YPSILANTI, Mich. — Hyundai is looking to reassert itself as a premium brand — a tall order in a market chock full of different nameplates. But the 2020 Palisade is a big step in that direction.
The Palisade is a three-row midsize premium crossover with a prominent grille, today’s ID badge in the automotive world. The cascading grille was wide, distinctive and clearly made to lay stake to a place in the market.
Depending on trim, LED headlights and daytime running lights are available. Internals called the headlights crocodile lights, they seemingly were just above the sheet metal line. There was a vertical layout to the lights both fore and aft where too there were LED lights.
There were also options for roof glass. A regular moonroof was available and so was a double glass roof. The pane in the front was movable while the pane covering the second and the third row was fixed.
Hyundai said, “This design has aerodynamic benefits as well, with a 0.33 coefficient of drag (Cd). Palisade achieves this low drag coefficient with specific design cues that include a fast A-pillar angle, a rear spoiler side garnish, an optimized front cooling area with an extended internal air guide, aero underside panels, and rear-wheel aero deflectors.”
Sounds great but the proof of that was on the pavement. And it started with what was under the Palisade’s hood. The midsized crossover had a 3.8 liter V6 that made 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. In front-wheel-drive mode, it got 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. In all-wheel-drive mode it got 19 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined.
The short story is that this engine made the Palisade deceptively quick. Any number of times we found ourselves braking because we had come to a curve in the road a lot quicker than we thought.
There were plenty of twisting two-lane local highways and rural roads with different surfaces that took us from here farther west of the airport. Hankered Road, for instance, reminded us of California — hilly, twisting and challenging.
That was where we wished we had an all-wheel-drive model for a little better grip and road security. Still, our test vehicle handled itself well. There was no body sway, the vehicle went where we steered it without any trouble, braking was very good and the Palisade just didn’t seem cumbersome. In fact, it seemed a lot lighter than it looked.
Inside there were some innovations. The Palisade had a shift by wire transmission. Thus, that freed up a lot of space on the floating console. And it had a haptic push-button gear selector. There were also paddle shifters. The vehicle will automatically shift into park when the engine is turned off and the door is opened.
There was an open space underneath the console which Hyundai called a floating bridge concept. It served as storage space. The interior featured up to seven USB jacks but we thought there were not enough (two) in the front. However, there was a wireless charging pad in the console.
A wide dash gave the appearance of being a wraparound but it wasn’t. And the interior trim was made to look like wood but it sure didn’t feel like timber. When we test drove the all-wheel-drive model, the interior trim looked like sparkling piano black. Sometimes you can try too hard. And neither interior worked for us. But design is subjective; somebody else could think it looks great. Besides, they said there were four interior choices, we only tried two.
There were all sorts of creature comforts: 16 cupholders, seatbelt connection notification for every seating position and one-touch operation of the second-row seat forward to access the third row. The second-row captain’s chairs can be heated and cooled, the third-row seats can be power-folding, unfolding and reclining seats, and there was a conversation mirror to allow the driver to clearly see rear-seat passengers; think kids.
There was an intercom system that allowed the driver to communicate separately with the second and/or third row via the Palisade audio system. It also included a rear seat quiet mode that allowed the front row passengers to listen to their selected audio without that same audio being transmitted to the second- and third-row audio speakers, so that potentially sleeping passengers will not be disturbed.
Hyundai said the Palisade had a class-exclusive blind view monitor that provided easy-to-see body-side views whenever the turn signal was activated. We saw it but paid no attention during the test drive, which was chock full of rural roads. But it was there if needed.
The audio and navigation display was a generous 10.25-inch touchscreen in widescreen format. It was coupled with a 12.3-inch fully-digital TFT centered instrument cluster offering various view modes and differentiated drive mode illumination.
Two Bluetooth devices can be connected simultaneously, with one for a mobile phone connection and the other for audio streaming. The single instrument panel gauge cluster integrated with navigation offers exceptional legibility and ease of use, coupled with an available heads-up display feature.
And we got lost. We used voice controls and told the Palisade where we wanted to go, sat there for about five seconds and it came back and had inserted a route into the navigation system.
The all-wheel-drive Palisade had torque vectoring. In snow mode, it will pre-distribute traction to resist wheel slip. And either in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, the vehicle can tow up 5,000 lbs.
There was what is rapidly becoming normal: satellite radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and, of course, the navigation system.
There was a heads-up display that featured information like speed, smart cruise control status, navigation, blind-spot collision avoidance assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, speed limits and lane following assist.
In this price range, there was Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Following Assist, High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning and Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go.
On sale now, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade ranges from $31,550 for the front-wheel-drive SE to $46,400 for the all-wheel-drive Limited. Remember to add the $1,045 freight charge. The middle trim line is the SEL. Base prices are $33,500 for the FWD model and $35,200 for the AWD version.
Hyundai continues to roll out top-notch models at reasonable prices.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.