2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe XL

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Explorer and Santa Fe XL have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Explorer has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Santa Fe XL’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Explorer has standard Post Collision Braking, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Explorer ST/Platinum has standard Reverse Brake Assist that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Explorer’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Explorer and the Santa Fe XL have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive and around view monitors.

Warranty

There are almost 4 times as many Ford dealers as there are Hyundai dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Reliability

The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

Engine

The Explorer’s standard 2.3 turbo 4 cyl. produces 10 more horsepower (300 vs. 290) and 58 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 252) than the Santa Fe XL’s 3.3 DOHC V6. The Explorer’s optional 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid produces 28 more horsepower (318 vs. 290) and 70 lbs.-ft. more torque (322 vs. 252) than the Santa Fe XL’s 3.3 DOHC V6. The Explorer Platinum’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 75 more horsepower (365 vs. 290) and 128 lbs.-ft. more torque (380 vs. 252) than the Santa Fe XL’s 3.3 DOHC V6. The Explorer ST’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 110 more horsepower (400 vs. 290) and 163 lbs.-ft. more torque (415 vs. 252) than the Santa Fe XL’s 3.3 DOHC V6.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Explorer gets better fuel mileage than the Santa Fe XL:

MPG

Explorer

RWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/28 hwy

AWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/27 hwy

3.0 turbo V6

18 city/24 hwy

ST 3.0 turbo V6

18 city/24 hwy

Santa Fe XL

FWD

3.3 DOHC V6

18 city/25 hwy

Ultimate 3.3 DOHC V6

18 city/23 hwy

AWD

3.3 DOHC V6

18 city/24 hwy

Ultimate 3.3 DOHC V6

17 city/22 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the Explorer Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Explorer’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The Explorer V6 Turbo’s standard fuel tank has 1.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the Santa Fe XL (20.2 vs. 18.8 gallons).

The Explorer has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Ford Explorer, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Santa Fe XL.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Explorer’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Santa Fe XL:

Explorer

Explorer ST

Explorer ST opt.

Santa Fe XL

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

12.4 inches

12.8 inches

13.8 inches

11.9 inches

The Explorer ST’s optional front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Santa Fe XL are solid, not vented.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Explorer has larger standard tires than the Santa Fe XL (255/65R18 vs. 235/60R18). The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Santa Fe XL (275/45R21 vs. 235/60R18).

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Santa Fe XL Ultimate’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer ST/Platinum offers optional 21-inch wheels. The Santa Fe XL’s largest wheels are only 19-inches.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires available on the Explorer can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Explorer’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Explorer’s wheelbase is 8.9 inches longer than on the Santa Fe XL (119.1 inches vs. 110.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 2.8 inches wider in the front and 2.4 inches wider in the rear than on the Santa Fe XL.

Chassis

The front grille of the Explorer (except 3.3 V6 non-Hybrid) uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Explorer Hybrid uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The Explorer has 6.1 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Santa Fe XL (152.7 vs. 146.6).

The Explorer has .8 inches more front headroom, 1.7 inches more front legroom, 2.5 inches more front hip room, 2.4 inches more front shoulder room, 1.1 inches more rear headroom, 3.7 inches more rear hip room, 3.6 inches more rear shoulder room, 3.2 inches more third row headroom, 1.3 inches more third row legroom and .7 inches more third row shoulder room than the Santa Fe XL.

Cargo Capacity

The Explorer’s cargo area provides more volume than the Santa Fe XL.

Explorer

Santa Fe XL

Behind Third Seat

18.2 cubic feet

13.5 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

47.9 cubic feet

40.9 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

87.8 cubic feet

80 cubic feet

The Explorer’s cargo area is larger than the Santa Fe XL’s in almost every dimension:

Explorer

Santa Fe XL

Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)

20.8”/49.8”/83.9”

17.6”/47”/84”

Max Width

59”

50.7”

Min Width

48.1”

44”

Height

33.7”

n/a

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Explorer’s second and third row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

Towing

Maximum trailer towing in the Hyundai Santa Fe XL is limited to 5000 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5600 lbs. towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the Explorer is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Santa Fe XL. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The Explorer offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Explorer’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Santa Fe XL’s parking brake has to released manually.

On a hot day the Explorer’s driver can lower all the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Santa Fe XL can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer’s exterior PIN entry system. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system, and its Blue Link can’t unlock the doors if the vehicle doesn’t have cell phone reception or the driver can’t contact the service.

The Explorer’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Santa Fe XL’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted. The Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum’s standard wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield.

The Explorer ST/Platinum has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Santa Fe XL offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Ford Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s Active Park Assist 2.0 can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The Santa Fe XL doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

The Ford Explorer outsold the Hyundai Santa Fe by over two to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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