It’s been a decade since Hyundai ventured beyond its mainstream status by issuing a stream of upscale and performance models. The Equus and Genesis sedans brought a Hyundai luxury level unknown to Americans, while the Genesis coupe demonstrated the brand’s performance chops.
All three models are gone, with just one reassigned to Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury marque. The only remaining upscale model was the Azera sedan, but it, too, has been discontinued.
Beginning this model year, Hyundai once again ventures into an upscale territory in the form of its three-row, midsize Palisade crossover. The new vehicle replaces the outgoing Santa Fe XL, but its platform is derived from that earlier model.
Perhaps the most noteworthy fact about the 2020 Palisade is that it delivers many luxurious amenities and advanced technologies for a mainstream price. While it is apparent Hyundai has the Buick Enclave, Subaru Ascent, and Mazda CX-9 in mind as natural competitors, don’t be surprised if this model is cross-shopped by Acura, Lincoln, and Volvo owners.
Hyundai Palisade Overview
The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is a front-wheel drive, midsize crossover utility vehicle with room for seven or eight. All models come with a V6 engine and an automatic transmission. Shoppers may opt for all-wheel drive.
Hyundai offers the Palisade in three trims: SE ($32,645), SEL ($34,595), and Limited ($45,795). These prices include the $1,095 destination charge. Choose all-wheel drive and you’ll add $1,700 to your cost.
Only the middle SEL trim offers package choices. A Convenience Package ($2,200) swaps out the middle-row captain’s chairs for a bench seat, increasing passenger seating capacity to eight. Other upgrades include front parking sensors, an automatic leveling rear suspension, LED taillights, a hands-free liftgate, a wireless phone charger, additional USB ports, and a 115-volt power outlet.
Choosing the Premium Package ($2,400) requires opting for the Convenience Package. This package adds such features as Bi-LED headlamps, leather seating surfaces, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, a power-folding third-row seat, and premium materials on the dashboard and armrests.
Two other packages are also available. A Power Sunroof Package ($900) brings in the sunroof and LED interior lights and map lamps. This package does not include a corresponding upgrade. A Drive Guidance Package ($1,250) also builds on the Convenience Package. Here, you’ll find a navigation system and a 10.25-inch screen, highway drive assist, satellite and HD Radio, and a Blue Link connected car system.
There is much to consider about the Hyundai Palisade. Our driving impressions follow, but in the meantime, we’ll explore this model’s highlights.
1. Premium styling, mainstream price.
We’re impressed by the Palisade’s look, which is a considerable improvement over the outgoing Santa Fe XL. The front fascia is dominated by an oversized grille with a thick chrome surround. At the corners are LED lighting elements, including extended vertical daytime running lights honed in by stacked headlights. An unusual split lower grille adds sportiness and flair. The Palisade’s profile features beautiful lines and body sculpting, a thick “C” pillar, and multispoke alloy wheels. The rear fascia is no less impressive with its take on LED lighting. The dual exhaust ports are coupled and located on the right, adding yet another sporty touch. This styling reflects the Limited edition, our test model. That a fully loaded model can be had for under $50,000 should capture the attention of shoppers desiring a luxury SUV.
2. Roomy, upscale interior.
We haven’t seen an eight-passenger Hyundai model before, thus the Palisade breaks new ground. It does so in a segment dominated by models offering eight-seat passenger space. Separating the Hyundai Palisade from the pack is its modern and upscale interior. And that cabin is nothing less than spectacular, especially in Limited garb. Cloth seats are standard with the SE and SEL (leather is optional with the SEL), while Limited models feature quilted and stitched premium leather. Heated and cooled second-row seats and window shades add much comfort. As for the third row, it’s comfortable too, but like nearly every other model in this class (the Volkswagen Atlas an important exception), is more comfortable for children. Not so much for adults.
