2020 Hyundai Palisade – First Drive

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2020 Hyundai Palisade

The Hyundai Palisade is a three-row midsize SUV that straddles the line between value and luxury.

By Nick Kurczewski, Contributor, Car-ED.com | July 2019


Hyundai is getting into the thick of the midsize SUV battle with the brand new Palisade. As the replacement for the Santa Fe XL, the Palisade is pitted against rivals like the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, and Kia Telluride.

What is this vehicle?

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is the latest entry in the growing field of midsize SUVs with three rows of seating. There is room for seven or eight passengers, depending on whether you order the standard second-row bench seat, or optional dual captain’s chairs. The Palisade is offered in three main trim levels: SE, SEL, and Limited. Pricing starts at around $32,000 for the entry-level model, though this jumps significantly when you climb up to the Limited trim, which stickers for more than $44,000.

That’s a lot of money, though it’s worth noting the Limited comes loaded with comfort and safety features, including Nappa leather seating, 20-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitors, heated and ventilated front and second-row seats, a power-folding third row, surround-view cameras, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, and much more. No matter which trim you choose, the Palisade comes in front-wheel drive format and is powered by a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Adding all-wheel drive costs an additional $1,700.

Who is this vehicle for?

Ideally, the Palisade is for someone who needs the added flexibility that comes with having three rows of seating. While it’s labeled a midsize SUV, the Palisade looks and feels larger than its official title. There is plenty of space in the second row and, most importantly, the third row can be used by actual adults. It takes a little bit of a climb to get back there, but the stadium-style seating and ample glass area mean it’s a bright and airy cabin, no matter where you sit.

From the outside looking in, the Palisade is not a sport-utility for someone who prefers to travel under the radar. The large front grille is bold, to say the least. The polarizing exterior at least helps the Palisade stand out in a crowded market that includes the recently redone Ford Explorer, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Honda Pilot, and Kia Telluride.

Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade offers more than simply another choice among three-row SUVs, it delivers plenty of options across its three trim levels. A fully-loaded Limited model, such as the one I test drove near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the scenic setting for the Palisade media drive, is a luxury SUV in everything but badge. No matter what you think of the brash exterior design, the cabin of the Palisade Limited is filled with quality materials and soft-touch surfaces. It’s not far from what you’d find in a true luxury SUV, such as the whisper-quiet Lexus RX350L.

But sticking with the SE and SEL trim levels still brings a wide range of features and amenities. Standard safety equipment on the Palisade SE includes forward collision warning, lane keep assist, driver attention monitor, rear occupant alert, and rearview camera with guidance lanes. Comfort touches include a total of five USB outlets, 8-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, power folding second-row bench seat, and intelligent cruise control. Hyundai also has one of the better warranties, including 10-year/100,000 mile coverage of the powertrain. If you’re planning on buying versus leasing, this is especially important.

Interesting facts about this vehicle!

All trim levels come with a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. You get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on even the entry-level Palisade, though I never used them much during my day-long test drive. Towing capacity for the Palisade Limited fitted with all-wheel drive registers in at 5,000 pounds.

On the road, the Palisade rides comfortably and quietly, with the exception of some wind noise that seemed to be coming from the side mirrors. It wasn’t enough to be truly irritating, but it did occur every time I’d get the truck up to highway speed. The front seats are extremely spacious and getting an accurate read on all the controls and instruments doesn’t take much time. Credit to Hyundai, there are still buttons and knobs to control frequently used items, such as volume and radio tuning, or to adjust the heated and ventilated seats. The transmission is controlled via buttons on the center console, too. While these gearbox controls can sometimes look and feel gimmicky, it worked fine in the Palisade and lent the dashboard a modern and clean appearance.

What Impressed Us / Top Likes:

The power provided by the Palisade isn’t overpowering, though it’s plenty for routine driving. Fuel mileage in the Limited with all-wheel drive registers at an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway. Stick with front-wheel drive, and this improve slightly to 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway. That’s not going to make any Toyota Prius owners envious, though it’s a solid showing for a SUV that’s 196.1-inches long and tips the scales at more than 4,200 pounds.

