2020 Hyundai Palisade First Drive - Style Meets Value

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Hyundai and sibling brand Kia were once known for being cheap, but not necessarily the best value. That’s because cheap and value aren’t always synonymous — especially when it comes to consumer products.

That’s changed over time. Both brands have mostly shed their reputation for crap quality and have been steadily offering up products that can compete with everyone else on that front while still offering value pricing.

Kia’s Telluride is an example of that — it’s a well-built machine with premium content available at a price that undercuts rivals like the redesigned Ford Explorer. Logically, it follows that the Hyundai Palisade would pursue a similar path, since it and the Telluride are strongly related.

(Full disclosure: Hyundai flew me to Idaho, offered a backpack and Google assistant I didn’t take, and fed and housed me for two nights.)

While these two crossovers may be related, the commonalities are mostly under the sheet metal. The Palisade gets curvier styling than the boxy Telluride, although both have sleek interior designs that are meant to give off the impression of looking expensive.

A 3.8-liter direct-injection V6 rests under the hood of all Palisades, and it makes 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Eight speeds are on offer from the automatic transmission and, while front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is available. The power numbers are the same as what Kia’s Telluride offers.

That doesn’t mean the Palisade is exactly the same as the Telluride on-road, but it’s close. Like the Telluride, acceleration is fine for commuting and cruising but won’t blow you away, the eight-speed holds on to higher gears even when you wish it wouldn’t, understeer shows up when you take a corner too quickly, and the ride is generally smooth.

That’s not to say everything is the same. The steering feels just as firm as in the Kia, but feedback is a tad more natural. There’s also less body roll and float, and the Palisade feels a tad more buttoned-down on the road. A Hyundai engineer told me that the spring and damper rates are different than the Telluride’s, and that Sachs dampers, as opposed to Mando, are Hyundai’s dampers of choice.

Drivers can operate the Palisade in sport, smart, comfort, eco, or snow drive modes. You can also lock in AWD. Various modes provide different FWD/AWD splits, with some, such as sport, smart, and snow allowing 50/50, depending on conditions. Outdoorsy types, take note: The Palisade handles gravel roads just fine, and you can even get a little slide action. Palisade offers an auto-leveling rear suspension.

I like the Palisade’s curvier look better than the boxy Telluride, although it’s not like I found the Telluride to be ugly. Inside, I miss the stylish grab handles from the Kia, but I prefer the wraparound upper dash — the infotainment system isn’t tacked-on like an afterthought here. The available digital gauge cluster is also good-looking.

Materials feel class appropriate and look a bit upscale, at least in the upper trims. The push-button shifter isn’t for everyone, while on the other hand, the swath of buttons below the infotainment system and between the radio knobs is cleanly laid out. There’s a nice pass-thru underneath the shifter and drive-mode selector knob.

Palisade seats seven or eight, and I got my tall frame into and out of the third row without being too ungraceful about it. That third row isn’t really meant for adults, but it could be used for grownups in a pinch, and power folding third-row seats are available, along with second-row seats that can be manipulated with one touch. Available roof vents are intended to make life in the rear a little more comfortable.

Family-friendly available features include wireless cell-phone charging, second-row cooled seats, seven USB ports, an in-car intercom system, and audio that can be muted in the back roads to allow kids (or grandparents) the chance to nod off while you rock out.

Other available or standard features across the lineup (trims are SE, SEL, and Limited) include: forward-collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, lane-following assist, high-beam assist, driver-attention warning, safe-exit assist, smart cruise control with stop and go, and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist.

There’s more: trailer-sway control, sunroof, dual sunroof, body-color rear spoiler, hands-free liftgate, heated front seats, cooled front seats, leather seats, heated second-row seats, captain’s chairs, underfloor storage, heated steering wheel, keyless entry and starting, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, head-up display, premium audio, navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Blue Link connected-car system.

Palisade shares its wheelbase length with Telluride, and it’s a smidgen shorter in length, narrower, and shorter in height than the Kia (it’s a smidgen shorter than the pricier redesigned Ford Explorer). It offers more front legroom, but a bit less headroom throughout. Middle- and third-row legroom is the same. Curb weights for both vehicles vary from trim to trim but remain within spitting difference of each other. Like the Kia, the Palisade can tow 5,000 pounds.

Fuel economy is listed at 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 19/24/21 with all-wheel drive.

Pricing is as follows: $31,550 for the SE FWD, $33,500 for the SEL FWD, and $44,700 for the FWD Limited. All-wheel drive models are listed thus: $33,250 for the SE, $35,200 for the SEL, and $46,400 for the Limited. Destination fees are $1,095.

Both the Telluride and Palisade are Korean crossovers named after American towns (although the Kia is built in West Point, Georgia, while the Palisade is actually manufactured in South Korea), and both provide comfortable commuter rides and content at prices that are a relative bargain. Both are much better built than anything similar these brands have attempted in the past. Those shopping between the two will likely make their choice based on styling, although the Palisade is perhaps a tick better to drive.

Neither vehicle will blow doors off or blow car shopper’s minds. But both will blow out of showrooms in short order — high content quantity at the right price tends to do that.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • WalthamDan WalthamDan on Jul 16, 2019

    Over the weekend we stopped at the Hyundai store to look at the Palisade. Driving up and seeing the two they had from the back looked promising. The little extra trim added to the sides of each taillight made no sense though. Then we saw the front. Whoa Nellie. Dog alert! That entire grille needs to be redesigned and the thick grille surround reduced measurably. Ruins the look of the entire vehicle. Queue the incentives on this one Hyundai. Folks need to drive over to the local Kia store and purchase the Telluride instead.

  • Illan Illan on Jul 17, 2019

    please tell Hyundai to give you a clean one for Pictures. i saw one in black last friday and looks stunning in black. the grill is growing on me.

    • Train Train on Jul 26, 2019

      Tim has access to dozens to "clean" photos.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.