ROAD TEST: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate

By Shari Prymak

Hyundai has long been known as a value-oriented alternative to more established competitors. The combination of a lengthy list of features, a long comprehensive warranty period, and a low purchase price has helped the brand become a major player in the market. As of late, however, Hyundai has become increasingly well known for other qualities as well, including eye-catching designs, well-crafted interiors, and having a more substantive overall feel. A great example of this is the Palisade, which currently holds the title of being Hyundai’s largest crossover and flagship model.  

The Palisade’s appearance has more than a whiff of luxury crossover to it with its demanding on-road presence and sculpted design. Its large, somewhat boxy, dimensions also give it a generous amount of interior space with three rows of seats that can accommodate adults. Both 7-seat and 8-seat configurations are available depending on the trim level you go with. The seats are comfortable and flexible with second and third rows that can easily slide or fold when necessary. Heated and ventilated seats, manual sunshades, and climate controls are available for second row occupants. And all three rows have access to cup holders and USB ports for connecting devices which is useful. The cargo area is quite spacious as well, and includes a storage area beneath the floor.  

Feature-wise, the Palisade offers a lengthy list with highlights that include a 10.25 inch touchscreen as well as a 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster with blind view monitor, a head up display, 12 speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, dual panel sunroof, a surround view camera, and an extensive list of active safety technology. The top of the line Ultimate model also includes luxury touches such as premium Nappa leather upholstery and a microfibre suede headliner. Despite the extensive features, the controls are remarkably easy to use and intuitive. The infotainment system has a straightforward interface that’s also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Palisade may appear to be somewhat truck-like based on its sheer size; however, the driving experience is quite car-like with solid on-road composure and smooth ride quality. The safety tech all works extremely well; especially the driving assistance features like the lane follow system. The naturally-aspirated 3.8L V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission provide ample acceleration with good overall refinement. The Palisade offers a few driving modes, however, I preferred to just leave things in auto or comfort and let it do its thing. Fuel economy is about average for a three-row crossover. I managed about 13.5L/100km in city driving and up to about 9.0L/100km on the highway.

Pricewise, the Palisade starts at $38,499 for the Essential model in front-wheel drive form or $2,000 more for all-wheel drive. Fully jammed out with every feature and luxury on the top-dog Ultimate model, the MSRP tops out at $53,999. That’s just about in line with rivals such as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas, and Kia Telluride. It’s even priced a tad higher than a few others like the Subaru Ascent, Mazda CX-9, and Nissan Pathfinder. That may sound a bit ambitious for a model lacking the reputation of the Highlander or Pilot; however, the Palisade does come better equipped than most rivals, comes with a longer warranty, well-designed safety features, and a borderline luxury SUV feel on the top trim.

At the end of the day, the Palisade is a solid choice for a family-oriented three-row crossover. It’s extremely practical, feature-packed, and surprisingly luxury-leaning for a Hyundai. In fact, take off the badges, and a good number of consumers would likely not be able to tell the difference between the Palisade Ultimate and a proper luxury SUV. It is that impressive. The price tag is not as aggressive as Hyundai’s of the past, but the Korean brand is well-known for its heavy use of purchase incentives, so it could make a value case relative to its competitors. With that being the case, the Palisade would be compelling buy among three-row crossovers.