2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL FWD Review by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the all-new Kia Telluride, and came away mightily impressed. So, we couldn’t wait to try its sibling, the Hyundai Palisade. We were surprised in a couple ways.

They’re very different, and yet both deserve your consideration. And Hyundai’s flagship SUV even has a surprising accent. (Not to be confused with the Hyundai Accent)

Swedish Fish

Many times we’ve pointed out that Kia design feels very European, thanks in part to putting Peter Schreyer the head of Audi design in charge. Hyundai has never felt that way, until now. Well, except for the front. Here we have a massive cascading grille, slim LED headlights that give a set of evil looking eyes, and driving lights in pooched-put cheeks for an aggressive and bold look.

Come around to the sides, though and the silhouette reminds us of the Volvo XC90. The Palisade looks even bigger and more substantial than the Swede, and the lines are handsome if not entirely unique. Black ovefenders add a touch of off-road worthiness, and the massive 20-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels are handsome and purposeful.

Around the back, the design is clean and simple, with a large Hyundai badge and massive letters spelling out P A L I S A D E, that are really quite dramatic. Our Lagoon Silver tester enjoyed some contrasting trim at the front and the rear fascia that helped everything pop, but the look was still tasteful, expensive, and very Euro.

Scandinavian Design

If the exterior hints at the XC90, the interior feels even more Swedish. Hop in, and the first thing that hits you is the space. The Palisade is Palatial! With seating up to eight, there’s loads of room, and like the Telluride, adults will fit in the third row. Cargo space goes from good to huge to humongous depending on whether you have 3rd row up, down, and 2nd row down as well. Power controls to flip/fold the seats make loading cargo easy.

Spacious meets upscale in the Pali. The look of the optional beige leather is elegant – again, we’d probably go for a darker shade for everyday usability.  The light-colored wood-tone trim is pure Volvo, while the soft-touch, light colored trim and metallic accents are a joy to look at.

Adding to the joy, are a 7-inch drive assist display between the highly legible tach and speedo, and a massive optional 10.25 info-tainment touch-screen display, that’s Lexus-huge and serves up all the info, including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto beautifully. If you opt for the Limited, you can get a Genesis-style 12.3 TFT instrument display, which is very cool, but honestly, we didn’t feel like we were missing out in our tester.

Like the Acura RDX we tested recently, the transmission features shift-by-wire, so instead of at traditional shift lever, a pushbutton display sits in the center console. While the Acura’s was cramped and a little frustrating, the Hyundai’s layout is logical and spacious, and perfectly meets the luxury vibe. Moving to this kind of transmission creates a “floating bridge” design that frees up added storage inside as well. Next to the shifter is a large drive-mode knob, while easy to use climate controls and switches for the audio/info are laid out in a tasty horizontal row.

Info-tainment is top-notch, with up to seven(!) USB ports, and cool stuff like an available Driver Talk in-car intercom system that lets driver communicate separately with the second and/or third rows of the vehicle via audio system’s conversation mode. The system also includes a Rear Seat Quiet Mode that allows the driver’s row to listen to their selected audio without that same audio being transmitted to the second- and third-row audio speakers, so that potentially sleeping passengers will not be disturbed. So thoughtful.

Other cool things are a roof-mounted vent diffuser that looks like what you find in a personal jet. An industry first, it provides you choice of focused, partially-diffused, or fully-diffused stream of air to rear seat passengers. The new design provides a quieter a/c airflow, and draft free operation. Very clever. And you won’t find that on the XC90!

Plush Performer

One area where the Palisade feels less European is in the drive – it’s more of a softer, luxo experience. The engine feels strong – a 3.8-liter V6 pushing out 291 hp, and 262 lb.-ft of torque. The eight-speed transmission is responsive, and our front-wheel-drive tester felt very quick off the line and also merged and passed on the freeway with ease. For best performance, we turned the large Drive Mode controller to Sport, and it made a big difference with excellent throttle response.  Exercise a little restraint and mid-20 mpg’s are possible on the freeway.

It’s a great long-distance cruiser, too. The ride is soft and comfortable, and interior noise is low. While it’s not really the kind of vehicle you plan to take on your favorite twisty road, the handling is quite wieldy, especially considering the large dimensions.

Safety is always a major concern in large family vehicles, and the big Hyundai is exceptionally well equipped, with all models enjoying Forward Collision warning with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep and Lane Following Assist, High Beam include Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Safe Exit Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, an even Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert, that senses if you had a pet or passenger in the back seat, and warns you to check the back before you leave – a great safety feature if you have pets, kids, and a busy lifestyle.

Value Priced

In the last few reviews of Hyundai and Kia products, we had to remind that these are no longer the bargain brands they used to be. Competitive products deserve competitive pricing. Actually, it seems like Hyundai is taking a page out of their old playbook – the Palisade is exceptionally affordably priced.

You can get a Palisade SE starting at just $31,550 with the nice V6 and front wheel drive. For a handsome and spacious eight-passenger SUV loaded with goods that’s a real bargain.

Our mid-level SEL tester started at $33,500, and gets you niceties like power driver’s seat, proximity key with pushbutton start, heated front seats and front and rear dual climate control, and Blind Spot Collision control.

Our tester was well equipped with the $2,200 Convenience Package, which adds those gorgeous 20-inch wheels, and auto-leveling rear suspension, Hands-free smart liftgate, 7-inch high-res cluster display, LED taillights and more. The $2400 Premium Package brought luxurious leather seating, power memory front seats, heated 2nd row seats and power-folding 3rd row seats. The power sunroof added $900, while the $1,250 Drive Guidance Option serves up Navigation with that lovely 10.25-inch touchscreen, Highway Drive Assist, SiriusXM, that cool Driver Talk in-car intercom, along with multiple device connection and Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car services.  Add in $1,045 for delivery and we totaled out at $41,455.


Compared to the real XC90, the pricing hits home – a comparably-equipped Volvo is over $57,000! The closest Palisade competitor comes from its own family – our loaded 4WD Kia Telluride came in at $46,000, so the Hyundai is similarly priced, perhaps a little lower. We love the Telluride’s looks and performance, and it does feel more upscale – but you will pay for it.

We really enjoyed our time with the all-new 2020 Hyundai Palisade.

With its Euro design, excellent road manners and loads of space, Hyundai is giving you Volvo luxury at IKEA prices.

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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