2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD – First Drive Review Video + Mega Gallery

Lots of Palisade love this summer!

You can really tell how seriously Hyundai is taking this full-size SUV launch by the media events scheduled on its behalf. Instead of one major media drive with an ultra exclusive invite list, Hyundai did a Palisade road show and had at least five of them across the country.  Presentations from the product teams and great roads to try out this three-row biggie’s capabilities.

The one we attended was in Asheville North Carolina, a short jump inland from CRD HQ in Charleston, SC.  But years in the ‘lowcountry’ made me forget all about hills and mountains!  This coming from a guy who has done Pikes Peak, twice, for fun!

The mountains in questions were slightly smaller than that 15,000-foot behemouth in Colorado, but were still a hoot nonetheless.  Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi and the roads leading up to it on the Blue Rodge Parkway are divine.  Steep slopes, sharp corners and lush, almost insanely green plantlife all around.

Palisade was more than up to the task. We blasted the 3.8-liter V6 engine and eight-speed automatic to the max on your behalf on the video below!  We even found a nice snakey gravel track diving from main road down deep into the valley below.  Oh, and took it off-road at the lovely Biltmore Estate too, where they usually run Land Rovers for an official adventure program of the brand.  All captured in glorious high-res detail.


2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD – Mountain Drive Review Video

The Highs

This combo of intense mountain driving and some fairly light off-roading was a big test for an SUV that will clearly live 99.99% of its time on the streets doing normal family tasks and outings. Driving in extreme scenarios is as great way to uncover any glaring deficiencies in any vehicle, so a good test nonetheless.

For Hyundai’s jumbo SUV there were few if any hiccups to report. Statically and in town driving, the machine has superlative levels of comfort and smoothness. The drivetrain is bliss with a divine eight-speed automatic that is the best thing not made by ZF on the market. Hyundai did this one in-house and they really nailed it. Overall manners of the steering, brakes, drive position and drive modes are all exceptionally good. The Sport drive mode was our favorite for perking up the throttle response, encouraging faster kick-down for passing, and firming up the ultra-light steering rack. But all the modes are pretty great.

A high point for these modes is the 11-inch TFT digital display on the top Palisades that is something not offered on the Kia Telluride sibling. These have a really cool transition among modes and some cool functionality to explore.  The highlight has to be the camera displays that pop up showing a view of your blindspot as you turn on that side’s indicators. Really cool, super helpful and genuinely innovative idea and execution.

The cabin itself is a masterclass. The luxury throughout really reinforces Hyundai’s plan of making Palisade the ‘upscale luxury’ sibling to the Telluride’s tough ‘n rugged market positioning. Second row roominess is tops for the class and beats Pilot and Explorer by inches. Truly awesome second-row room and comfort – with even cooled seats back there (as well as heated.)

Ingress/egress is a doddle with a spring-loaded action to get in third row (operated by either button on seat shoulder or edge or base). Or you can simply walk in via the middle passageway between the buckets.

Three seatbelts in the third row? Seemed ambitious for a vehicle that is only about 5-inches longer and wider than the Sante Fe XL it replaces. Yet this third row really works, and is actually decent for adults as well as kids. Roomier than the new X7’s wayback, that is for sure!

Finally, a high point is definitely the style. Not just for avoiding the awkward grille and lamps of the Telluride up front. But for being really unique, classy, upscale and macho from up front.

The grille is massive with intricate detailing that extends to the lower chin piece as well. The layered crocodile LED DRLs look cool and fresh.  The quad projector LED low/highbeam solution is also smart and practical for how much light it delivers to road ahead. There are different grilles and wheels for the mid-spec models vs the Limited, and we liked both but lean toward mid-spec option for pure visual appeal. Limited has much better cabin luxury and amenities, though.

Lots of first-ever achievements in this Hyundai — including remote start on the keyfob!  Rejoice!

The Lows

The launch start at the beginning of the video above is not really a fair showing for the big Palisade — it was going uphill at a fairly steep angle!  Should have done it facing downhill…

In the mountains, we did wish for a tiny bit more power to go along with the great handling and steering. (Further drives at sea level show that Palisade is actually pretty peppy with a 0-60-mph sprint in the mid 7’s.

But what about with eight people onboard, luggage on the roof and maybe a boat in back? The load-leveling rear suspension on upper trims will be crucial in this scenario. And with all that extra mass, we do worry that the vehicle might struggle in hilly conditions. Sometimes surplus power does make sense.


Overall Palisade has a 9/10 drivetrain, a 10/10 cabin, 9/10 looks and 11/10 pricing/value. This is a great truck that really does feel like a luxury rival, easily beating Infiniti QX60 and Acura MDX at their own game. Yet with all-in pricing that is about $47,000 — almost $10k less than even the loaded Explorer, let alone any premium-brand rival.