2020 HYUNDAI PALISADE
Giving thanks for three rows
It was in 1998 that we – as a family – came reasonably close to buying a Hyundai. Via the press fleet, Hyundai had made its then-new Elantra wagon available, and I liked its quirky styling, reasonable performance and – of course – its outsized utility in a comparatively small footprint. For my son’s college graduation, we were intending to help him with a new car, underwriting – if memory serves – the first two years of a 4-year loan.
Ultimately, we opted for Honda’s Civic hatchback, but the Elantra would have been substantially more car for a similar investment. Hyundai’s more-for-less mantra remains evident in Hyundai’s lineup today, and nothing says ‘more’ quite like the carmaker’s 3-row crossover, the Palisade.
Sharing its platform and drivetrain with Kia’s enthusiastically embraced Telluride, the Palisade takes a different stylistic route in attempting to capture the hearts, minds and, uh, wallets of Middle America. Its sheetmetal, from the front fascia to the rear hatch is – in a word – expressive, looking more boulevard than that backroad vibe provided by Kia. The good news, regardless of whether you prefer the Telluride’s almost stoic two-box approach or Hyundai’s more flamboyant take: There’s nothing here to offend, nothing that’s off-putting. And that, as we go into 2020, is a win.
In contrast to its immediate predecessor, Hyundai’s Santa Fe XL, the Palisade stretches, both literally and figuratively, the definition of a midsize crossover. And let’s repeat that: s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s! With an overall length on that side of 16 feet, with a wheelbase of 114 inches, it visually dwarfs its Sante Fe XL predecessor, despite the Santa Fe’s ‘XL’ suffix. Numerically, that means the 2020 Palisade is three inches longer than its ’19 predecessor, and 3+ inches wider on a wheelbase that’s four inches longer. And while sharing the same basic footprint as the Telluride, this is a visually bigger vehicle. The good news is that despite its length and breadth, all trims – even with all-wheel drive – come in at under 4,400 pounds. In the segment, only the Pilot is wider and (slightly) longer, while sitting on a shorter wheelbase.
If the exterior design suggests upscale, the interior – at least in the company’s SEL and Limited trims – absolutely screams it. As Hyundai tells us, leather-equipped models “offer a premium, quilted Nappa leather, while on the instrument panel, smooth woodgrain trim in a wraparound…design create a spacious, comfortable ambiance.” And we’d agree.
Accessibility is also an upscale feature, and one-touch operation of the second-row seat ensures easy access to the third row. And that, after all, is why you purchased a 3-row crossover in the first place, right? If the third row is up, you’ll enjoy 18 cubic feet of cargo, while with it down the space has almost 46 cubic feet behind the second-row seat. That 18 cubic feet behind the third row is the most in its category (Highlander, Pilot and Pathfinder), while the 46 cubes behind the second row is only slightly smaller than that offered by the Honda and Nissan.
Under the hood is Hyundai’s 3.8 liter V6, delivering 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. This is the only powertrain available, and sits in contrast to the number of turbocharged fours – standard or optional – in this same competitive space. I like the idea of a bigger, normally aspirated V6, while remembering that at higher altitudes ‘normally aspirated’ makes for a horsepower drop, while turbocharged engines typically supply more torque at any elevation, and retain their horsepower when driving to a Broncos game.
That power goes to the ground – front wheels or Hyundai’s HTRAC 4WD – thru an 8-speed automatic. And if fitted with HTRAC 4WD, you’ll benefit from its snow mode, making that over-the-river-thru-the-woods ordeal less of an ordeal. If out of the woods, you can select from Normal, Sport and Smart modes, and with any selection you’ll enjoy confident performance and relaxed cruising.
In our mid-level SEL trim with all-wheel drive, Hyundai’s Premium package and sunroof option, the Palisade stickered for just over $43K. Opt for the top-of-the-line Limited and you can brush $50K, and while that trim is luxe, hitting $50K on a Hyundai showroom – even with Genesis sitting close to the Parts department – strikes us as slightly mad. Better, I think, to stay on this side of $40K with the SE or SEL, and – within its 10-year powertrain warranty – get the thing paid off. Buy only as much luxury as you need, because regardless of what you spend on a Palisade you’ll get all of the utility.