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First Drive: 2020 Hyundai Palisade

Bold, Beautiful, and Ready for Battle

Sep 25, 2019
Shopping for a crossover big enough for your entire brood? You're spoiled for choice nowadays. Nearly every automaker offers at least one three-row SUV, including Hyundai. But the big news (pun intended) for this year is the arrival of that particular company's largest-ever passenger vehicle, the eight-passenger 2020 Palisade.
Replacing the Hyundai Santa Fe (renamed Santa Fe XL for 2019), the Palisade is longer, wider, and more spacious than its predecessor, with enough breadth in the interior to make room for a third passenger on the rearmost bench seat. That means a maximum seating capacity of eight, with optional second-row buckets dropping that to seven.
Photo 2/15   |   First Drive 2020 Hyundai Palisade Front 3q
Crucial for the family-SUV segment, the Palisade also offers competitive, if not class-leading, interior space in all three rows. Headroom is down slightly compared to the Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse, but legroom, hip room, and shoulder room are at or near the top of the class. And the Palisade boasts 18 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats in place, moving up to 45.8 cubic feet behind the second row or 86.4 cubic feet behind the front row. The Ford Explorer is slightly more spacious, the Chevrolet Traverse significantly more, and the Honda Pilot slightly less.
The 2020 Hyundai Palisade backs up its on-paper roominess with an exceedingly stylish and convenient interior. On our Palisade Limited tester, the big SUV's dashboard is treated to a concave swath of metallic trim that wraps onto the door panels, which also feature quilted leather inserts that match the seats. A 12.3-inch digital instrument display joins a 10.5-inch infotainment touchscreen (analog gauges and an 8-inch touchscreen are standard on the SE and SEL). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, although Hyundai's infotainment system is reasonably intuitive as well.
Photo 3/15   |   First Drive 2020 Hyundai Palisade Interior
Photo 4/15   |   First Drive 2020 Hyundai Palisade Interior Front Seats
Hitting the road, we were immediately impressed with how comfortable and "premium" the Palisade felt. The Nappa hides found on the Limited are heated for the first two rows and cooled for the front passengers, making us supremely comfortable for the chilly morning and hot afternoon we spent in the SUV. The Palisade's 291hp, 262-lb-ft 3.8L V-6 offers plenty of grunt for most traffic situations, although once we started climbing hills, we could feel a relative lack of low-end torque. One wonders how the SUV would fare with a full load of passengers and/or a trailer (Hyundai claims a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds).
In truth, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade comes into its own on the highway. Its softly sprung suspension does a great job of swallowing up bumps and divots without too much bouncing, and the cabin offers plenty of sound deadening. In fact, the freeway ride is so hushed that the Palisade's available Driver Talk in-car intercom is almost redundant—third-row passengers could participate in the conversation just as easily when Driver Talk was on as when it was off. One nice feature we see families using often is the standard Rear Seat Quiet Mode, which mutes the rear speakers while leaving the front speakers active, perfect for sleeping babies or kids who need a time-out from entertainment.
Photo 5/15   |   First Drive 2020 Hyundai Palisade
Our drive route provided us with a decent slate of twisty roads, but we won't spill much ink on those. The Palisade is a large, front-drive-biased family crossover, so it's not as happy on a winding route as it is in the city or on the open road—numb steering and slightly squishy brakes don't inspire confidence in max-attack driving. Driven sensibly, the Palisade does the job just fine and never feels unstable, but, and we hope this is obvious, it's not a Miata, and it doesn't have to be.
The route also took us on an "off-roading course," which we put in quotes because it was nothing but a wide, groomed dirt road. It did start raining a bit while we were there, allowing us to splash some mud onto the Palisade's handsome side panels, and the optional HTRAC all-wheel drive took us through the dust and muck with nary a complaint. We didn't experience off-roading that was technical or slippery enough to really test the Palisade's traction or handling, but we presume it'll be good enough to take the family through the rain and snow without too much concern.
Photo 6/15   |   First Drive 2020 Hyundai Palisade Side
Compared to its competitive set, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade comports itself well. There's plenty of space in all three rows for even full-grown adults, and we love its daring, contemporary interior and exterior styling a lot (perhaps even more than the handsome but somewhat anonymous Kia Telluride that shares its platform). Suspension tuning reminds us a bit of an old American sedan, with a small amount of floatiness accompanying an otherwise peerless, smooth, and quiet ride. And after a full day of less-than-delicate driving, our on-board computer displayed a probably-optimistic 21 mpg—the EPA rates the all-wheel-drive Palisade at 19 city/24 highway/21 combined mpg, and we think that's totally realistic.
And then there's the value quotient. Fully loaded, the Palisade Limited HTRAC will demand $46,400 plus $1,095 for destination, while a Palisade SEL HTRAC equipped with leather and other associated goodies will cost $40,700 plus destination. The least expensive Palisade is the front-drive SE, costing $31,550 but including active safety features like lane-departure prevention, automatic emergency braking, and trailer sway control. Each of those prices is class-leading, more so when you remember the Palisade comes with what Hyundai calls America's best warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain, with five years or 60,000 miles from bumper to bumper.
Photo 7/15   |   First Drive 2020 Hyundai Palisade Rear 3q
Its bold exterior styling might turn some off, but for those of us who like it, the Palisade seems to be an excellent value, with driving dynamics and interior quality that match or beat its competition in nearly every metric. No longer a scrappy upstart, Hyundai has proved it can build class-competitive, apology-free vehicles, and the Palisade is the latest evidence of that.
2020 Hyundai Palisade
Vehicle type: Large seven- or eight-passenger crossover
Base price: $31,550
Price as tested: $47,495
Engine: 3.8L V-6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Horsepower: 291 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Curb weight: 4,387 pounds
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
EPA mileage rating: 19 city/26 highway/22 combined mpg (front-wheel drive), 19 city/24 highway/21 combined mpg (HTRAC)

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