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2020 Hyundai Palisade SUV Review - Smooth, Quiet, For Eight...Great! By Martha Hindes;


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SEE ALSO: 2020 Hyundai Palisade News Archive

Hyundai Palisade for Eight - That's Great!

By Martha Hindes,
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

“Wow that's smooth,,” I said as my driving partner pulled away from event headquarters and off toward our mostly day-long driving route. If there were any speed bumps or flaws in the pavement on our way out, I didn't feel them. I was comfortably lounging on the broad, rear bench seat of Hyundai's new, three-row, five door 2020 midsize sport utility vehicle that will be the flagship for the Korean auto maker’s truck side. Another driving partner played navigator as we cruised out onto sun-splashed roads just west of Detroit.

We had gotten a thorough briefing on the 2020 Palisade. It's a first-ever eight seat sport utility vehicle for Hyundai, and a solid contender in one of the most hotly competitive vehicle segments in the market today. A totally new front-wheel-drive sport utility that replaces Hyundai's previous seven-seater Santa Fe XL, it is longer and wider and is designed for active, adventurous families. Those are the kind who might want long touring trips, but who also might skip the down and dirty aspect of camping or digging through underbrush to plow an off road pathway after pavement ends.

Palisade has an elegance one won’t find in most grunt-style sport utilities that emphasize extreme sport DNA. This is for those travelers who might prefer to choose a Marriott at journey’s end (like the starting point of our day's venture) rather than a state campground by a lake. To emphasize that characteristic, our headquarters for the drive was at the Eagle Crest Marriott and expansive, pristine golf course in Ypsilanti, Michigan, just a few miles from better-known Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan.

We headed out towards country roads that went for miles through lush, green forested trails, past farmlands with old outbuildings in classic barn red, and even a mini castle under construction with what appeared to be a brass turret. All those exterior surroundings spoke of what luxurious, well appointed cruising should provide for the traveler. And all in the comfort of plush interiors with multiple electronic amenities and a well-executed quiet when noise wasn't called for.

I discovered the rear seat heat function by accident when I brushed my hand over a panel behind the front captain's chair seating. With outside temperatures climbing toward the mid-80s, it was quite a surprise to feel the seat I was on growing warm and then hot. Standard ventilated rear seats on the top-line Limited edition with its Nappa leather captain's chairs, would have cooled down quicker once my error was corrected.

But that gave me an idea of how many luxury touches Hyundai put in this premium vehicle, including noise suppressing insulation to factor out exterior and control interior noise. That muting will let the Harman Kardon sound system on the Limited have its proper audio presence.

Another cue was holding conversations with my driving partners who were easily heard in normal conversation. We learned of the ability to hear a front row whisper when the Palisade's Driver Talk (optional on our SEL) was activated. It broadcasts front talk rearward to the second or third rows and can be augmented with a drop down conversation mirror to see in back. Communication can morph into rear seat quiet for those wanting a restful snooze. Second and third row passengers also can recline their seatbacks. Second row seats slide back for expanded leg room. And a ceiling air vent diffuser circulates cool or warm air in comfort without blasting rear seat passengers.

Palisade, we were told, had been chosen as the nameplate as it represented the strength and noble look of, as Webster defines it, “a line of bold cliffs.” While the Palisade is close to its Korean cousin Hyundai's Telluride and bears the same unibody construction and is powered by by the same 3.8-liter, 291 horsepower V-6 engine, it has a distinctly different purpose.

Think Telluride and you might picture a family on a winter ski trip or stopped at a western lake water's edge. With the Palisade you get understated, but undeniable class. It's not lacking in capability. It's just that it is touched throughout with a tactile, upper class feel, with everything inside suggesting “premium.” And the premium feel doesn't dissipate with second and even with third row seating where passengers ease in or out with the touch of a second row seatback button.

This new Palisade's exterior design is strong, contemporary and geared toward smooth airflow while adding the visual impact of LED lighting cues to augment handsome styling lines, and Hyundai's cascade grille.

In introducing the Palisade to local media, Mike O’Brien, vice president of Product, Corporate and Digital Planning, Hyundai Motor America, called its development the “Russian doll approach” where successive elements fit inside the previous one. The result? A vehicle both “rugged and premium...with strong bones, a long beltline and a strong C pillar with wraparound glass,” he said. “A pillarless D post allows for a greenhouse effect.” That openness is enhanced in the Limited with a dual panel sunroof with fixed rear glass. Available 20 inch alloy wheels augment the strong, capable effect, he added.

