Spacious and comfortable. The 2020 Hyundai Palisade invites you to step in, get comfortable, and stay as long as you want. Front to back, door to door, and roof to floor, fit and finish is excellent.
The interior is awash in soft fabrics or leathers, and trim materials range from embossed metal to wood grain. It delivers a look and feel to rival 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 portion.
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 cubic feet behind the third row, rising to 45.8 with that row stowed, and expanding to 86.4 cubic feet with second row also 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 when divided into three sections, while the software, although intuitive in some respects, 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. It's 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 toward the rear wheel behind the C-pillar instead of following the beltline in the traditional manner, accentuating the long roof. In back, vertical "C"-shaped elements that mirror those in front frame the taillights.
Topping things off, flush surfacing, a treatment normally seen in luxury sedans, lends a delicate touch to the crossover’s 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 coverage with LED signature and daytime running lights, an acoustic windshield and front side glass, keyless entry, an 8-inch touchscreen, 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 with roof rails, heated front seats, push button start, remote start, and the choice of either second row bench or captain's chairs. Such niceties as navigation, leather seats, Bi-LED headlights, a heated second row, a power folding/reclining third row, and a sunroof are available.
To a fully-optioned SEL, the pricey-for-a-Hyundai Limited, which starts at $45,795, adds a dual sunroof, Nappa leather seating, ventilated rear seats, a head-up display, a surround-view monitor, and more.
Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist. SEL models also receive blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while the Limited adds a more advanced adaptive cruise control system.
Cushy ride, respectable performance. For family haulers, the ability to carve corners is easily trumped by a smooth, soft ride. This is 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 extremely quiet interior, even at highway speeds.
Despite a curb weight in excess of two tons, step-off is brisk, and there’s plenty of power for merging and passing at freeway velocities. In addition, 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 also present and accounted for, with trailer pre-wiring, a heavy-duty transmission oil cooler, a trailer sway control system that automatically engages when towing, a standard 5,000-pound towing capacity, and an auto-leveling rear suspension (optional on the SEL and standard on the Limited).
The single engine offering is a 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.
At the same time, the Palisade exhibits a fair amount of body lean in corners even on models equipped with the self-leveling rear suspension, while steering is fairly numb without much feedback to the driver.
In addition, 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. This is thanks in part to a curb weight that ranges from 4,127 to 4,387 pounds.
Final thoughts. Hyundai continues to fill out its crossover lineup with yet another value-packed model. It's a top pick in the large crossover class thanks to its slick looks, cushy ride, spacious interior, and standard and available features. However, it is held back by a thirsty nature, pricey top trim, and menu-dense infotainment system.
As for the competition, the Explorer and Pilot offer more third row leg, head, and shoulder room, while both of the Explorer's two engine offerings – a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V6 – generate more horsepower and torque.