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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe goes edgy, gets a diesel

Like most new-car dealers, Hyundai franchisees have been clamoring for more crossover SUVs. Seemingly no matter the size, price or class, American customers can’t get enough soft-roading in their lives. The problem has been more acute with Hyundai than with most brands, however, which is why its dealers are surely salivating over this all-new 2019 Santa Fe.

Now entering its fourth generation, the Santa Fe has been the company’s best-selling SUV in the US, and you needn’t look past this new model’s bold front end and its glowering LED headlamps to realize that it carries significantly more attitude and ambition than before.

Nobody will confuse the new Santa Fe with the old one. It’s a whole new look.

Hyundai

The new Santa Fe also carries a lot more tech, particularly on the cabin and safety side. Base models are equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but upper trim levels include a larger eight-inch screen with Hyundai’s latest AVN 5.0 navigation system, and a 630-watt, 12-speaker surround-sound Infinity audio system is available.

Upper-trim models also receive a seven-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster screen, too. Other tech niceties in the more premium-looking cabin include Qi wireless charging and an available 8.5-inch full-color head-up display. We’ve seen the latter in other Hyundai models before, and it’s a good one — it even integrates blind-spot notifications.

Naturally, Blue Link telematics, which incorporates expected attributes like remote start, stolen vehicle recovery and Car Finder, is also included, as are uncommon features including smartwatch and Amazon Alexa integration.

Before getting into the Santa Fe’s new drivetrain and safety details — of which there are many — there are a few ground rules: Those familiar with the outgoing generation may recall that the Santa Fe lineup had two distinct models: the two-row Santa Fe Sport and the Santa Fe, a longer-wheelbase three-row model. That nomenclature may have been a bit confusing, so henceforth, this new two-row SUV will simply be known as Santa Fe, and the current three-row, seven-passenger model you already know will soldier on into 2019 model year wearing a new name, Santa Fe XL. The new 2019 Santa Fe seen here is bigger than before, stretching 187.8 inches long — 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing Sport, but still a full 5.3 inches shorter than the carryover XL.

That means you’ll find fractionally more space inside in most dimensions, both for humans and for cargo. (And if you still need more space and don’t care for the XL, help is on the way. As part of its Santa Fe announcement, Hyundai has confirmed a new, larger eight-passenger SUV with an entirely different name is in development). Got all that?

Let’s move on. The 2019 Santa Fe has a pretty typical powertrain story, with one big twist: There’s a diesel option. Regardless of which engine you choose and whether you go front- or all-wheel drive, a new eight-speed automatic transmission is mandatory.

Most shoppers will doubtlessly either select the base 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter gas four-cylinder (torque has not been revealed, but the engine delivered 178 pound-feet in 2018 guise) or the punchier 2.0-liter gas turbo with an estimated 232 hp. Interestingly, that’s 8 hp fewer than the outgoing model, suggesting a retuning (perhaps for more torque). Either way, if torque is your bag, you may want to consider the 2.2-liter CRDi turbodiesel, which arrives in early calendar 2019 and is pegged to deliver “around 200 horsepower at 3,000 rpm” and an estimated 320 pound-feet at 1,750 rpm.

There’s a catch, though: The diesel brings with it a mandatory three-row configuration. In fact, it’s the only engine you can get with a three-row Santa Fe going forward. Yes, that’s right, you can now get a third row in this new Santa Fe, as well as in the carryover Santa Fe XL.

That may sound a little confusing, but Hyundai explains it thusly: “The diesel version of the 2019 Santa Fe will also get an occasional-use third-row seat with one-touch folding second-row seats for easy entry into the third-row by children.” Think of the Santa Fe’s available “way-back seats” as just-in-case perches for the wee ones, not unlike the tight third row offered in the Nissan Rogue and Mitsubishi Outlander. Regardless of powertrain, Hyundai has yet to reveal any mileage estimates for its 2019 Santa Fe, saying only that the aforementioned new gearbox is good for an increase in fuel efficiency by “more than three percent.”

Hyundai is not an automaker to shy away from relying on both touchscreens and physical buttons, and we appreciate that.

Hyundai

This being a family-minded vehicle, it should come as no surprise that a full battery of advanced driver assist systems will be on offer. Many active safety features will come standard beginning on the SE trim, and buyers can specify things like adaptive cruise with stop and go, high-beam assist, forward collision avoidance and a 360-degree camera system.

