2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD Review

All hail the king of 3-row unibody SUVs


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Strong physical presence, beautifully appointed interior, huge amounts of passenger space, nice electrically operated 3rd row seats, great V6 power, enters the realm of premium without the premium price.
Negatives: Big cascade grille is polarizing, third row seats have a high floor and poor back support, annoying cupholders.
Bottom Line: This is the newest three-row entrant into the SUV game, and it's a great one. Hyundai seems to have hit the magical formula for families, as well as the drivers of those families, with great space, solid driving manners, and superb tech and interior materials. It's got so much packed into it, we wonder how Hyundai can afford to do this.
Both Hyundai and Kia (sister companies) waited a long time to jump into the three-row SUV segment, but it appears they've done it with both feet first. The new Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade rest on the same platform and share a lot of compenentry (as well as an engine). They're both attractive, spacious, and so well appointed that it's gotta make the pricier (and premium) competitors nervous. So, too with their level of style and materials quality. In fact, word on the street is that buyers are dumping their more expensive steeds for the Korean big boys. We got to drive the Hyundai Palisade for a few days to see what all the buzz is about. Read on for the detailed review.
 

Driving Experience

8.5

 

When it comes the big SUVs, our expectations are relatively low when it comes to the driving experience, so we were pleasantly surprised behind the wheel of the Palisade. Ample power, smooth deliver, and overall refined driving manners made it a pleasure to helm.

Ride Quality: The Palisade is a comfortable cruiser whose suspension mops up pavement irregularities like a champ.

Acceleration: The 3.5-liter V6 with 291 horses is a great engine application for the Palisade. It's smooth, potent, and pairs well with the 8-speed automatic. 0-60 comes in 7.2 seconds in Sport Mode. It's not blazing fast, but it is quicker than both the Dodge Durango GT (7.6) and the Volkswagen Atlas (7.3) in V6 trim. We also like the paddle shifters, which the Kia Telluride doesn't get.

Steering: The steering is responsive, if not immediate, and the accuracy is good. We had no trouble staying on center at highway speeds. There is also a modicum of effort, which is nice.

Handling: The Palisade exhibits mild but manageable body roll. It feels well-balanced and didn't exhibit any noticeable oversteer/understeer.

Technology

9.4

 

The Palisade has Hyundai's best version of their infotainment system, and the big instrument cluster is beautiful to behold. Even the pushbutton transmission is great, the best version of this type to date. Plus, everything from a tech standpoint looks great. The Drive Talk In-Car Intercom is weird, kinda useful, and fun if you have kids.

Infotainment System: The $2,400 Premium Package provides a lot, including the big 10.25" display screen with the best layout and operation of any of Hyundai's infotainment systems to date. It looks beautiful and is very easy to use. The graphics have evolved to fit the interior beautifully.

Controls: The Palisade has some the best-looking controls and provides some of the easiest operation for drivers. The canted lower half of the center stack is a marvel with easy-to-grip climate control knobs, a big drive mode selector knob, and large metallic gear selector buttons. We'd rather have a traditional shift knob, but this is the best type of pushbutton system we've used. Likewise, we also love the clean row of mettalic audio buttons and knobs below the big infotainment screen.

Styling

8.8

 

We're not totally sold on the exterior, largely because of the strange grille that's totally in your face, but the rest of the Palisade is very nice. Even the mid-grade SEL is top-notch. The cabin is really a marvel in terms of look, feel, and ease of use. It's about as nice as it gets and definitely up there with the premium brands.

Front: In what amounts to the largest cascade grille ever on a Hyundai, this one gets a massive metallic grille with a rectangle accentuated mesh pattern. The headlights are actually on the lower fascia, large and in charge-style. The LED DRLs extend into the top lighting element. It's not a handsome front end, but it does have presence.

Rear: The taillights mimic the shape of the front headlights. They're not as attractive as the ones on the Kia Telluride, but the overall look of the back end is clean, and the huge Palisade lettering looks good. We could do without the oddly shaped exhaust tips.

Profile: The side view shows a well-countered and creased body with an artful and elegant use of chrome that extends from the base of the A-pillar and down the C-pillar.

