Hyundai’s new king-of-the-hill SUV impresses on all fronts.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2020 Hyundai Palisade
Base price (Luxury 8-passenger trim): $50,199
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $52,204
For those with decent memories, you might recall Hyundai’s first foray into the mid-size SUV market – it was their high-end Veracruz and at the time, it was pretty impressive. So was the pricing – it was shockingly expensive for a Hyundai. Over 10 years have passed since the Veracruz was introduced here, and many things have changed since then.
Meet the Palisade, Hyundai’s latest mid-size SUV. It replaces the Santa Fe XL and shares its underpinnings with its corporate cousin, Kia’s Telluride.
I think Hyundai did a stellar job in the styling department. The Palisade looks at once modern, classic, luxurious and aggressive. The styling takes a few new twists for Hyundai, with that nifty grille and full LED front lighting treatment, brawny wheel arch flares and sporty integrated rear spoiler. Yet nothing is way out in left field, which means the Palisade still looks pretty traditional and it should age well. My Luxury trim review vehicle had monstrous 20-inch rims on it, and overall, it cuts a nice profile as it comes down the street.
It definitely turned a lot of heads at red lights as well as on the go. And anyone who had a closer look said they really liked the Palisade’s exterior styling – although almost all of them admitted they had never heard of it before. As a side note, my kids’ friends (I’ve got one in every level – elementary, junior high and high school) all loved it and said it looked really cool.
The interior is also a step in a new direction. The broad dash is barely interrupted by the combination gauge/touchscreen panel that seems to be carved out of one block. It looks great and hides the edges of the screen so it feels less “tacked-on-to-the-dash” than many of the competitors. The materials are nice with lots of soft-touch surfaces. The cross-hatched or faux brushed metal trim pieces look fine, although wood would definitely make things feel more luxurious.
There’s no centre stack, so to speak, but rather the centre console angles up toward the dash, and at the top of it are the climate controls. Below that is the push-button transmission and the combination rotary dial that allows you to choose drive modes as well as specific terrain modes.
The leather seats are heated and ventilated and supremely comfortable, even after longer distances.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen is large and very fast and responsive – thankfully Hyundai added some hard buttons and knobs on the dash as well. It controls your communication, navigation and audio which is courtesy of an excellent 12-speaker harman/kardon system. I like how you can configure it into different zones and see what you want to see on it.
You get a full whack of driver assistance technology here. You’ll find everything from an outstanding surround-view camera with parking sensors all around, blind spot visual monitoring (turn on your signal and you can see what’s in your blind spot right in front of you), blind spot collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, safe exit assist, forward collision assistance with pedestrian detection, lane keep and lane follow assist, rear occupant alert, high beam assist and of course adaptive cruise control. All these things worked well and none of them were obtrusive.
Second and Third Row Seats
There are three seats in the second row – you can also get a 7-passenger configuration with captain’s chairs. Second-row passengers can adjust their seats by sliding and/or reclining them, and the two outboard seats are heated.
There’s an automatic climate control panel which feeds ceiling ducted vents and a 12V power port on the back of the centre console, and each front seat has two USB charging plugs on the back of it. To go with these USB plugs, you’ll also find neat slip pockets that fit phones perfectly.
Getting into the three-seat third row is do-able for adults, but spending more than a short time back there will require the second row to be moved forward enough to allow for adult-sized space in both rows if need be. The view out is pretty decent but it would definitely benefit from the second sunroof that comes with the top Ultimate trim.
Third row passengers have power reclining buttons, USB plugs and double cupholders on each side. My kids loved it back there.
If you are transporting little ones, you’ll find two sets of LATCH anchors in the second row, and another set in the third row.
There is a massive storage bin underneath the centre console and a few other places around the cabin to put your stuff.
Pop the power tailgate and, even with the third row in use, you get a sizable 509L trunk along with a significant amount of underfloor storage. There’s a 12V plug for accessories and a removable tonneau cover that can be stored under the trunk floor.
That powered third row can also be folded and unfolded electronically using a control panel in the trunk – move it out of the way and you get 1,297L to work with, which grows to 2,447 if you fold down the second row as well – this can also be done with power buttons in the trunk.
Under the Hood
Hyundai’s 3.8L V6 puts out a very solid 291HP at 6,000 RPM and 262 lb.ft of torque at 5,200 RPM. It is mated to an 8-speed transmission and the HTRAC all-wheel drive system. A vehicle this big with that much power is going to get thirsty, evidenced by the 12.3/9.6 L/100km (city/highway) rating. We averaged 11.6 L/100 km during our week in the Palisade, which is really not that bad at all particularly as we never tried to drive it efficiently.
The powertrain has plenty of get up and go off the line, and the nice V6 growl you get when you step on it is a bonus. It’s not a rocket at highway speeds, but has all the power you’d ever need. The transmission is very impressive – it is so smooth that you can’t feel shifts, yet it’s fast and intelligent, and always felt like it was in the right gear.
You can choose between four drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart) and three alternate terrain modes (Snow, Mud, Sand).
The Palisade has a very smooth, quiet and luxurious ride and it handles surprisingly well for a large, heavy vehicle. I was very impressed with its road manners at all speeds. Speaking of quietness, Hyundai has damped things beautifully all the way up to highway speeds – wind and road noise are negligible.
The brakes are powerful enough to manage bringing this big SUV back down to earth from all speeds. Visibility out of the vehicle is actually very good, although the third-row headrests will intrude into your rear view if they are in use.
If you tow things, the Palisade comes prepped with full wiring and a heavy-duty transmission cooler – add the necessary hardware and it can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was exceptionally high. She loved driving it, she loved the looks and the ease of use.
I agree with her whole-heartedly. This thing is comfortable, has tons of space for passengers and cargo, lots of functional utility, a thoroughly modern and complete feature set and great driving performance – all at a competitive price point.
The Palisade would be an excellent family vehicle and a great road trip partner. I would highly recommend putting it on your shopping list if you are looking at other mid-size SUVs – this one is a winner.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Hyundai Canada.
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