This Badass Hyundai Santa Fe Conquers the Antarctic

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu

The Hyundai Santa Fe has become the first passenger car to cross the coldest and driest continent on Earth.

While the trip made history with a standard 2.2-liter diesel-powered Santa Fe driving across the continent of Antarctica, it was even more special because it was driven by Patrick Bergel, the great-grandson of Sir Ernest Shackleton. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, 100 years ago Shackleton was forced to return home from his expedition and put aside his dream of becoming the first man in history to cross Antarctica. According to Hyundai, even as the Endurance sank, Shackleton never gave up hope that his 27 fellow explorers would make it home alive and after a two-year drift, all of the Endurance Expedition members made it home safely. Since then, Shackleton has been known and recognized as a great leader who achieved “a glorious failure.”

To honor Shackleton’s devotion in keeping his men safe, Hyundai took on the challenge of achieving Shackleton’s 100-year-old dream to pay its respects to the great explorer.

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Over 30 days, Hyundai along with Bergel covered a total distance of 3,604 miles (5,800 kilometers), surviving temperatures of -30ºC and below. Naturally, to make the journey, the Santa Fe had to be modified, as you can see from the video above. Hyundai installed a portal gear by rebuilding and reengineering the suspension, suspension links, mounts and axle shafts to make driving in soft snow environment possible. The gearing ratio was lowered to 1.5:1 to achieve the best performance in Antarctica. To deal with the frigid temperatures, the Korean automaker also installed an engine heater to ensure the car could start in the extreme cold. No other changes were made to the engine or ECU.

Hyundai also tossed out the standard fuel tank and replaced it with a 60.8-gallon (230-liter) aluminum fuel tank for the expedition. And, of course, massive snow tires were used. The body and fenders were also widened and trimmed to accommodate the tires.

Discuss this story on our Hyundai Santa Fe Forum

Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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