Other, more unexpected safety features include a driver attention warning system, ultrasonic-based Rear Seat Occupant Alert (to curb hot car deaths among children and pets) and Safe Exit Assist, which temporarily prevents doors from being opened into traffic when the system detects that a vehicle (including cars, bicycle and motorcycle) is approaching from behind. On sale this summer, the 2019 Santa Fe will be joined by at least two other new Hyundai SUV models this year, including the funky entry-level Kona subcompact and the Nexo fuel cell. Pricing has not yet been announced, but given its new tweener size, the new Santa Fe will likely be asked to cover a lot of ground.

Either way, having been handcuffed for a few years by a lack of new crossover models, Hyundai dealers — and Hyundai shoppers — now appear poised for a much happier year.

Hyundai Kona: Looking for something a bit smaller?

Check out Hyundai’s other new SUV.

Hyundai Nexo: We took a road trip to CES behind the wheel of Hyundai’s fuel-cell SUV, where the only emissions byproduct is water.

Star Wars robots like R2-D2, C3PO could help you in real life

BB-8 poses with its best side front.

Lucasfilm

If you find yourself in dicey situations like those faced by Poe Dameron and Han Solo with your trusty robot companion at your side, you might find a series of high-pitched beeps and tones like R2-D2‘s helpful. That’s the conclusion of Robin Murphy, Texas A&M University professor of computer science and engineering. Murphy considered whether the beloved robots R2-D2 and BB-8 from the Star Wars universe would be feasible in real life and found the Hollywood mechs actually have some practical features beyond just advancing an often convoluted narrative, especially when it comes to communication.

She published her findings Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. “The beeps and whistles project mental state, e.g., disagreement with whatever C3PO is nattering about, disapproval of a main character’s dubious decision, and frustration at being thwarted in its job of helping the protagonist save the world,” Murphy explains. “In real life, (roboticist) Robin Read has found that the types of beeps and whistles that facilitate the rebel-droid interaction can be effectively used by real robots in engaging children and adults.”

But when it comes to getting around, the design of BB-8 turns out to be less realistic, especially for navigating the sands of Jakku as seen in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” “Anyone who has driven a car on a beach knows how quickly wheels can become buried in the sand and spin in place,” Murphy writes, going on to cite the work of other scientists like Georgia Tech’s Dan Goldman, who performed experiments with the Sphero BB-8 SB© toy on sand to see how it did.

You can see one such experiment in the video below. While Murphy acknowledges a SB© toy is different from an actual robot, it still demonstrates how BB-8 was clearly conceived more for a particular storyline than an actual setting. Still, Murphy says Star Wars droids have had a very real influence on real-world robotics, pointing out that NASA’s personal satellite assistant was inspired in part by Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber training droid and Robonaut 2 aboard the International Space Station bears a certain resemblance to C3PO.

Murphy fails to chime in on the potential influence of some of the more effective battle droids, like the freaky Droidekas from “The Phantom Menace.” No worries, though. I think Elon Musk may have some thoughts on the risks of combining those type of droids with artificial intelligence that we can all heed instead.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”

Apple reportedly looking to buy cobalt directly from miners

Apple may be looking to ensure it has adequate supplies of an essential ingredient of its iPhone batteries.

James Martin/CNET

Apple appears to be taking steps to ensure it has sufficient quantities of an essential ingredient in the batteries that power its iPhone. The tech titan is in negotiations to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. Cobalt is key in the production of the lithium-ion batteries found in phones, laptops and tablets.

The talks underscore concerns that rapid growth in battery demand may lead to a shortage of the raw material. Apple has plenty of reason to be concerned as smartphones and electric cars depend on the cobalt, the price of which has doubled in the past 12 months, according to market track InvestmentMine. Apple aims to secure contracts for several thousand metric tons of cobalt each year for five year or more, the news agency reported.

Companies such as BMW, Volkswagen and Samsung are also looking to lock up multi-year contracts for supplies of the metal to produce electric vehicles. Apple has increased its engagement with cobalt miners in recent years due to scrutiny from international human rights organizations. About 60 percent of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and about 20 percent of it is mined by hand by children, Amnesty International reported in 2016.

Apple said last March it would stop buying cobalt mined by hand in the Congo following reports of child labor and dangerous work conditions. The tech giant has also worked closely with China-based cobalt supplier Huayou Cobalt to address child labor in its supply chain. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET’s newsstand edition.

Logging Out: Welcome to the crossroads of online life and the afterlife.

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