Cabin: Though our tester didn't have the fine nappa leather of the Limited trim with its patterned shoulders and door linings, it still looked very premium. The big swaths of leather and faux wood look and feel great, and the big center console is very Land Rover but far more practical.

Comfort

9.5

 

With the exception of the flatness of the seats in the third row, the Palisade provides almost Taj Mahal levels of occupant comfort with big seats, fine leather, and some of the best materials at this price.

Front Seats: These are big, well-cushioned, and decently supportive. Long drives shouldn't present a problem, and adjustability and seating position are excellent.

Rear Seats: The second row seats in our tester were not the optional Captain's chairs. The bench seats are still great with enough contour in the seat backs and cushions to be comfy. They also slide and recline. Even the middle position is roomy. The third row has good legroom for adults, but the seats are flat and the floor is a bit high to be totally comfortable for longer trips.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): There's some wind noise at high speeds, but the Palisade is well made and solid with no creaks or rattles.

Visibility: Big glass all around makes for easy visibility, and we love the camera displays in the instrument cluster when changing lanes or turning.

Climate: The climate control system works well and moves air quickly. HVAC is powerful and responsive.

Safety

9.3

 

The Palisade just nailed the top score in crash tests, so buyers can take comfort that they're being transported in a truly safe vehicle. It also comes with a great array of safety technology that rivals pricier models.

IIHS Rating: The Palisade just attained the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, and that equates to "good" in all crash tests, "good" headlights in some trims, and "superior" accident avoidance tech. It only scores "marginal" with lower tier headlights and "acceptable" LATCH ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: In addition to a slew of great safety tech not found on more expensive brands, the Palisade also gets Safe Exit Assist which warns passengers audibly and prevents the rear doors from opening if the system senses a vehicle approaching from the rear of the Palisade.

Optional Tech: Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert notifies the driver if he/she has left an occupant in the car by honking the horn, flashing the lights, and sending a notice to the Blue Link smartphone app.

Storage/Cargo

9.8

 

Though it's no pickup truck in the small gear storage capacit, the fact that there's a pushbutton shifter makes for a lot of center console space. The rear cargo section is also massive and ideal for tons of gear.

Storage Space: The center compartment has a sliding door and can stow tablets, big phones, tissue boxes, etc. The armrest compartment is also capacious, but it's the huge undertray storage below the center stack that's the biggest of all. The cupholders are a bit fussy, unfortunately, and have trouble accommodating drink containers of different sizes.

Cargo Room: There's 18 cubic feet behind the third row, 45 cubes with the third row folded flat, or over 86 cubes all the seats folded, and they fold totally flat, as well. The fact that the third row is power-folding (unlike the Telluride) is a nice luxury feature that comes standard. We also love the Underfloor storage compartment that holds quite a bit. It's a great place to hide valuables, and they're well-sized.

Fuel Economy

6.8

 

Fuel economy is about on par with competitors at 19/24/21 mpg for AWD models. Our numbers were low since we drove in Sport mode exclusively, and we were generous with throttle, as usual. There's no hybrid model to help increase the Palisade's efficiency.

Observed: 18.5 mpg

Distance Driven: 137 miles

Audio

8

 

Our tester had the base system, and it's a good one. You can't opt for the 12-speaker., 630-watt Harman Kardon premium system that's standard in the pricier Limited trim, but the stock system still sound great. Plenty of bass and volume without distortion and clear sound filled the cabin.



Final Thoughts

We were skeptical about the Palisade's luxury and utility, but boy were we wrong. This thing is the best 3-row mainstream SUV we've driven yet (followed closely by the Telluride and the bigger body-on-frame Expedition). It drives remarkably well and has creature comforts and tech befitting a model from a premium brand. Totally loaded in top Limited trim, you're not even hitting $50K, which is a remarkable feat given the levels of comfort, space, technology, and ease of use. The Palisade might not be the prettiest face on the street, but it's sure to be a big hit for the South Korean brand. No one else is designing and building this good of an all-around 3-row right now. No one.
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