Vehicle Review: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited
Published on Tue, Jun 9, 2020
By: Brian Kennedy
If you're looking for a behemoth SUV, the Palisade might be your best choice.
Check out Brian's video review of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited on our YouTube channel.
Big, boxy, and beautiful. When I first got a glimpse at the Hyundai Palisade, I thought, “Oh my, what a monster. It looks like something the Secret Service would drive.” It seemed far bigger than the Mazda CX-9 I had just turned in. In fact, a check of the measurements indicated that they are the same size within an inch or two. The Palisade is just built out as a square, without the swoopy roof and the cut flanks that define the Mazda.
And though I still think that “Balustrade” might be a more apt moniker for this big SUV (just because it sounds chunky and enormous), I must confess that after a quick familiarization with the Palisade, I fell in deep like with this car/truck. Everything in the interior is so finished, and all the tech is so smart, that it’s clear that this company is trying hard to do well and gets that things actually have to work right to make people who just dropped mid-$40-large money happy.
I don’t have use for a car this big, but if I did, and I bought this one, I’d be satisfied with my decision.
The drive is prototypical big-car, kind of feeling like the mix of a station wagon from the 1970s with a convertible that’s less than rigid. How’s that? As you accelerate, you feel kind of a shimmer go through the chassis, like you don’t have quite the rigidity underneath you that a full-frame car from the old days would have. A bit surprising since this vehicle is so reminiscent of those wagons of old in other ways. But maybe this seeming wiggle is a concession to a slightly softened-up ride compared to a truck-chassis-derived SUV. No matter. The Palisade is never hard to control. It’s planted on the road.
In terms of the tech, there are several drive modes, which you select amongst on a dial near the shifter. Eco definitely makes for slow downshifts when you ask for power. Sport is the entire opposite, cracking off the shifts and allowing you to fly. You can choose Comfort, which makes the best choice for conditions, and snow mode.
This trim level is AWD, so if you ever wonder where the power is going, just dial up the appropriate gauge using the controls on the right of the steering wheel. A diagram illustrating the power distribution between the front and rear wheels is offered. You can choose other chunks of information to appear in that same spot dead-ahead of you in the instrument cluster too, though, including an “attention meter” that scores how well you’ve been paying attention during the drive, with the results presented as a bar graph.
Cool features abound. One I liked, though I didn’t have any use for it driving alone, was the rear seats intercom. The driver can project her or his voice back there. I can hear it now: “No we’re not there yet.” “I’ll stop this car. Don’t make me stop this car.” Ah, flashbacks of youth.
Another feature, remote start via app, is probably a good idea on very hot or very cold days, but a bit of a gas-user, I should think.
The large center display can do as many as three things at once, as for example when it shows you Nav on the left, radio information in the center, and the weather forecast on the right. Other configurations are possible. You can also switch the display there to a 360-degree surround view with the push of a button on the console. Nice if you’re worried about the driver behind you creeping up at a stoplight or wondering where that kid put his bike when he just cruised into the driveway and launched towards the house for a soda. Other features also cover that issue, with a beep-beep function when you get too close to something easing into or out of a parking spot. More on that in a moment.
Do you need the AWD variant? You can get it on the SEL model or the Limited for $1700. I drove the Limited. This car starts mid-$40s. Two two lesser trim levels are low- to mid-$30s, but I didn’t get a chance to see one, so who knows if they’re as nice (impossible) or just nice enough (hopefully). But you know what, I’m done buying cheap cars, and you should resolve in that direction, too—it’s always more fun to have the best of whatever line you can afford than the cheapest, and the difference here isn’t what it would be in a luxury brand. In short, for $45 grand, you get it all. Why not?
Styling, aside from the somewhat intimidating look of the dark color and tinted windows, is pleasing enough, with chrome and brushed-chrome accents and LED headlights and taillights so that you look suave even at night. In the interior, accent lighting that runs along the middle of the door panels glows softly in the dark. Little touches are nicely thought out—heck, the a-pillar inside is even done in a soft-touch cloth-type finish, rather than being plastic.
