Hyundai’s all-new Palisade is technically a mid-size SUV, but when you slip inside the cabin it just feels bigger. Loaded with tech and safety systems, the 2020 Palisade replaces the outgoing Santa Fe XL. The Palisade, which starts around $31-grand, is on sale now.
After a full day of test driving the Palisade at its recent launch in Asheville, N.C., I came away thinking there’s an awful lot to like about this new SUV. First, it’s roomy, comfortable and amazingly quiet. My drive partners and I had a quiet conversation with the radio on, and almost no road noise filtered into the cabin.
The three-row Palisade is the first offering from Hyundai with seating for up to eight passengers, depending on whether you opt for the captain’s chairs in Row 2. Hyundai offers powered third-row seats and one-touch second row seats to make access easier.
The Palisade is powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 hooked to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine develops 291 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, sending it to either the front wheels or, optionally, all four. The engine is EPA-rated at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. With AWD, the estimate is two mpg less on the highway and one mpg less combined.
The Palisade is available in three trim levels – SE, SEL and Limited. The base SE starts at $31,550, the SEL starts at $33,500 and the top end Limited starts at $44,700. AWD is an extra $1,700, and for my money that’s a real bargain.
The base trim has a nice package of standard equipment, but Limited models include everything Hyundai offers in an SUV, including 20-inch wheels, a dual sunroof, Napa leather seats that are heated and ventilated in the first and second rows, a 12.3-inch driver display center with a heads-up display, and harman kardon premium sound.
Hyundai’s infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through a 10.25-inch touchscreen with crystal-clear graphics. The dashboard and console are simple, intuitive and well thought out. A pushbutton transmission shifter on the console frees up valuable real estate and makes for a clean, uncluttered look. The Palisade has seven – count ‘em, seven – USB ports, giving everyone the opportunity to recharge.
Headroom in the front seats is generous at 40.7 inches, which trails only the Nissan Pathfinder, which has 42.2 inches. In Row 2, there is 39.4 inches of headroom, which was plenty for my 6-foot-1 frame. Legroom in Row 2 is 42.4 inches, which also is very good.
Cargo space behind the third row in the 196.1-inch-long Palisade is 18 cubic feet, which is enough room to stack a pair of golf bags. Fold down Row 2 and you’ll have 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space. Making cargo loading easier is a power adjustable liftgate.
The Palisade, believe it or not, also has some off-road chops. It’s not going to take you up boulders or down deeply rutted roads to the deer camp, but I came away from the off-road test drive impressed with what it could do. Hyundai allowed auto journalists in Asheville to take the Palisade on a slippery off-road course on the sprawling Biltmore Estate, which is home to Land Rover’s Off-road Driving School.
The AWD Palisade handled some fairly steep hills in muddy conditions. Properly equipped, the Palisade can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which would include most bass boats and other water toys here in south Louisiana. The Palisade has a self-leveling rear end that levels the car when towing or carrying heavy cargo or a load of passengers.
When it comes to safety, neither the government nor the insurance industry has smashed the Palisade into stationary barriers, but Hyundai officials are predicting top safety scores for the new SUV. After seeing the Palisade up close, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were right.
Hyundai put blind spot warning and automatic braking systems in the Palisade, but added a really neat optional feature. When the turn signal is activated, a side camera comes on in the display center that shows the blind spot. It’s not an industry first – Honda also has a blind spot camera – but the Palisade is the first to show blind spots on both sides of the car.
Other standard and available safety systems include lane keep assist, forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, a suite of camera systems including a surround-view with rear cross-traffic alert, a driver attention warning, smart cruise control and a new safe exit assist system that warns passengers when a car is approaching from the rear, preventing them from getting out in traffic.
2020 Hyundai Palisade SE
Engine: 3.8-liter V6
Horsepower/Torque: 291/262 Lb.-ft.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA Mileage Estimates: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined
Estimated Highway Range: 489 miles