2020 Hyundai Palisade Review: Champagne Taste on a Prosecco Budget
“Worldwide Prosecco shortage” sounds melodramatic, but it was a real headline a few years back as demand outstripped supply. The world, apparently, had figured out Italian sparkling wine was as good as the French stuff at a much more reasonable price. I know this because I’ve reached the age when all my friends are on their second or third babies, and they’re not afraid to tell the world that wine is how they’re dealing with it. The next time one of those moms pours herself the bubbly stuff, it’ll likely be after she’s finished unloading the kids from a new 2020 Hyundai Palisade she bought for the same reason as the Prosecco.
While mom might’ve had her eye on a Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class or a Lincoln Navigator as her high-clearance minivan alternative, those SUVs are well beyond a middle-class budget. Hyundai, though, can get her reasonably close for under 50 grand fully loaded. With a bold look up front, interior design that borrows from the best, and a features list as long as a child’s backpack leash, the Palisade provides the luxury SUV look she wants for the price of the minivan she doesn’t.
Just take a look at the standard feature list. All the major active and passive safety features are there, and Hyundai expects to nail top ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA. Automatic emergency braking, lane keeping, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, tons of airbags, it’s all there. Convenience features, too, like adaptive cruise control, auto headlights and high beams, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth phone and audio. Then there’s the family-friendly stuff. Second-row seats that fold and slide with the push of a button, seven available USB ports that go all the way back to the third row, more cupholders than you’ll know what to do with, and pockets designed to hold phones. You can even fit a normal-sized cooler full of both kinds of grape juice—alcoholic and not—behind the third row.
Fully loaded for under $48,000, you get a fully digital instrument cluster and widescreen infotainment system that looks suspiciously like Hyundai’s been copying Mercedes-Benz’s homework, a surround-view camera system, all-wheel drive, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, power-folding and -reclining third row, 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, dual sunroofs, heated leather steering wheel, wireless phone charger, three-zone climate control, and a tailgate that’s height adjustable, has two different speeds, and can be opened with a kick (or 12, those things never work the first time). You also get Highway Drive Assist, a Tesla Autopilot-like feature that helps steer, brake, accelerate, and center you in the lane, but only on interstate freeways and only if you keep your hands on the wheel.
What don’t you get? A minivan’s built-in vacuum cleaner and a luxury brand’s badge on the hood. And to be fair, this price point still buys mainstream-quality materials, not luxury quality.
The way the cabin is executed, though, is what counts. The center console between the front seats, for example, looks right out of a Lincoln Navigator but with even more room for all your stuff. The second row has a ton of leg room, or more critically, child seat space. The third row is big enough for adults (or older teenagers) to occupy, though the raised floor puts your knees up more than you’d like. Hyundai was clever enough to add grab handles just behind the rear doors to make it easier to pull yourself into the third row. Equally clever: putting USB ports in the sides of the first-row seats and up high on the walls in the third row. Someone at Hyundai apparently noticed that standard phone-charging cords aren’t that long and putting the USB ports down by your knees means they barely reach your lap. Other handy features include the ability to pair two separate phones, one for calling and the other for streaming music, the ability to turn off all the rear speakers so the kids can nap while you stay entertained, and the ability to turn the rear speakers into a PA system to yell at the kids in the back when they wake up.
Hyundai was perhaps too clever with one particular feature on the Limited trim. It’s called Blind View Monitor, and it uses cameras under your door mirrors to display a video feed of your blind spot in the digital instrument cluster whenever you activate the turn signals. The video is high-resolution and the wide angle lens actually shows you a bit more than you can see in your mirrors. The issue is that it encourages you to just look down at the dash before you merge, not in your mirrors and least of all over your shoulders. People already don’t look hard enough before they change lanes, and they’re prone to become overly reliant on these kinds of convenience features. The last thing we want to do is encourage bad behavior, and that potential exists here.
If you’re checking over your shoulder like you should, you’ll appreciate the Palisade is pretty easy to see out of. When you go for the pass, the 291-hp Hyundai feels adequately powerful and the eight-speed automatic responds quickly and smoothly. There’s five driving modes, and you’ll be perfectly fine leaving it in Comfort or Smart all the time. Smart delivers on its promise, adapting seamlessly to your driving style in the moment and giving you relaxed cruising when you want it and more response when you need it.
Unlike the prototypes we drove in Korea last year, there’s only one special all-wheel drive mode. Hyundai ditched everything but Snow mode, which company reps say will work fine for mud or sand or wherever else typical three-row family crossover buyers are likely to find themselves. We put in a few dozen miles on well-maintained gravel roads to be sure, and Hyundai’s probably right. Though street-biased, the tires showed a lot more grip on loose surfaces than expected. If you misbehave or make a mistake, the stability control smoothly and gently brings you back into line.
Back on pavement, the brake-based torque-vectoring system isn’t noticeable, nor is the varying torque-split between the front and rear wheels (with up to 50 percent able to go rearward). The Palisade handles nicely for a big crossover, with good body control so you’re never thrown around inside. The ride is a fine balance between comfort over broken pavement and response in a corner. It’s an easy car to drive, through and through.
Priced perfectly in line with its competitors, you pick the Palisade for its bold style and impressive features. Why buy a frumpy Pilot or pay thousands more for a top-trim Explorer? With the Palisade, you get the perfect combination of luxury-vehicle look, mainstream vehicle price, and all the features you could want. Lift your next glass of Prosecco to that.
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