Hyundai Palisade — At the top of its class

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The all-new Hyundai Palisade hits all the right notes when it comes to a mid-sized three-row sport utility vehicle. It has generous space for adult passengers in all three rows and scads of safety and driver-assist technology. We think it will be an instant hit against such formidable and established competitors as the Honda Pilot, the new Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander and the Volkswagen Atlas.

Hyundai has needed a legitimate big crossover to complete its lineup and the Palisade seems to be the perfect vehicle to fill the void. The Palisade readily accommodates seating for either seven or eight, depending on whether you opt for a second-row bench seat or captain’s chairs.

We found the Palisade's exterior styling exceptionally attractive, especially with the 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.

The Palisade is loaded with tech features. One of the best is the blind-spot camera that views both sides of the vehicle and displays the surroundings on the driver’s instrument cluster. 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 in conversation mode. It also allows 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.

Performance is much more than adequate. The Palisade is powered by the same 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 with 262 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that moves its mechanical sibling, the all-new Kia Telluride, which has also become a major player in the segment.

We call the powertrain a near-perfect match for the Palisade. For example, 0-to-60 has been measured in 6.9 seconds, which is a bit quicker than competitors. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are available if manual shifting is desired.

The powertrain is beefy enough to tow up to 5,000 pounds. At the same time the Palisade achieves an EPA-rated 19 mpg city and 26 highway in front-wheel drive and 19 and 24 with all-wheel.

There’s a dial located on the front of the center console with different modes — 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 up-charge. Front-wheel drive is standard.

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.

Behind the wheel, one of the first things we noticed is its solid and substantial feel and its large, athletic and stately presence. It certainly felt more Audi-esque as we drove the Palisade on a variety of rural roads including our favorite winding blacktop "test track," on city streets and limited access highways. The Sport mode setting is especially effective on curvy mountain roads. And the cabin remains hushed even at higher speeds.

The Palisade comes in three well-equipped trim levels — SE, SEL and Limited — and in either two-wheel or all-wheel drive starting at a very reasonable and highly competitive $32,645 including $1,095 destination charge. The base price includes such features — in addition to the V-6 engine — as remote keyless entry with push-button start, adaptive cruise control, second-row air conditioning controls, power-folding second-row bench seats, a 60/40 split-folding third row, an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and three USB ports up front and two in the second row.

Step up to the SEL starting at $34,595 and you add such things as remote ignition, heated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, dual-zone climate control, and a blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert.

The Limited trim (our test vehicle) comes with virtually all of the available options including an excellent-sounding 12-speaker Harmon Kardon premium surround-sound system. Our test car came with AWD and carried a bottom line of $47,495.

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, audio sound quality, and a commendable suite of safety features.

Base price: $32,645; as driven, $47,495
Engine: 3.8-liter V-6
Horsepower: 291@ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 114.2 inches
Length: 196.1 inches
Curb weight: 4,387 pounds
Turning circle: 38.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 18 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 86.4 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 19 city, 24 highway, 21 combined
0-60: 6.9 seconds (Car and Driver)

The Good
• Healthy standard V-6 engine
• Ample passenger space
• Many standard high-tech features

The Bad
• Lackluster gas mileage

The Ugly
• Hefty price for top trim

(Jim Prueter contributed to this review)