Spacious and comfortable. The 2020 Hyundai Palisade invites you to step in, check things out, and stay as long as you want. Front-to-back, door-to-door, and roof-to-floor, fit and finish is excellent, with the interior awash in soft fabrics or leathers, and trim materials that range from metal to wood grain – a look and feel that rivals luxury brands on top trims.
The dashboard is covered in a soft, leather-like material and features an all-new LCD instrument cluster, and an expansive 8- or 10.25-inch touchscreen that dominates the central dash. The various switches and controls are silky smooth to operate, intuitive, and logically arranged. The shift-by-wire system not only frees up space for storage beneath the center console, it automatically shifts itself into park if the engine is off and the driver opens the door, helping to prevent roll-away accidents.
The front seats offer plenty of support with firm bolsters and a wide range of adjustability in all models for all-day driving comfort. SE trims offer seating for eight with a middle bench. SEL buyers are given a choice of that configuration or middle row captain's chairs, reducing the headcount by one, while the top Limited trim is only offered with captain's chairs. All three rows feature head, shoulder, and leg room on par with both the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer.
Cargo volume is also class-competitive, with 18.0 cubic feet behind the third row, rising to 45.8 with that row stowed, and expanding to 86.4 cubic feet with second row seats folded flat. This places the Palisade squarely between the Pilot (83.8 cubic feet) and Explorer (87.8 cubic feet).
Despite the svelte looks and rich content, the largest infotainment screen with navigation is cluttered, while the software used across the lineup isn't immediately intuitive and requires some study for users to become proficient.
Handsome design. Stately and elegant, the Palisade announces its substantial presence with a bold interpretation of Hyundai's signature hexagonal grille, bracketed by vertically-stacked headlights and upper LED lighting elements in what Hyundai terms a "Crocodile-Eye" light signature.
Along its flanks, chrome trim follows the A-line, dipping towards the rear wheel behind the C-pillar, instead of the beltline, accentuating the long roof. In back, vertical "C"-shaped elements that mirror those in front frame the taillights.
In addition, flush surfacing – normally seen in luxury sedans – lends a delicate touch to the massiveness, giving the Palisade an upscale look.
Laden with features and safety tech. The Hyundai value proposition starts with a five-year, 60,000 mile limited warranty plus a 10-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
The base Palisade SE embellishes that with LED signature and daytime running lights, heated mirrors, an acoustic windshield and front side glass, privacy glass, keyless entry, air conditioning with second row controls and vents, an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth (two devices can be connected simultaneously), Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, a slick one-touch second row seat slide for easy third row access, and Quiet Mode, which mutes the rear speakers so rear seat passengers (read: kids) can rest.
The SEL adds to that list LED side mirror turn signals, roof rails, driver's seat power lumbar, heated front seats, keyless push-button start, remote engine start, and the choice of either a second row bench or captain's chairs. A sunroof also becomes available here.
To a fully-optioned SEL, the pricey-for-a-Hyundai $45,795 Limited adds side mirror approach lights, a dual sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, power four-way driver's lumbar and leg cushion extension, Nappa leather seating, ventilated rear seats, a 12.3-inch digital display instrument cluster featuring turn signal-activated blind-spot view monitors, a head-up display, a surround view monitor, a Harman Kardon audio system, and interior ambient lighting.
Standard safety features include automatic headlights with high-beam assist, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, driver attention warning, lane departure warning with haptic feedback steering wheel, lane keeping assist, rear occupant alert, and rear parking sensors.
SEL models also receive blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and safe exit assist (the child safety locks will be automatically activated if radar detects a vehicle approaching from the rear). Front parking sensors, ultrasonic rear occupant alert, and a more advanced adaptive cruise control system are standard on the Limited.
Cushy ride, respectable performance. For family haulers, the ability to carve back roads corners is easily trumped by a smooth, soft ride – an attribute that the Palisade offers in spades.
A rigid chassis means more compliance can be engineered into the suspension so that everything from minor road irregularities and potholes to railroad track crossings are easily absorbed and isolated from passengers. Even the larger 20-inch tires found on the Limited are forgiving.
The liberal use of insulation, a floor panel designed with anti-vibration pads, sound-deadening carpets, and an acoustically-laminated windshield are added bonuses that contribute to an interior that's nearly library-quiet, even at highway speeds. On the road, the transmission shifts smoothly, and feedback through the brake pedal is also better than average, with a nice initial bite to the pads.
Versatility is present and accounted for, with trailer pre-wiring, a heavy-duty transmission oil cooler, a trailer sway control system that automatically engages when towing, and a 5,000-pound towing capacity standard across the lineup.
The single engine offering is a normally-aspirated 3.8-liter V6 with 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque mated to a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Front-wheel drive is standard, and Hyundai's six-mode (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart, Snow, AWD Lock) all-wheel-drive system is optional.
Perfection is eluded as power is only adequate, there's a fair amount of body lean in corners despite the self-leveling rear suspension on AWD models, while steering is fairly numb without much feedback to the driver.
Finally, despite the widespread use of lightweight, high-strength steel, the Palisade only scores a mid-pack EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway, and 22 combined thanks in part to its weight of anywhere from 4,127 to 4,387 pounds.
Final thoughts. Hyundai continues to fill out its crossover lineup with yet another value-packed model. Despite a thirsty nature, pricey top trim, and middling performance, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade's slick looks, cushy ride, spacious interior, wide range of standard safety features, and overall good value make it a top pick in the large crossover class.
In terms of competition, the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot feature more third row leg, head, and shoulder room, while both the Explorer's two engine offerings – a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V-6 – generate more horsepower and torque.
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