Test Drive:2020 Hyundai Palisade

Christian Wardlaw | Jun 24, 2019

Introduction

Replacing the 7-passenger Santa Fe XL in the company’s SUV lineup, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is bigger in every dimension. It has more passenger capacity, more occupant space, and more cargo room, making it a legitimate head-to-head competitor with midsize SUVs such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander.

Hyundai offers the new 2020 Palisade in SE, SEL, and Limited trim levels. Options, aside from a handful of dealer-installed accessories, include a Convenience package and a Premium package for the SEL trim. Prices range from $32,595 to $47,445, including the $1,045 destination charge.

2020 Hyundai Palisade photo

To get first-hand driving experience with the 2020 Palisade, Hyundai invited me to northern Idaho to sample the SUV on the freeways, 2-lane highways, and dirt roads of the region.

Styling and Design

Easily the biggest reason to choose, or skip, the Hyundai Palisade is the SUV’s styling. You either love or hate the bold, expressive front end. Beyond that, the Palisade is fairly conservative in appearance, looking remarkably upscale even in mid-grade SEL trim.

Climb aboard and the interior impresses—especially at the Palisade’s price point. There is a sense of style to the surroundings, from color and trim selection to subtle textures and thoughtful details. Especially in Limited trim, the SUV exudes quality and luxury.

Comfort is excellent. Up front, big seats with available heating and cooling await your drive, and Hyundai makes sure any surfaces you might contact are soft. Even the sides of the center console are padded where your leg might touch it. Cloth is standard for SE and SEL trim, with leather optional for SEL versions. The Limited features quilted and stitched premium Nappa leather.

Second-row seats, whether the 3-person bench seat in the SE or the captain’s chairs in the SEL and Limited (a bench seat is optional for SEL trim), sit high off the floor to supply terrific thigh support and an expansive view out. With Limited trim, they’re heated and cooled. Available side window shades cover the entire window, keeping the sun out of the eyes of babies riding in reverse-facing child safety seats.

Third-row comfort is great for kids, and adequate for adults provided the trip is a short one. I rode back there for 10 miles, happy enough but unwilling to spend more than 30 minutes in that location. Consider, however, that I weigh 250 pounds, am six feet tall, and have bad knees.

Cargo capacity behind the Palisade’s third-row seat measures 18 cu. ft., and a large bin underneath the cargo floor provides concealed storage. Fold the third-row seat down for 45.8 cu. ft. of space. Maximum volume measures 86.4 cu. ft.

Features and Controls

Silver-plated switchgear obscures their markings, and some people won’t like the push-button transmission controls, but otherwise the Palisade’s interior offers a logical and intuitive layout.

A cabin air filter and ionizer is standard with SEL and Limited trim. It works. At one point during the test drive, a large dump truck belching black, sooty exhaust pulled onto the highway ahead of the Palisade. The stench penetrated the interior, but only momentarily.

A Quiet Mode is standard for all Palisades. Using this, a driver can turn off the SUV’s rear speakers when rear-seat occupants are sleeping. Driver Talk is available for the SEL and standard for the Limited. This feature allows the driver to speak to rear passengers through the stereo speakers.

A head-up display is offered exclusively in the Palisade Limited. It supplies a comprehensive view of various data points, but if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses it isn’t visible.

Interior storage is excellent, the SUV providing numerous practical solutions including slots in all door armrests and smartphone holders in the back seat. Fold the rear center armrest down and the Palisade provides second-row occupants with 6 cupholders and USB ports in addition to available rear climate control and a 110-volt power outlet.

Safety and Technology

Safety starts with a vehicle’s underlying engineering, and Hyundai constructs 59% of the Palisade’s architecture using high-strength steel for superior crash protection. Of course, official testing by the federal government and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is forthcoming and will confirm whether or not the approach is effective.

Standard advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping and lane-following assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. These systems offer a range of programmable settings and work with accuracy and refinement.

Upgrade to SEL trim for blind-spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert system with automatic rear braking. This trim level also includes a Safe Exit Assist system designed to prevent you or your passengers from opening a door if traffic is approaching from behind.

Optional on SEL and standard on Limited trim, Highway Drive Assist puts the Palisade on the road to autonomous driving. It steers for 30 seconds before you need to grab the wheel again. And if you fail to take control, it will slow the SUV to 35 mph before disengaging the adaptive cruise and steering assist, allowing the Palisade to crash if you’ve suffered a medical emergency or have fallen asleep. This is not as helpful as similar technologies, such as those from Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Every Palisade also has a rear-occupant alert system that reminds you to check the rear seat before leaving the SUV, just in case someone or something important is back there. An ultrasonic rear-occupant alert is also available for the SEL and standard for the Limited. It can detect motion within the Palisade for up to 24 hours after you’ve left the car, alerting you that a child or pet might be trapped inside the vehicle.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the Palisade, and the SE and SEL trim levels have an 8-in. touch-screen display. Optional for SEL and standard for Limited, a larger 10.25-in. display accompanies a navigation system, multi-device Bluetooth pairing capability, Blue Link connected services with a free 3-year trial period, and wireless device charging.

The 10.25-in. setup is Hyundai’s latest and greatest infotainment system, with improved graphics, quick response, and smartphone-style operation. It is intuitive to use, and like most such systems, it is best for new owners to spend some quality time setting everything up the way they want it.

Exclusive to the Palisade Limited, a 12.3-in. digital instrumentation panel looks terrific, while a 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system with Clari-Fi music-restoration technology and Quantum Logic surround sound produces impressive audio. The Limited also has a surround-view monitoring system as well as a Blind View Monitor that uses cameras to show what’s on either side of the SUV, in addition to a traditional radar-based blind-spot monitoring system.

Driving Impressions

Equipped with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine making 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 262 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,200 rpm, the Palisade has just enough power. Unless you’re trying to pass slower vehicles at altitude, it will accelerate in satisfying fashion even if it doesn’t raise your pulse. The SUV’s tow rating is 5,000 lbs., and upper trims offer a load-leveling rear suspension.

An 8-speed automatic transmission seamlessly delivers the power to the front wheels, unless you choose the optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. So equipped, up to 50% of the power can flow to the rear wheels, and Hyundai uses brake-induced torque vectoring to improve handling. On rough or slippery surfaces, a Lock mode evenly splits the power between the front and rear wheels. Hyundai says the Palisade provides 7.9 inches of ground clearance.

What’s most remarkable about the Palisade is its dynamic tuning. The steering and brakes are perfect, and the suspension provides good feel for the road with virtually no body roll in corners. Sitting up tall in the driver’s seat, looking out over its broad and flat hood, you expect this SUV to keel over if you toss it into a curve, but that doesn’t happen.

Additionally, the Palisade is quiet inside. Front and second-row passengers can easily carry on a conversation at highway speeds. There is some wind noise on the freeway, but the powertrain is muffled and road noise is nicely quelled.

Several driving modes are available: Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Smart. I used Smart the majority of the time, which automatically cycles between the others depending on how you’re driving the Palisade. During a day that involved mostly highway driving, the Palisade AWD averaged 22.2 mpg, better than the EPA’s 21-mpg rating in combined driving.

Conclusion

Unquestionably, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade delivers exactly what midsize, 3-row crossover buyers want in a new vehicle. From its sense of style and considerable quality to its truly useful interior chock full of thoughtful attention to detail, this is an impressive new entry in the family SUV segment. Best of all, given the generous owner benefits that come with buying a Hyundai, it strikes me as bona-fide bargain.

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