Accolades for a Palisade: Hyundai’s mid-size SUV jumps into the segment

For this week’s tester, I went to the dictionary to look up the word palisade. The definition: a fence of pales or stakes set firmly in the ground, as for enclosure or defense.

So what the heck does that have to do with a SUV? Nothing, but the name sounds good. I give Hyundai credit for creating an actual name for their brand-new mid-size three-row SUV rather than come up with some convoluted letter-naming system. When I first heard the name, I thought of the song that was far before my time, but still in my head – Palisades Park, by Freedy Cannon.

Regardless of the name, what’s important to know about this all-new SUV is that it evens the playing field for Hyundai and the rest of the competition. I regularly hear, “well, it’s still a Hyundai” line from people who aren’t in the know.

In case you haven’t driven one in a while, Hyundai and its sister company, Kia, too, are legit. So much so that both the 2020 Palisade and the Kia Telluride were finalists for North American SUV of the Year. The Telluride beat out the Palisade, but in my book, they were one 1A and 1B in a very tight race.

Truth be told, there’s much about the Palisade that I like better than the Telluride including, but not limited to, its looks. Aesthetically, the Telluride is one of the best-looking SUVs on the road today. It has elements that remind me of luxury vehicles like a Lexus or an Infiniti, including the elegant and classy grille.

It also has a profile that resembles the ever-popular Ford Explorer. And the back side has a great deal of distinction, with a small rear spoiler and the best-looking taillights in the segment. All in all, the Telluride is one handsome SUV that will remain relevant and modern for several model years.

From a performance standpoint the Palisade is good. The 3.8-liter V6 engine makes an adequate amount of power with 291 horsepower. It’s a bit sluggish off the line and getting up to highway speed. I recall the Telluride feeling more powerful with a more impressive performance. However, five different drive modes help make the Palisade quite versatile. They include Eco, Comfort, Sport, Snow and Smart.

In Sport mode the shifts were a little quicker and the off-the-line performance seemed a bit improved. The eight-speed automatic transmission is good and is one of the best features of the SUV’s powertrain.

The interior was a mixed bag, from a critical standpoint. The aesthetics and look of the Palisade inside was quite elegant with a luxurious vibe. It was very similar to the well-done, pristine exterior and seemed to have a consistent formal look that was appealing to the eye including soft touchpoints.

The seats, however, were quite firm, and not comparable to those in the Telluride. My family and I took the Telluride on a road trip to Florida last summer; had we made the same journey in the Palisade, it would’ve been very uncomfortable, resulting in a very stiff back.

The Palisade has plenty of technology including a well-designed and intuitive infotainment system that runs through a large 12.3-inch touchscreen. Though it’s big for this segment, that screen doesn’t seem to take over the dashboard and is well planned and well designed.

Cargo room behind the third-row seat is 18 cubic feet. The third row folds flat with a 60/40 split; that increases the cargo hold to 45.8 cubic feet. With the second row flat, overall cargo room is 86.4 cubic feet, making this one of the most cargo-friendly three-row SUVs in the segment.

There are only three trims available for the Palisade, and I give Hyundai kudos for keeping it simple. The consumer appreciates simple, fewer trims, I believe.

My tester was the top-of-the-line Limited trim with all-wheel drive. With leather seats, a leather steering wheel and plenty of sensor-based driving assistance technology, my tester had a final MSRP of $47,605. The base trim SE with front-wheel drive has a starting price of less than $32,000, making the Palisade competitively priced.

My AWD Palisade had an EPA rating of 19 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway. I drove a lot in Sport mode and rarely in Eco mode (oops). As such, I averaged barely 20 mpg. I did average better fuel economy in the Palisade than in the Telluride, for what it’s worth.

With award season having concluded, the old saying goes, “It’s just an honor to be nominated.” The Hyundai Palisade has been nominated for many awards. While it hasn’t won, it’s certainly an honor for Hyundai to have created such a competitive, well-designed three-row SUV. The competition is quite tight in this segment and the Palisade has made an immediate impact.


  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $47,605/$47,605
  • Mileage…………………………………… 19 mpg/city; 24 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 3.8-liter V6
  • Horsepower…………………………… 291 hp/262 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels……………. All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Ulsan, Korea

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