2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD – First Drive – By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman

For 10 straight months, sales of Hyundai’s SUV’s have increased sales. Kona, Tucson, and Santa Fe are models leading the way.

Now the Korean manufacturer has just launched their largest SUV to date, the Palisade.  At a recent press event with the Midwest Automotive Media Association, outside of Chicago, we had a chance to spend several hours behind the wheel of the top level Palisade Limited.  It’s a special vehicle with a lot to offer anyone looking for a mid-size luxury SUV.

The Palisade has standard 3-row seating that can seat 7 people or 8, if you choose a second row split bench seat. There are push button controls in the rear cargo area to raise, lower, or recline the rear bench, making it easy to load cargo.  And getting into the 3rd row seats is a relatively easy process.  One button release will push the second row seat forward and lowers the seatback to provide a good size opening to reach the rear seats that have enough room for adults to get comfortable.

The Palisade is 3 inches longer, and 3.6” wider, 2.4” taller, and has a lengthened wheelbase of 4” over the current Santa Fe XL long wheelbase model. That means driver and all passengers will be treated to ample head, leg and shoulder room.  And you also get a lot more cargo volume with all the seats up, or with second and third seats folded flat. Also, towing capacity is a healthy 5,000 lbs. and a rear automatic load leveling suspension keeps everything rolling smoothly down the road when towing.

Power comes from a 3.8 liter GDI V6 engine with 8-speed transmission.  It produces 291HP and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, and is up to the challenge of moving the large vehicle quickly away from stop lights, and passing on two-lane highways. And it still gets 19 MPG City and 24 Highway.

Competing vehicles in this class are the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, and Subaru Ascent.  All of those SUV’s, when outfitted with similar options and features will cost several thousand dollars more than the Palisade.  It is the inclusion of more car for the money that Hyundai has built its reputation upon, in addition to high quality and the best warranty in the business.

The Palisade is the most structurally rigid vehicle Hyundai has ever made due to the use of high tensile strength steel and aluminum parts in various places throughout the vehicle.  Those structural reinforcements can be easily felt on the road, with a composed ride over rough pavement, and when pushing the Palisade through tight corners.  Little body roll is felt, and the Palisade feels athletic and strong.

The cabin is extremely quiet due to lots of sound deadening materials.  The entire cabin offers excellent sight lines and looks and feels open and airy, helped by a large panoramic moonroof.  The quality and style of the interior looks like it’s been lifted from vehicles in a much higher price range.  Diamond stitching on the door panels, gives the interior the look of a Bentley.  The heated and cooled seats (also present in the second row seating) are comfortable and nicely bolstered.  There is plenty of storage compartments due to the fact that there is a push button transmission instead of a gear shift lever, which saves a lot of space on the console, providing a convenient space to wirelessly charge you cell phone, and house 12-volt and USB outlets, and a large console as well.

A full complement of safety and infotainment technology is standard on the Limited trim level, and too numerous to mention. Let’s just say you won’t be asking the dealer for more options to purchase.  And some of those tech features are quite advanced, especially in this price range. All are easy to use, and can be set to driver preferences.

We found the styling to be handsome and elegant.  I especially liked the front and rear stacked light treatments.  They are unique and tasteful.  The profile lets it stand out in a crowded field.

The test car had one option, $180 for a set of carpeted floor mats.  The bottom line with freight is $47,605.  The base SE is nicely equipped at $31,500, and the mid-level SEL starts at $33,500.  All trims have the same powerful 3.8 liter, V6 engine.

So the final word is this:  If you’re in the market for a mid-size SUV, and your taste or wallet can give you options to go from basic to luxurious, you must check this Palisade out. While Hyundai didn’t intend for the Palisade to compete with the European SUV’s, it will stand up to any BMW, or Audi and even Lexus and Infinity.  And for a lot less money.