The playing field of three-row crossover SUVs is bigger than it's ever been, and that group will only continue to grow. You no longer have to settle for cramped third rows, nor do you have to pony up for big body-on-frame SUVs like the Ford Expedition (as good as it is) or the pricey and soon to be replaced Lexus LX 570. The good news is that there are plenty of midsizers that can qualify as good three-row crossover SUVs, and families ranging from four to seven have more options than ever before. Here are our top three candidates for SUV of The Year.
While a lot of SUVs come our way, largely because the segment occupies such a wide swath in the industry, that doesn't mean there are a ton of contenders for the top spot for us. All three of the aforementioned selections nabbed an "Excellent" overall score which means they ranked high in most, if not all, of the categories the following categories: Driving Experience, Technology, Styling, Comfort, Safety, Storage/Cargo Fuel Economy, and Audio.
The Kia Telluride has won SUV of the year by a number of outlets, and it is remarkable how good it is in its first generation. It captures the style quotient the best out of all three of the candidates, while the Ford Explorer ST is easily the most fun to drive with its rear-wheel drive bias, robust 400 horsepower and sporty suspension tuning. But the Palisade wins out thanks to its overall excellence. It drives well, has ample amounts of room, high levels of luxury, tremendous features, and presents the best value out of all three. It's why we've chosen it as our SUV of The Year.
Families looking for space, affordability, style, tech, and convenience don't have to look far. The Palisade offers it all and then some. Although the big-framed grille design is a bit polarizing, no one will question whether or not the Palisade has presence. The Palisade is well-proportioned from front to back, and the range of wheel designs across the model line meld nicely with the Palisade's design.
The interior is even more noteworthy, and it puts even the Land Rover Range Rover's sublime interior on notice. Supple leather with decadent quilting, superb electronics, excellent ergonomics, and ample space for a big family means you'll lack nothing. In top Calligraphy trim, you might as well match it against SUVs costing twenty thousand dollars more. The excellent optional 10.25" touchscreen looks opulent and works smoothly, as does the Palisade's pushbutton transmission, one of the best ones in existence. Just about every aspect of the Palisade's interior has received a tremendous amount of attention.
The driving experience is one that will bring a smile to most families. It rides like a luxury SUV and absorbs bumps with quiet ease. Highway speeds and road noise are managed with quiet composure. The drive modes enable you to handle everything from pavement to dirt and snow, and the steering and chassis are better than most SUVs in the segment, more evidence that Hyundai can pull off premium without the premium price.
Our SEL tester for the 2020 model year was a mid-level trim, which is exactly why were so blown away by everything it offered, which included Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist, All-Wheel Drive, 18" alloy wheels, Satin Chrome exterior door handles, heated Dual Power Side Mirrors, Captain's Chairs, Remote Engine Starter, Haptic Steering Wheel, Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Lane Following Assist, and power-folding third row seats.. And that's just part of the list.
Here are the specs as we tested it.
- Trim Base Price: $35,175
- Price As Tested: $43,155 (incl. $1,045 destination charge)
- Engine: 3.8-liter V6
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters
- Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
- Horsepower: 291 / Torque: 262 lb-ft
- Fuel Economy: 19 city / 24 highway / 21 combined
The Palisade wins out over the Telluride because its interior and amenities are a notch above. They share the same engine and similar performance. Most big families are looking for a truly special interior that provides space, comfort, and ideal levels of technology, and the Palisade covers them all. The mere fact that Hyundai could produce such a remarkable large three-row SUV its first time out is a colossal achievement, and it shows what the brand can pull off. The Palisade is pulling customers away from luxury brands, and there are numerous reasons why. Perhaps it's time you had one in your garage.
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Thinking about buying a Hyundai Palisade? Check out our full review below:
2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD Review
Note: We base our choice of Car of the Year on real-world vehicles, not high-performance versions that are way out of reach. The pool of cars we choose from are only selected from ones we've actually driven and reviewed, so we have first-hand experience with them. They are evaluated based on style, comfort, driving experience, utility, safety, technology, efficiency, materials quality, build quality, amenities, brand significance, and segment impact. Our contenders had to be models new to the 2020 model year that were either full redesigns or totally new for 2020. Refreshed models from the previous years did not count.