3. One powertrain and your choice of drivetrain.
All Palisades are governed by a 3.8-liter V6 engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, this engine offers just a smidgen of extra power over the 3.3-liter V6 powering the Santa Fe XL. Notably, the XL comes in at 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. Each Palisade trim comes with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. Both models have a 5,000-pound towing capacity when properly equipped.
4. Enhanced tech features rivaling the top luxury models.
Hyundai delivers few surprises with the Palisades’s standard tech features and that’s a good thing. You’ll find an 8-inch touchscreen display bundles with an audio system, Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto smartphone compatibility, Bluetooth, and five USB ports. It is in the Limited trim where Hyundai pulls out all the stops. Here, you’ll find a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, two third-row USB ports, and a 115-volt power outlet. Also, the Limited adds a few features that are also available with the SEL. These include a 10.25-inch color display, navigation, satellite and HD Radio, BlueLink connected car services, and expanded Bluetooth capabilities (for connecting up to two devices).
5. Standard and available advanced safety features.
Hyundai certainly has safety features in mind with the 2020 Palisade, including standard automatic headlights, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with full stop and go, trailer sway control, and driver attention warning. But it is with the middle trim where the automaker ups its game as this model adds blind-spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, and safe exit assist. Further, highway drive assist and parking distance warning (front) are optional.
Behind the Wheel
Hit the road and the Palisade delivers sufficient, although not spectacular power. It steadily accelerates from a dead stop and when pressing the pedal to the floor, this SUV responds satisfactorily. That said, we wonder how well this powertrain would manage under a full load and when pulling thousands of pounds of trailering weight behind it.
Models equipped with all-wheel drive, such as our test vehicle benefit from power sent to the rear wheels under certain conditions. Consider this an advantage that manifests itself when roads are wet. You can even activate a “lock” mode to ensure power remains evenly split between the front and the rear.
For a high-profile vehicle, the Palisade stays relatively poised, including when tackling twisty roads. It stays properly centered with body roll minimized through the turns. Hyundai’s all-wheel-drive system includes torque vectoring, which helps mitigate roll. That said, you can expect front-wheel-drive versions to deliver loads of roll.
There is one thing we need to point out about the Palisade and that is its push-button transmission system. Located at the base of the center console immediately below the controls for the audio system, this arrangement is unusual, especially for a Hyundai model. To the right of the transmission layout are various switches and knobs controlling drivetrain connect, drive modes, and other behavior (i.e., descent control, trailering, and slippery conditions).
As much as we were smitten with our top-trim all-wheel-drive Limited model, we think the SEL trim is a great place to start. Opt for all-wheel drive for its superior handling characteristics, then choose the Convenience and Drive Guidance packages to complete your build. At this point, your cost is $40,645, which is quite reasonable. Special military, first responders, and college grad incentives may lower your final cost accordingly. Either way, there is big value waiting in Hyundai’s most luxurious SUV to date.
2020 Hyundai Palisade Specifications
|Base Sticker Price||$32,645 (including a $1,095 destination charge)|
|Price as tested (estimated)||$47,495|
|Engine||3.8-liter, turbocharged V6|
|Horsepower||291 @ 6,000 RPMs|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||262 @ 5,200 RPMs|
|Seating||7 or 8|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||4,112 to 4,482|
|Headroom (f,m,r…inches)||40.7, 40.1, 37.8|
|Legroom (f,m,r…inches)||44.1, 42.4, 31.4|
|Shoulder room (f,m,r…inches)||61.2, 60.8, 55.2|
|Hip room (f,m,r…inches)||58.1, 57.7, 43.7|
|Storage (cubic feet)||18.0, 45.8, 86.4|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||5,732 to 5,871|
|Towing (pounds)||1,650 or 5,000 w/ trailer brakes|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||18.8|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway)||19/26/22 (FWD); 19/24/21 (AWD) city/highway/combined|
|Manufacturing Plant||Ulsan, Korea|
This article was originally published by Auto Trends Magazine.