To emphasize the premium feel, exterior colors are the rich, muted types such as Lagoon Silver and Sierra Burgundy one would expect on a luxury vehicle. No extreme yellow here.

Seating inside the second row immediately felt cavernous when I climbed in, particularly with its deliciously soft blond interior. There's enough interior space to ensure adequate headroom in all three rows including for the truly tall.

This vehicle has the height and length to give it a pleasingly couch-like feel while riding. Our mid-category SEL trim level, that might be called the “sweet spot” in the roster, had most of the tantalizing array of available gadgets, buttons and touch points but can accommodate eight if the second row has bench seating rather than captain's chairs. The SEL, with a wealth of available options including leather, is the trim level Hyundai expects to get most of the sales.

Driver swap time. Getting behind the wheel, one immediately notices the lack of a gear shift. Rather, there are buttons to push that activate the 8-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC manual shift mode. Self leveling rear suspension, not available on the base SE, is optional on SEL and standard on Limited. And trailer sway control is standard on all levels, as the Palisade is quite capable of towing as much as 5,000 pounds when fitted with trailer brakes.

Following the curving roads as we proceeded we noticed how smoothly and effortlessly the Palisade handled, both in the SEL and later in the top-line Limited. While “Sport” is one of three modes in Hyundai's available HTRAC all-wheel drive system (the others being Normal and Smart) as well as snow mode, it doesn't have as much of the “gotcha” factor that can make one itch to test the limits of steering prowess and the ability to slice the edge off cornering. But that's not what we think the Palisade is about.

Techy features would be expected on a vehicle of this quality and the Palisade doesn't disappoint. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims, and some Android Wear and Apple Watch apps can control some of its tech features.

A multiple device connection is optional on the SEL. The standard Dual Auto Temperature Control with Clean Air Ionizer is only on SEL and Limited models. While 7 USB ports can keep almost everyone charged up, there's also a wireless charging pad for supported devices and Hyundai's Blue Link connected car system, on upper models only. (And no one should ever run out of cupholders as it has as many as 16.)

A 10.25 inch touchscreen shows audio and navigation display, part of the 12.3 inch fully digital center instrument cluster display. Its “screen” is a smooth, wide panel spread across from the driver's to the front passenger's side as a simple, sleek display that lights up with the detail being requested. Touching the turn indicator activates a camera view of traffic in the area one is turning into that shows up in a gauge behind the steering wheel. Heads up display, also only on the Limited, is standard.

Interior space has been manipulated to accommodate three rows while also providing rear storage of 18 feet, including a deep well behind the third row. Those seatbacks fold down electronically to expand the storage area.

A shift-by-wire system that eliminates the need for gear shift mechanicals opens a well below the front center console that can hold items such as handbags or small cases, along with smaller console top storage bins. For those who like to play, center console retractable cupholders that snap open or closed offered some quick amusement during our driver changes.

A list of the Palisade's driver's safety features could fill two pages or a couple of video minutes. Included as standard on all models are blind spot monitor, rear view monitor with parking guidelines, smart cruise control with stop and go, and lane following assist. All models have remote keyless entry with alarm and panic. And all have tilt and telescope steering wheel with haptik steering that directs road feedback sensation to the driver's hands.

Among options are rear cross traffic collision avoidance assist. The top-line Limited edition adds surround view monitor, blind view monitor, heads up display and ambient lighting as standard equipment.

Safety technologies go beyond expected industry equipment, with standard rearview camera and seven airbags that include side curtain coverage for third row passengers. Hyundai's Safe Exit Assist will warn of another vehicle approaching from the rear when one starts to open a door and can keep the door locked momentarily until that vehicle has passed.

Also available is Hyundai's Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert that monitors rear seat movement and sends a reminder to check for children and pets. If the driver leaves and locks the car, the system will honk the horn and send an alert to the driver's smartphone, the kind of advantage that will keep what's meant to be family-friendly travel just that.

Hyundai cites mileage numbers of 19/26/22 with front drive and 19/24/21 with optional all wheel drive. It comes in three distinctive trims, from base SE ($31,550) to middle SEL ($33,500) with all-wheel-drive a $1,700 option on both, to top level Limited ($46,400) in AWD only. All of the Palisades we tested had a superior feel, both in driving and handling and the tactile feel and amenities inside. We expect to see many on the road.

Copyright 2019, Martha Hindes, Automotive Bureau. All rights reserved.