Introduction: The mid-size crossover SUV market is now a heavily saturated space. Whoever your automotive brand allegiance is with, they are likely to produce an SUV of sorts. This even applies to Lamborghini owners at this point. However, Hyundai (and also Kia) have managed to get the mainstream market excited about SUVs with the introduction of the Palisade and the Telluride respectively.
It’s hard to make a crossover look attractive due to the boxy nature of the vehicle. Some manufacturers have tried at the expense of interior space, which would defeat the point (i.e. BMW X6, Mercedes GLE Coupe). The Palisade offers simple styling elements that are on par with contemporary styling trends. Massive front grille, clever use of LED lighting tricks, and hiding the forward facing radar with the grille. It’s not necessarily an artistic masterpiece but it’s not boring either. There is definitely some presence with this vehicle.
The interior is the Palisade’s party piece. The design is pretty conventional, some may even say it borrows heavily from other brands (such as Mercedes), but everything simply works. The material choices are excellent, the fit and finish is very good. The dedicated climate controls are extremely welcome. The steering wheel is aesthetically pleasing which single-handedly makes it the one to buy over the Telluride. The seats are extremely comfortable with plenty of support. The fact that they are heated and cooled in the first and second row in the Limited trim is also a huge plus. The sense of space inside the cabin is further aided by dual sunroofs where the rear one is a massive panoramic unit. Additionally, there are little details like the clever front cup holders that swivel out at the push of a button or retract to give you space for storage in the center console. There are also a massive amount of USB ports, with several in the front console and in the back of the front seats, and even a few available in the third row. Overall, in terms of feel, the Palisade exudes a certain luxury that Hyundai is trying to pursue, in an effort to give their cars a premium touch.
The most important thing about an SUV is interior room and practicality. Many three-row SUVs on the market have an issue with cargo space once the third row is up. I find this to essentially make a vehicle pointless unless you’re using the third row on an occasional basis. The Palisade surprised me in this regard. I loaded up the Palisade with six people and their things for a weekend trip, and we were also able to carry some music stands and other audio equipment as well. It was a tight squeeze with two of the three seats up in the third row. However, this proved that the Palisade really can function as a seven seat (or eight seat on lower trims) vehicle. Even with the entire third row up, the Palisade still maintains a decent trunk area with additional storage under the trunk floor as well. The third row is also easy to get into, whether you use the center walkway (on captain’s chair models) or folding the second row forward. The second row folds and slides forward with the push of a single button.
In true Hyundai fashion, the Palisade is great value. Even the base SE trim comes with standard safety features such as Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Smart Cruise Control. The Limited trim doesn’t even have any packages to select from, it is literally fully loaded. The only option you get to add is Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD. A neat feature in the Palisade is the PA system that uses the Bluetooth microphone to amplify your voice to rear passengers through the speakers, so that parents can yell at their kids to be quiet. Several things to note in terms of equipment usability, however. The touchscreen is a bit hard to reach and touch input is the only way to interact with it. I also noted that the seek track button on the steering wheel is functionally upside down. In every other vehicle including every other Hyundai I’ve driven, you push the switch up to go to the next track. In the Palisade, however, a push up restarts the song or goes to the previous track. This made me think that my phone was broken for the first few days. On a positive note (pun intended), the volume switch does work as expected.
An SUV, typically, is not that interesting to drive, not that it needs to be. Luxury companies like BMW and Audi pride themselves on making sporty handling SUVs. The mainstream market doesn’t really care about this, but I still appreciate Mazda injecting their sporty DNA even into their crossovers. Make no mistake, the Palisade is not sporty, but it doesn’t need to be. It manages to capture the elegance of luxury in a way that is seldom found in this class. The Palisade has a certain “waftability” to the way it goes down the road. The steering is smooth and dainty, with little to no feel. The powertrain delivers acceleration with a gentle shove rather than an aggressive punch to the throat. The ride is supple while maintaining composure during body roll. The brakes also have good feel to them but remain gentle. The Palisade isolates you from the driving experience with fantastic NVH control, including road and tire noise. On our trip, my friends found the comfort aspect to be their favorite part about the driving (in their case, riding) experience.
The Palisade would be my choice for the “mid-size” crossover with a third row class. Shoppers that would typically look for a Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, or Nissan Pathfinder will be delighted with the Palisade’s lovely combination of equipment, space, and refinement. The excitement over Hyundai launching the Palisade as well as Kia launching the shared-platformed Telluride is much deserved. The Palisade brilliantly does what the majority of shoppers are looking for in this type of vehicle.
Seek Track steering wheel control is incorrect
Touchscreen a tiny bit hard to reach
Specs: Engine: 3.8L DOHC 24-Valve V6 Drivetrain: AWD
Power: 291hp @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 5,200rpm Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Comb.): 19/24/21 MPG (AWD) Wheelbase: 114.2 in Curb Weight: 4,387 lbs (Limited, AWD) Base Price: $31,775 Price as Tested: $47,605 (incl. dest.)