The engine is also remarkably quiet, which is great if you’ve got a sleeping passengers along for the ride. The sliding second row seats provide a great way to balance legroom for everyone, especially if adults are seated in the third row. USB outlets are everywhere you look, in the Limited even those in the rearmost seats have a couple of them. One genius feature is that Hyundai placed the second-row outlets along the sides of the front seats. This is extremely handy and don’t be surprised if other automakers copy the idea.

There is also a useful 18 cubic feet of cargo room located behind the third row. In some SUVs, you sacrifice hauling capacity when every seat is occupied. It’s nice that the Palisade doesn’t force you to consider jettisoning parcels or passengers to free up space.

Hyundai allowed us to do a little off-road driving during our time with the Palisade. Granted, it was mainly dirt roads and not any serious rock-crawling type of adventure. At the time, I’d switched from an all-wheel drive model to one fitted with front-wheel drive. Unless you’re going to be seriously slinging your Palisade through mud and muck at high speeds, you might want to consider saving some money and skipping all-wheel drive. It was only while really pushing the truck’s limits that the steering and suspension gave the game away, courtesy of arm loads of understeer. Considering that the average Palisade owner isn’t going to drive like they’re competing in a Baja rally, I can’t really fault this family-friendly SUV for getting a little mushy at its limits.

Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):

The Palisade feels its size and weight. That’s not to suggest it feels underpowered, or has handling that feels too light and disconnected. But unlike some midsize SUVs that have athletic driving manners – particularly the nimble Mazda CX-9 – the Hyundai Palisade doesn’t possess car-like driving qualities. That might not be a major issue because, let’s face it, a normal car can’t tote along 7-8 people and a weekend’s worth of luggage. The Palisade is targeting shoppers who prefer a softer ride and more isolated steering.

I’ve already pointed out the large front grille and said it could polarize opinions. I’ll admit that I think the Telluride is the better looking of the two Hyundai/Kia SUVs, and leave it there.

There is the issue of how much the Palisade’s price jumps between the trim levels. Moving from the mid-level SEL to the Limited requires handing over an additional $12,000. That’s a huge amount of money to spend, though the Limited does come with basically every option you can load into this SUV. It also undercuts top trim levels of especially popular rivals, like the Honda Pilot Elite and Ford Explorer Platinum. However, the Palisade Limited does cost about $1,000 more than a Kia Telluride in that model’s range-topping SX AWD trim.

Segment and Competitors:

There is no shortage of competitors to the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. Some models are similarly brand new to the segment, while many others have received recent redesigns. Here’s a look at some of the Palisades competition.

  • 2020 Ford Explorer
  • 2019 Honda Pilot
  • 2019 Subaru Ascent
  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2020 Kia Telluride
  • 2019 Toyota Highlander
  • 2019 Mazda CX-9
  • 2019 Chevrolet Traverse

If you’re in a Hyundai dealership and don’t need something on the scale of the Palisade, you might consider the two-row Santa Fe. Fresh from its own redesign, the newest model has more tech and safety features than before, and carries a tempting starting price of around $26,000.

Unique Specifications:

Automaker’s love tossing journalists the keys to the most highly optioned models, and that was the case during the test drive in northern Idaho. The Palisade Limited has the same engine and transmission as every other trim, though it comes with a treasure trove of features. If you’re impatient and don’t want to spend time ticking options boxes, this could be the one for you. Here are some of my test car’s highlights.

  • LED headlights and taillights
  • All-wheel drive
  • Nappa leather seating surfaces
  • In-car intercom system
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • 7 USB outlets, including two for third-row occupants
  • Auto-leveling rear suspension
  • Heated and cooled first and second-row seating
  • Harmon Kardon 12-speaker audio system
  • Head-up instrument display
  • Microfiber suede headliner
  • Wireless smartphone charger

When everything is tallied together, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade I drove came to $45,905, including destination fee. The only single option added to the Limited was a set of carpeted floormats, which cost a cool $180.

Pricing and Availability:

The MSRP of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is $32,595, including the $1,045 destination charge. Depending on where you live, the 2020 Palisade should be rolling into your local dealership right about now.  Considering the huge success of the Kia Telluride, time will tell if SUV shoppers prove to be as enamored by its mechanical twin, the Palisade.

2019-07-09T17:36:50-04:00Jul 2019|Car Reviews|