2020 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate AWD 

Say hello to Hyundai’s new palatial people mover

Words by: Adam Allen

The definition of a Palisade is a fence.

That’s a very brief summing up, but yes, a Palisade is a majestic way of describing a fortified enclosure, or a fortress if you prefer. After spending a week inside the leather lined confines of our Palisade Ultimate tester, we think the name isn’t just marketing bumf. While this is not Hyundai’s first foray into the jumbo SUV space- the Santa Fe XL was the brand’s previous effort- no one will deny that this time around, the impressive factor has been ratcheted up considerably.

It looks positively Palisade-like.

Size notwithstanding, this baby has presence. Behold the styling; Hyundai is looking to make a statement and we think they have succeeded. The Palisade has a fortress-like vibe about it and while the aesthetics may not be to everyone’s taste, it certainly is distinctive. Chrome has been used liberally but it manages to avoid feeling gauche, and it stands confidently on its 20” wheels. The gaping maw in the front is flanked by squinty headlamp and fog lights which all employ LED technology, and a striking cascading daytime running light motif bookends the whole affair. It’s more conservative out back, the only brash bit being the massive PALISADE script that runs the length of the liftgate.

Families will feel like they’re in a palace when they step inside.

A cursory glance will substantiate that. This isn’t positioned as a luxury SUV but it sure feels it. You wouldn’t be out of bounds if you postulated that perhaps the Genesis crew down the hall has their fingerprints all over this interior because it is extremely well executed and will be sure to make owners feel spoiled. Seriously, it just exudes luxury- the fit and finish is first rate. Check out that quilted leather on the door panels and tell us with a straight face you aren’t impressed. Your first touchpoint is the seats as you settle into them; we were genuinely surprised at how comfortable and supportive they are. They’ll also happily blow chilled air onto your back and keister, a heaven-sent feature during this scorching summer. Those in the middle row can also enjoy such hedonistic delights, too. The infotainment system- long a Hyundai strong point- is the best we’ve encountered as its now bundled into a 10.25-inch display in concert with beautiful graphics. Another area where the Palisade excels is with the standard Harmon Kardon stereo. It isn’t the Lexicon system from any of the Genesis models, but it sounds darn near close in terms of richness of sound and clarity.

How does the big Hyundai fair on the open road?

Over the years we’ve praised Hyundai for knocking it out of the park where value for money is concerned while pointing out the need to polish the driving dynamics enough to really mount a challenge. They are closing that gap with each model year- and they’ve lured so many of the industry’s best from their former gigs just for this effort- but the Palisade is just the newest example of their remarkable progress. If you have ever driven or been a passenger in Hyundai’s older Santa FE XL people mover, your jaw will hit the floor at just how much better sorted the Palisade is. The ride is downright creamy and the wonky damping from the XL are a thing of the past. The engine and transmission seem to have taken a vow of silence, never once calling attention to themselves; they just do their job in stoic concentration. They engine sounds nice, but the only reason we know that is we heard a far-off snarl; this, while passing a car on a rural two-lane road with the windows down and stereo and climate control off. While the engine does make acceptable power, the torque peak is a lofty 5,200 rpm, more power under the bonnet would go a long way.  And what of steering feel? There really isn’t any. No one’s going to give a lick in a car like this anyhow. Besides, pushing the Palisade hard would threaten spilling the myriad drinks stowed in all the on-board cupholders and cubbies and would distract the little ones from their game of Fortnight. Best to just let the Palisade do what it does best: cruise around in comfort.

What might go wrong?

Let’s get the pedantic gripes out of the way first: how come on a family SUV packing serious levels of luxury you can’t get the express up and down feature on the second-row windows like they do up front? Yeah, that’s not really a deal breaker but puzzling nonetheless. What may concern some is the front-end styling- it is polarizing- and we found both camps equally divided on that issue. We also noticed some noise permeating from the door panel areas, and we only observed that because the rest of the car is so hushed. The last thing we have of note might only concern those who are lugging the capacity’s worth of people and their gear, or those who might explore the limits of the 2,268 kilo tow rating is the lack of accessible torque. All 262 lbs/ft of twist don’t show up in earnest until a sky-high 5,200 rpm so the Palisade will really need to work hard to keep things in motion. Our suggestion for a simple fix? Drop the 3.3 twin-turbo V6 from the Genesis G70 sports sedan into the engine bay and call it a day.

Should I buy a Hyundai Palisade?

Those seeking a minivan alternative with three rows of seating- and there are more and more of you out there with each passing model year- you’re going to want to look at the Palisade. It is a segment Hyundai has only dipped a toe into previously and yet what they’ve accomplished here is incredibly impressive. The question has never been about value (Hyundai continues to excel here; look at the asking price and all the stuff you get for it) but rather whether the driving dynamics, or lack thereof, could play catch up with the bargain pricing. After spending a week driving the Palisade around in just the kinds of situations it was designed for (read: playing chauffeur to multiple children) it’s abundantly clear that the engineering gap has been closed significantly, giving competitors more reasons to be looking over their shoulders.

2020 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate AWD – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $55,904
  • Body Type: 5-door SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.8-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower: 291 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 262 @ 5,200 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 2,022 kg (4,457 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Economy: 13.2/100km (18 mpg)