Of course, there are some nits to pick. Perhaps because the information is a bit scary, the fuel gauge is small—almost too small to see clearly at a glance when you’re getting towards the end of the tank. The MPG, to go along with that comment, registered about 15 around town and 22 on the highway in my use.
The Palisade is so big that it’s hard to judge where the edges are, but you’ve got parking sensors to help with that. Trouble is, they’re too fussy, beeping when things are not really in danger proximity and often taking things like bushes as solid objects and beep-beeping you out of your seat as you’re trying to ease into a parking space.
And the worst—the engine shut-off feature. I imagine the government demands this, or Hyundai uses it to bolster gas mileage numbers, but I hated it. Not for the reason I thought—that it would create a delay in restarting. I learned to trust the restart, realizing that I wasn’t faster with my foot from brake to throttle pedal than the restart. The car never hesitated. No, my problem was that it’s mandatory, and it works, says the manual, from 14 degrees F to 95 degrees F.
We don’t want anyone freezing to death, so the low end makes sense, but in the week I had the Palisade, it was, according to the temperature reading displayed in the car, 82 degrees outside most of the time. And man, when that AC ramps down to near zero at engine shutoff (vestigial air comes through), you suffocate. Driving a giant, sorta-black, SUV, does that to you. I had to override the feature almost every day.
So I just shut it off, right? Well, you have to do that yourself, which is no problem, but you have to do it every time you start up the car, a real hassle even though it’s done by pushing a button next to the shifter.
One more minor pick—the cupholders in the front console work on a push switch that kind of zings out a little surround to keep your cup/can/mug in place. That is the only thing in the car that felt kinda plastic-cheapie to me. I’d rather a proper, molded surround.
And one other curiousity: when you signal to turn right or left, a tiny, circular display that shows you the side of the vehicle is displayed. Cool enough, especially for right turns with bike lanes to driver’s right. But the tach RPM is still shown, albeit in digital (1.9, 2.5) quantification, on the right display, and the speed, in MPH, is shown on the left. Perhaps that’s because the tach is on the right and the speedo on the left to begin with, but these additional bits of information when you’re already trying to make a turn and looking at a camera of what you’ve always never (ha ha) had before as information is just, well, too much information. And why should I want torque numbers anyway, and especially, why should they get the priviledge of being on the righthand side?
Despite the complexities of this car and the multitude of its features, that’s all I’ve got for quibbles. In other words, Hyundai does what I keep wishing all car companies would do but few seem to—they actually drive their cars before they sell them to us to make sure they work like normal humans want them to—intuitively, seamlessly.
In terms of size, the up-side of the bigness is cargo room and comfort in all three rows. The third row stows easily using buttons in the rear cargo area if you suddenly realize that—oops! you over-shopped again because the pandemic has you scared you’ll run out of stuff like Liquid-Plumr, so why not buy a 12-pack?—and you have to get it all home.
Luxury features abound, including a double sunroof, leather with well-done patterning, sculpted, silver door speakers that boast of the car’s Harman Kardon audio system, and a push-button transmission.
In addition, the power liftgate can be adjusted as to speed. There’s a feature that prevents you from opening a door into traffic. There’s another one that warns you you’ve left a body (kid, pet) in the back seat. This in addition to various on-the-road safety tech. In other words, the Palisade mostly does your thinking for you, but without making you feel disengaged.
As with so many automatic cars these days, this one has a shift-yourself feature. Not the push-pull stick that so many competitors (Mazda CX-9 being just one) use, this is paddle shifters. I found those a good deal more fun, and easier, to use than the stick type. But you won’t use them. The one instance that I can think of that you might—controlling the gearbox to avoid speeding downhill, is taken care of by a downhill minder button that keeps your progress steady. It’s on the console near the radio controls. There’s also a “hold” button you can use when you’re on a slope. Fancy tech, but not fussy tech. Useful, all.
In short, the Palisade, at least in the top trim level, gives you way more than you even knew you needed, but it does so in a way that never overwhelms with features for features’ sake. It’s just smart and right. But huge, so decide ahead of time that you’re gonna pay up in fuel and always worry just a little bit about door dings in today’s tiny parking spaces.