Hyundai likes to name its SUVs after iconic US locations. We already have the Tucson and Santa Fe, no doubt designed to convey a sense of adventure.
The name of the new Hyundai Palisade SUV, we’re guessing, is either inspired by ancient defensive walls of the same name (one of the reasons people buy large SUVs is the feeling of invincibility and a desire to protect their families), or the Hudson River Palisades, a line of steep cliffs that stretch from New York to New Jersey.
Or the name could be inspired by Palisade Park that stretches along the Pacific Coast Highway in the sunny seaside suburb of Santa Monica, California.
Either way, Hyundai has designed its massive seven- or eight-seat SUV (the number of seats is optional in the US) to make quite an impression. Not everyone may find the bold appearance appealing, but it stands out from the crowd and definitely looks better in the metal.
From the side it looks like a Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban. For local perspective, it’s larger than a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series and is the twin under the skin to the award-winning Kia Telluride. From other angles, the Hyundai Palisade has hints of the Cadillac Escalade.
As with the Kia Telluride, the amount of space in the Hyundai Palisade cannot be overstated. The third row is roomy enough for two adults or three kids, and there's plenty of elbow room for everyone without feeling claustrophobic.
We got to sample the 2020 Hyundai Palisade as one of the contenders for the 2020 World Car of the Year. It was part of the testing schedule in the lead-up to the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. This gave us the rare opportunity to test the Kia and Hyundai twins on the same roads, back-to-back.
We’ve waited until now to bring you this review, as we weren’t sure the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride were certain for Australia.
Reading between the lines of the coded messages from each brand, one or both of these massive SUVs could be in local showrooms some time in the next 12 months. In the case of the Hyundai Palisade, if it were to be sold in Australia it would become the brand’s new flagship sitting above the top-end Santa Fe.
Price is a long way from being confirmed – as is the arrival of the car itself – but if it makes it here, expect the Hyundai Palisade to cost somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 depending on which models we get.
In the US there are three grades. We sampled the top-of-the-line version with a seven-seat configuration (two-two-three). An eight-seater (two-three-three) is also available in the US.
Under the bonnet is the same drivetrain that powers the Kia Telluride: a 3.8-litre V6 petrol (220kW/355Nm) matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
North American ratings show fuel consumption averages of 12.5L/100km for city driving and 9.6L/100km for highway driving, but as we reported with the Kia Telluride, the measuring methods are different from those used in Australia. We didn’t get a chance to take meaningful fuel economy numbers, but we reckon real-world figures of about 10L/100km in perfect conditions and 15–17L/100km in stop-start driving are likely (similar to a Toyota Kluger V6).
A diesel version has not yet been unveiled, but it is a technical possibility given that the Hyundai Palisade is made in South Korea, and the Hyundai Santa Fe also assembled there is available as either a petrol V6 front-wheel drive or diesel four-cylinder all-wheel drive.
Towing capacity is rated at a relatively modest 2200kg in North America. There is a space-saver spare under the rear of the car, demonstrating it’s aimed at the tarmac rather than rough trails.
Aside from the styling changes inside and out, there are some other notable differences between the Kia and Hyundai twins.
The Hyundai Palisade has a super-wide digital instrument display that merges via a piano black garnish with another super-wide infotainment touchscreen, which houses Apple Car Play, Android Auto and embedded navigation. It creates the impression more than half the dash is consumed by a hi-tech screen. There’s also a head-up display that reflects important data into the lower section of the windscreen in the driver’s line of sight.
The automatic gear lever has been replaced by a cluster of buttons for park, drive and reverse. It takes some getting used to, but tech geeks will love it.
The centre console has two large covered pockets, one in front of the other, adjacent to a wireless phone-charging pad. And the leather upholstery has diamond stitching in the top section of each seat. Heated and cooled seats up front are accompanied by a heated steering wheel in the US flagship model.
As with the Kia Telluride, the Hyundai Palisade has air-conditioning vents, USB charge ports and head-protecting curtain airbag coverage to all three rows of seats.
The Hyundai Palisade also shares the Kia Telluride’s long list of standard safety equipment including autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind-zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitors, and blind-zone cameras on both sides of the car (displayed in the digital instrument cluster in front of the driver).
Service intervals on Hyundai cars sold in Australia are customarily 15,000km/12 months, and warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres. Its Kia rival has seven-year warranty coverage. Both brands offer capped-price servicing for routine maintenance.
On the road
The level of the refinement from the Hyundai Palisade is the first noteworthy impression when you get behind the wheel. Despite having a fairly basic engine and drivetrain, the V6 is a smooth yet powerful operator, working seamlessly with the eight-speed auto.
Although the example tested was all-wheel drive, power is predominantly sent to the front wheels until an off-road mode is selected manually or the car senses the need for extra traction.
Surprisingly, the power delivery didn’t tug at the steering wheel during hard acceleration, as can often be the case with large SUVs with a lot of grunt on tap.
If I were splitting hairs, it feels to me like Hyundai is aiming for a slightly softer, pillowy ride, whereas the Kia Telluride feels slightly better tied down without being bumpy or uncomfortable.
Our observations about the suspension apply to the US models and are largely academic. That's because if either of these cars come to Australia, both Hyundai and Kia will likely have their local engineers put a spanner on them to tune the shocks and springs for our roads.
As it stands, based on the examples tested so far, the Kia Telluride has the better blend of comfort and cornering for a family SUV, which is presumably one of the reasons it has picked up a string of awards.
As with the Kia Telluride, the over-shoulder visibility of the Hyundai Palisade is excellent by modern standards thanks to the large glass area in an era of sleek window lines. The driving position is comfortable, although you do notice the car’s size in tight spaces.
Unlike the Kia Telluride, the Hyundai Palisade comes with tap shifters on the steering wheel, should you want to override the automatic gearbox from time to time.
Overall, the Hyundai Palisade is an impressive vehicle and, if it were to come here, would likely find favour among Australian families who need an SUV with a lot of space.
Choosing between the two vehicles is a tough call. If I had a magic wand, I would combine the Kia Telluride's exterior appearance and driving dynamics with the Hyundai Palisade’s fancy dash.
Hopefully, we will soon be spoiled for choice in the full-size SUV market.
If it comes to Australia, the Hyundai Palisade would hit the right note for Santa Fe customers needing to step up to an SUV with even more space.