2020 Hyundai Palisade: Family first comfort with affordable luxury

2020 Hyundai Palisade 38.JPG
2020 Hyundai Palisade (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is easy to drive. That was my first takeaway during the recent press preview.

It’s a large vehicle, with seating up to 8, but it doesn’t drive big. And even as a petite female, I was able to adjust the driver’s seat and steering wheel to create optimal comfort and visibility.

My second takeaway: The Palisade has a lot of innovative technology.

At the base trim, you’ll get standard features such as automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Available goodies include some of the usual suspects such as navigation, head up display, a 10-inch infotainment screen, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a surround-view monitor, wireless charging, up-level Harman Kardon premium sound system and up to seven USB ports.

There are three new tech features, however, that deserve a special shout out:

  • A dual Bluetooth connection that allows you to pair two phones to the vehicle at once, one for phone calls and one for audio streaming.
  • A blind-view monitor, which shows an image of your blind spot in the available 12.3-inch full-digital instrument cluster as soon as you activate either your right or left turn signal.
  • An ultrasonic rear-seat reminder that detects movement in the back seat of the vehicle and sends a text message to your phone so that you don’t forget a child or a pet in the vehicle.

With all the available technology, there was one tech miss I need to address. The Palisade comes equipped with a speed limit sign reader, and it will automatically change your cruise control speed whenever the speed limit changes. While this is cool in theory, the fail is this: It only works if your cruise control is set exactly to the speed limit.

Ford has a similar system in its new Explorer, and it allows you to set a tolerance plus or minus 10 mph, and it will adjust your speed on federal highways to that tolerance level. For example, if you normally set your cruise control +9 mph, and the speed limit changes from 55 mph to 65 mph, your cruise control will automatically adjust to 74 mph.

Now that is cool.

Moving away from technology, the Palisade comes standard with cloth seating surfaces and a bench seat in the middle row at the base SE trim. If you opt for the SEL trim, cloth captain’s chairs are standard, but the bench can still be added back in for a $0-cost option.

One of my biggest beefs with most three-row SUVs is access to the third row. Many SUVs make it difficult to move the middle row seats, and the space created to access the third row is barely large enough for an infant to crawl through.

But Hyundai has made it clear that the Palisade’s third row is not a penalty box. With a one-touch button, it’s easy to move the second row to create a gap big enough for an average sized adult to climb through.

Third-row Legroom is decent, the seats are comfortable for moderate drives, and there are cup holders and available USB ports.

Plus, that middle row is light enough to slide back in place without too much fuss – which a lot of the other SUVs in this class haven’t managed.

Palisade only has one powertrain option: a 3.8-liter V-6 that delivers 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque.

For simplicity’s sake, this makes buying a Palisade easy as choices are limited, but it does put Hyundai’s newest SUV at a slight disadvantage when competitors such as Ford Explorer have hybrids and sport-tuned options available as well.

On the plus side, Hyundai’s V-6 is a good one. It has decent accelerations for passing and merges. It’s not heart-flipping fast, but it gets the job done.

I say all this with a couple caveats: We weren’t driving at high altitudes and there were only two of us in the vehicle.

Overall ride and handling are smooth and competent. We traversed gravel roads, pockmarked construction zones and smooth highways, and the Palisade managed each with equal aplomb. It also feels much lighter than its 4,000 pounds, and retains some nimbleness.

One interesting aside: We drove both an SEL and a Limited model, and we noted that the Limited, while it handled the same, was slightly quieter in terms of outside noise entering the cabin.

Because of the close relationship of the Palisade with the Kia Telluride (same size, same platform, same powertrain), the obvious question arises: What sets them apart?

While I haven’t driven the Telluride and can’t speak to handling, the look of both vehicles is decidedly different. And while Telluride is positioned more as an adventure-ready vehicle, Palisade falls more on the premium side.

Additionally, there are three features available on the Palisade that are not on the Telluride: the 12.3-inch behind-the-wheel TFT display, a power folding third row and the shift-by-wire transmission.

Curiously, it’s also worth noting that the Telluride has a higher starting price, but the all-in, top-tier price caps out less than the Palisade.

The Palisade is standard as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, and it will have three available trims:

  • SE ($31,550): Standard with 8-passenger seating, 8-inch touch screen display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and a driver attention warning.
  • SEL ($33,500): This adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, captain’s chairs, proximity key, push button start, heated front seats, dual climate controls and second-row dual automatic temperature controls.
  • Limited ($44,700): This trim adds Nappa leather seats, ventilated front seats, a 12.3-inch full digital instrument cluster, head up display, surround-view monitor, blind view monitor, ambient lighting and the Harman Kardon premium audio.

All-wheel drive is available for $1,700 and the destination fee will be $1,045.

Palisade is just now starting to roll out into dealerships.

The Bottom Line:

I like the look and the feel of the all-new Hyundai Palisade. It has lux-level looks and amenities, it drives smaller than a typical 8-passenger vehicle, it’s comfortable, and it has a lot of nice convenience features – some of which I haven’t seen in other vehicles.

While one downer is the lack of additional powertrains, the major positive is the overall value proposition. You can go all in, with all the tech extras and AWD, for slightly more than $46K.

Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Hyundai covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.