2020 Hyundai Palisade: Are You Ready to Fall in Love, America?
It’s been a rough couple of years for Hyundai of America, but the automaker’s crossover-stacked product strategy is now bearing fruit. It’s not alone in this. The addition of new utility models like the subcompact Kona helped the brand shrug off slagging car sales, posting crucial monthly sales gains in 2018, just as the large Ascent crossover helped keep rival Subaru on a good sales footing.
While there’s change afoot among Hyundai’s car offerings, it’s big vehicles that fill both coffers and imaginations, and the Korean brand needs a large (but not too large) three-row utility to stimulate sales and profit in the North American region. Hyundai feels the Palisade is just the ticket. In fact, you’re already forgetting the Santa Fe XL nameplate as you read this.
The Palisade was hardly a secret when Hyundai sprung the name on us earlier this month. Nor was the midsize crossover’s design — previewed not just by the awesomely named HDC-2 Grandmaster concept released earlier this year in South Korea, but by the all-new 2019 Santa Fe, which replaced the long-in-the-tooth Santa Fe Sport.
With the Palisade, Hyundai carries over much of the smaller ute’s design language onto a larger canvas. Its square-rigged, unabashedly two-box proportions makes its predecessor look like a marshmallow, but falls short of turning the new vehicle into a Korean Tahoe. There’s curves to be had here, most notable in the outline of the thickly-framed grille.
One can’t help but notice that the word “bold” shows up more than once in the automaker’s write-up. That’s no accident.
Few three-row crossovers deserve to be called groundbreaking, and the Palisade doesn’t count itself among those rare selections. Still, the model is striking enough to warrant attention that wouldn’t be afforded to its bland predecessor. Up front, the crossover dispenses with a traditional lighting array, preferring a Kona-esque slit setup with driving lights on the bottom, turn signals up top, and highly visible LED running lights running the height of the face. A strong, high character line connects headlamps to taillights, adding a sense of imposing strength to the crossover’s flanks, while the cut-out fender bulges add increased muscularity. Meanwhile, chrome trim flows along the top of the door frames and cascades down the C-pillar.
Does it slim down the vehicle? Maybe, maybe not, but it does help break up the wall.
As for actual muscle, the Palisade’s specs certainly seem adequate. Beneath the hood, a lone powerplant — Hyundai’s direct-injection, Atkinson-cycle 3.8-liter V6 — generates 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. These figures stack up well against rival six-cylinders, including GM’s 3.6-liter V6. Power travels to the front or all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic.
Compared to other top-selling three-row crossovers, the Palisade sits mid-pack pack in terms of length (196.1 inches) and near the top of its class in terms of wheelbase (114.2 inches, tied with the Nissan Pathfinder and behind the Ford Explorer). Cargo volume behind the rear seat is 18 cubic feet, or 45.8 cubes with the third row folded. Hyundai definitely wants you to know that the Palisade is larger in every external dimension than the Toyota Highlander, as well as the Santa Fe XL.
Yessir… this is definitely a crossover marketed to Americans.
While no one expects Palisade buyers to venture too far off-road, the model’s HTRAC all-wheel drive system adds a Snow mode to the pre-existing list of Normal, Sport, and Smart modes. The automaker claims that the system boasts a wider range of front-rear torque distribution than other AWD systems, though without details, this shouldn’t be treated as gospel.
In terms of convenience, each of the seven (not eight, keep in mind) passengers receives a USB plug-in. Sixteen cupholders populate the Palisade’s parched interior. Up front, driver and front-seat passenger will find a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, while the driver gazes at a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. A head-up display projects pertinent information onto the windshield for those wishing for more to look at.
Because the name Palisade conjures up images of easy, coastal living, the vehicle’s Driver Talk in-car intercom system tries to make speaking a breeze. There’s two modes to this system: rear seat conversation and sleep mode. The former function allows the driver to communicate, via the audio system, to second- or third-row passengers, while sleep mode ensures backseat passengers don’t have to hear the front-seat duo’s tunes.
Safety? There’s a bevy of it, standard. The list includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Following Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist (which sounds an alarm if there’s a vehicle approaching a door that’s about to be opened), High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning and Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go.
As for cost, that’ll have to remain a mystery until closer to the Palisade’s on-sale date. The crossover, which carries much of Hyundai’s U.S. hopes on its burly shoulders, arrives at dealers next summer.
[Images: Hyundai Motor America]
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