2020 Hyundai Palisade

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — For 2020, Hyundai has just introduced its all-new three-row mid-size SUV. The Palisade is basically the mechanical sibling to the impressive Kia Telluride, introduced earlier this year, and placing at the top of our SUV ratings. In addition to the Telluride, the new Hyundai flagship Palisade competes with class rivals such as Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Nissan Pathfinder.

And it serves as the replacement vehicle for the smaller three-row Santa Fe XL. All these vehicles readily accommodate seating for either seven or eight, depending on whether you opt for a second-row bench seat or captain’s chairs.

The Palisade is powered by the same 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission that moves the Telluride. The Palisade includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters if manual shifting is desired.

There’s a dial located on the front of the center console where the driver can select different modes — including Eco, Comfort, Smart, Snow and Sport — adjusting the engine response and traction. This feature is available only on the optional all-wheel drive, for a $1,700 upcharge. Front-wheel drive is standard. The Palisade can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

To the left of the mode dial is the vehicle gear selector which is push-button operated. We actually prefer the traditional gear selector like the one found in the Telluride. It’s easier to operate without having to look at what button to push. It’s similar to the setup found in the Honda Pilot.

We drove a top-of-the-line Limited trim model at the Palisade launch in western North Carolina. It was loaded with enough equipment, features and top-notch materials to rival a luxury SUV. The interior was upholstered in what seemed to be acres of top-quality quilted Nappa leather on the seats and door panels. The headliner is faux-suede but is convincing looking and feels like the real deal. We also thought the textured aluminum trim about the dash, center console door panels only added to the premium look. The Limited trim is not available with a second-row bench seat configuration.

Outside, the Palisade has exceptionally attractive exterior styling, especially with the exclusive octagonal grille, chrome body accents and large 20-inch wheels that come with the Limited. Some may find the grille too over-the-top, with the large, boxy standard LED headlamp housing on either side of the grille.

The Palisade is loaded with tech features. One of our favorites is the blind-spot camera that views both sides of the vehicle and displays the surroundings on the driver’s instrument cluster. It’s similar to Honda’s Lane Watch system in that it’s activated whenever the turn signal is engaged. We also liked the Driver Talk in-car intercom system with rear seat conversation and sleep modes. The system allows the driver to communicate separately with the second and/or third rows of the vehicle via the Palisade audio system in a conversation mode.

The system also includes a Rear Sleep Mode, allowing the driver’s row to listen to their selected audio without that same audio being transmitted to the second- and third-row audio speakers, so that potentially sleeping passengers will not be disturbed.

Behind the wheel, one of the first things we noticed is the solid and substantial feel and its large, athletic and stately presence. It certainly felt more Audi-esque as we drove the commanding Palisade through both congested urban drive routes and on the ribbon of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway that weaves through the region’s Southern Appalachians. It was here where we engaged the “Sport” mode setting that kept the vehicle planted on curvy mountain roads while enjoying the exceptionally quiet cabin. The engine is smooth, delivering plenty of power and never sounded harsh, even when revved for passing.

We also engaged the vehicles “Snow” setting on the mode selector as we spent almost two hours traversing through wet and muddy mountain and forest roads with aplomb. I’m not suggesting the Palisade is a rugged off-roader but it’s a perfect choice for family hauling and commuting in snowy climes and moderate off-road trails.

The Hyundai Palisade is an impressive vehicle that looks, drives and feels far more expensive than it is. You could easily spend $25,000 more for a German competitor or other luxury SUV and that would at best be equal to the Palisade. This is an exceptionally roomy, comfortable premium SUV that checks all the boxes, optimizing comfort, room, technology, audiophile, a commendable suite of safety features and quality.

The Palisade isn’t just the best Hyundai ever, it could also be the best mid-sized SUV, making competitors seem a bit dated.

If you’re shopping for a mid-sized three-row utility vehicle you owe it to yourself to put the Palisade on your “must drive” list. It will definitely give its competitors a serious run for the money. 

Vital Stats
Base Price: $31,550 - $44,700
Price as Tested: $47,445
Engine: 291-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 19-mpg city – 24-mpg highway – 21-mpg combined
Seating: 7 or 8 depending on seating configuration

Where Built: Ulsan, South Korea

Crash Test Ratings: The Palisade has not yet been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the U.S. Government as of this writing.

Competes With:
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
Dodge Durango
Ford Explorer
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe
Kia Telluride
Mazda CX-9
Toyota Highlander
Volkswagen Atlas

Fab Features
Long standard features list
Exceptional passenger room with impressive comfort and conveniences
Superb ride and driving quality
Beautifully furnished and finished

— Jim Prueter