, until contact with the dash quells conversation.
Speaking of things autonomous, I asked someone who should know about such matters, how long Hyundai’s Lane Keeping Assist function would allow hands-free driving before alerting the driver to put a hand back on the wheel. Their response: “Oh, about 10 seconds?”
An admittedly unscientific oneMississippi-two-Mississippi count showed a mysterious power steering the Santa Fe within its lane for a full 87 seconds before the alert chimed. Eerie, huh? It’s enough to send shivers down your spine… or did I just bump the bloody seat cooling switch again?