2020 Hyundai Palisade First Review
- Palisade is Hyundai’s biggest SUV to date
- 3-row crossover has seating for up to 8
- Standard V6 engine
- 2020 Palisade arrives this summer
- Pricing expected to start in the low $30,000 range
Introduced to the world just last month at the LA Auto Show, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is one of the most important vehicles to date for the Korean automaker. This 3-row crossover is the brand’s biggest SUV, with seating for eight or, when configured with 2nd-row captain’s chairs, seven. It is Hyundai’s flagship SUV and arrives at a time when Americans are buying more SUVs than ever. Palisade meets the brand’s needs in filling out its crossover lineup.
While Hyundai currently offers a 3-row SUV in the Santa Fe XL, its smaller size and 7-passenger capacity puts it at a disadvantage against rivals like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Ford Explorer. The Hyundai Palisade also aims to rectify that, both replacing the Santa Fe XL and presenting a tantalizing new option for families looking for a big, flexible, and amenity rich crossover SUV.
Hyundai’s big new crossover SUV is set to arrive in the United States this summer, but we got an advanced test in South Korea. While we were among the first to drive the 2020 Palisade, it came with a caveat: The models were equipped with a small, non-U.S. 4-cylinder diesel engine, not the standard 3.8-liter V6 that will be in U.S.-spec Hyundai Palisades.
The good news is that while this SUV had a different heart, it has the same suspension, tuning, and amenities as the American models. And like the diesel, the gasoline engine will be connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. From our first taste of the Palisade, we think it will be a boon for the brand and buyers seeking a roomy, well-mannered 3-row crossover SUV.
Behind the wheel
Among the first things we noticed about the Palisade is its substantial feel. The Palisade’s big, muscular design and imposing presence translates to its road feel. We drove it on all manner of roads and conditions, from crawling through Seoul’s choked congestion amid snow and freezing conditions, to high speed highway runs, up and down mountain roads and even blasting over sand on a beach. The Palisade was something of a chameleon, seamlessly adapting to the situation and road at hand.
Comfort and quiet are other key traits that quickly made themselves known. This was most evident in the appropriately named “comfort” mode, in which the Palisade’s steering is light and its power delivery and transmission shifts relaxed.
Switched to Sport mode, power delivery was less linear but more abrupt, and shifts were more noticeable as they occurred higher in the rpm range. The Palisade tolerates being pushed and stayed planted on curving mountain roads, but as with every other rival in this segment except the Mazda CX-9, doesn’t encourage such behavior. These 3-row crossovers are meant to haul families, not tail.
On the opposite end of the Palisade's driving experience is an Eco mode that mutes throttle response for the sake of saving fuel. For the most part, though, we left the vehicle to its own devices in Smart mode, which gave a balanced ride and feel in most situations.
Like competitors such as the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot, the all-wheel-drive variants of the Palisade feature a terrain select system, which appear as an alter ego to the standard drive settings. These optimize the Palisade’s traction system, powertrain and all-wheel-drive setup for the task at hand.
After some light treading up and down a mountain and forest roads, we ended on a beach facing the West Sea. With sand mode engaged, we proceeded to tear up and down the beach, just like you see in car commercials. In reality, such antics are for TV commercials only, but Palisade buyers can take heart knowing that their vehicle comes ready to do some light off-roading should the occasion arise. Other modes include mud and snow.
Also impressive is that the Palisade is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is competitive in this class and mimics the spec of another new 8-passenger crossover SUV in this segment, the Subaru Ascent.
Hyundai Palisade price
Another as-yet unknown about the Palisade is how much it will cost. Hyundai execs only said it will be competitive with its rivals, most of which start in the low $30,000 range. We expect similar pricing for Hyundai’s new 3-row crossover. The current 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe XL starts at $31,895 for front-drive and $33,645 for all-wheel drive.
Even without knowing its exact pricing or how it will fare with the V6, the Palisade looks and feels impressive. That’s because the facets that we could test and that will translate to the U.S. market are noteworthy. Among them is the Palisade’s spaciousness. This is a 3-row midsize crossover that can fit two adults in its third row (three would be a squeeze). Folded, those rear seats lay nearly flat, similar to the Volkswagen Atlas, and like that German competitor, opens up a large, rectangular space for cargo.
Then there are the amenities, which delve into premium territory and are class-exclusive, at least in the Korean-spec models we drove. Among them are ventilated second row seats and a Krell audiophile sound system. Taken as a whole, this preview of the Palisade was a great appetizer that left us hungry for the main course.