The 2020 Hyundai Palisade has certainly all the right pieces to be a successful entry in the three row SUV segment. A good V6 engine is married to a proper three row platform, that also features an interior that straddles the line between mainstream and opulent luxury. But wheras its cousin the Kia Telluride has ridden a rocket of popularity in its quest to top the sales charts, the Palisade has played more of a supporting role, but does the Palisade do a good job of asserting its own distinctive identity? We were eager to find out.
Polarizing Design Accents Fluid Flanks:
The exterior styling of the Palisade is very unique, and now that we have had some time to soak it in when viewed alongside its competitors, it does fall a step or two behind. Unlike its beefier cousin the Telluride, the Palisade adopts a more eccentric suit of clothes, with a chrome treatment that defines the front grille but overly intrudes as well. The small “Crocodile Eye” headlight fixtures look interesting and allow the Palisade to look good at night, but they also clash with the rest of the design. Like some of Hyundai’s other utility offerings, the main lighting units are in the lower part of the assembly, and they clutter the nose even further. It’s a shame since the side profile is actually very attractive, and does a good job of providing linear flow to the rear design. Back there, the taillights have an equally polarizing design, but unlike the front, the look here is actually tolerable, and it does a good job of providing a figurative exclamation point to the rest of the design. While rivals like the Ford Explorer might have a more cohesive and attractive design approach, we will commend Hyundai for offering something that can be considered a big step up from the outgoing Santa Fe XL.
The Fine Details Inside Are Where Things Really Mesh Together:
While the exterior design of the Palisade is open to interpretation and depends on the tastes of the viewer, the same cannot be said for the interior which manages to present itself as a stylish and very cohesive place to spend time in. Comfortable quilted Nappa leather seats greet occupants, and while the Palisade will never be known for being a corner carving performance offering, the seat’s ability to create ample amounts of long distance comfort will certainly be welcomed on long distance road trips. This comfort extends to the second row, and even third row occupants enjoy good amounts of room and comfort. Adults that clamber their way back there will appreciate the one touch access button that removes the physical effort of sliding the second row forward as is the case with other three row rivals. The first two rows come equipped with heated and cooled thrones, while the third row is heat only which further enhances the luxury undertones that are baked into the cabin.
The shapes, materials, and the feature content easily eclipse the Ford Explorer, and help enhance the Palisades bang for the buck quotient. Seating is offered for either seven or eight people, with our Limited tester being configured for the latter number. Unlike other three row SUVs, the Hyundai comes equipped with a shift by wire push button gear selector for the eight speed transmission. While this might create a bit of a learning curve for owners used to traditional floor mounted shifters, the payoff here is a massive storage console underneath the floating center console which allows buyers to store larger items such as a purse, bulkier items, and even a small laptop. Along with this massive void, the Palisade also has plenty of other storage options on hand to help it haul all kinds of stuff. Cupholders are abundant, and there is plenty of USB ports scattered throughout the vehicle. These include a few ports that are cleverly integrated in the seat backs of the second row seats so that thrid row occupants can use their devices. It’s subtle details like these that make the Palisade a formidable benchmark for other three row rivals.
On the technology side of things, our tester arrived with a 10.25 inch touchscreen infotainment system which features the latest iteration of Hyundai’s UVO software. Like other Hyundai offerings we have encountered, the system is relatively easy to use, and in the case of the bigger 10 inch unit, it even comes with two source Bluetooth capability. However, for all the firepower that the interior brings, it is a pity to see that no WiFi hotspot is offered, and rear seat entertainment screens are also absent. The latter item is an understandable omission, since mobile screens are cheaper, and are also less prone to rapid obsolence as technology changes. One thing that will not go obsolete is the sound quality delivered by the Harmo Kardon premium audio system, which also features elegantly crafted speaker covers in the doors. When combined with other touches like a micro-suede headliner, it’s very clear that the Palisade is committed to disrupting the segment and that in turn gives Hyundai much needed credibility in this important family focused segment.
Smooth Performance For Whatever Journey Lies Ahead:
Carving corners and peak acceleration times are not the prime directives for the Palisade, and all models only offer one engine. But the naturally aspirated 3.8 liter naturally aspirated V6 on hand is still a commendable dance partner, with the mill producing 291 horsepower. An eight speed automatic is the sole transmission on hand, and it does a good job delivering smooth shifts. The power delivery here is very linear and predictable, with minimal amounts of fuss. Going through the various drive modes makes minimal difference in the driving experience, with Sport mode in particular only producing slightly more vigorous reflexes.
The engine is capable of producing a 0 to 60 time of 7.5 seconds, but its true strength lies in hauling, with the Palisade capable of towing up to 5,000 lbs. When paired with the standard electronic sway control, transmission cooler, trailer pre-wiring the Palisade is a capable towing companion. Limited models like our tester even come equipped with auto-leveling rear air suspension which is a nice amenity to have when loading cargo. Handling in the Palisade is very secure, and while the big Hyundai is not a sport focused offering, the feeling of confident poise and safety will undoubtedly be the key requirements for family buyers looking for something that can haul passengers and cargo safely.
Pricing for the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is perhaps its greatest weapon, with the pricing ladder being built around a value focused architecture. Base SE models start at $31,775 with the mid-range SEL starting at $33,725. Move up to the range topping Limited and you are greeted with a $44,925 base sticker. Our Limited example arrived with optional carpeted floor mats which worked with the $1,045 destination charge to push things up to a final tally of $47,605. This pricing puts the Palisade Limited in a unique spot in the premium side of the three row SUV market. For instance, it is less expensive then both the Explorer Limited and Platinum, though the Toyota Highlander in both Limited and Platinum guises manages to undercut the Hyundai slightly.
With the potent combination of value focused pricing, impressive luxury equipment, and poised performance the 2020 Hyundai Palisade has many tools at its disposal to shake things up in the three row SUV market. We look forward to seeing Hyundai designers address some of the Palisade’s styling flaws, because underneath the cluttered exterior styling lurks an interior that makes sure its occupants are coddled in opulent luxury, and state of the art technology that will allow the Palisade to be a potent force for the long haul.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.