Filling All Gaps
Hyundai is arguably the most passionate automobile brand of this century. Starting with the “dirt-cheap” Pony in North America about 40 years ago and with a quality level below average, the Korean company today (we should better say the Hyundai-KIA Group) produces cars and SUV’s with top quality and sold all over the world. And we should add Genesis, the group’s rising luxury nameplate.
Engine and Drivetrain
Hyundai’s newest and biggest SUV comes with a 3.8L naturally aspirated V6 that produces 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Without the turbocharging, the engine delivers the torque at the high rpm ranges, so you need to rev the Palisade out to go fast. We would say, this car is borderline fast, as it weighs more than 2.5 tons, the V6 engine is barely enough for it. We wish it comes with forced induction, even with slightly smaller displacement would be fine but it would have offered way more usable and flat torque band. In our tests, we see 12.5L / 100 km average fuel consumption, which is not too bad for a 3-row huge SUV that weighs over 2500 kgs.
Hyundai decided to match this 3.8L V6 engine with their 8-Speed torque converter automatic transmission and as soon as you start driving, you realize it is 100% tuned for comfort. It takes a lot of time to downshift, even if you use paddle shifters, there is a lag which causes 1-2 sec delay to accelerate. Having a slightly underpowered engine and slow response transmission is not the best combo for short burst acceleration, which you shouldn’t expect to be the fastest in the straight line anyway. Quite frankly, the transmission is extremely smooth and it doesn’t “hunt the gears” to get better fuel economy.
The Palisade comes with an all-wheel-drive except for the base trim. Unlike in the USA, it comes with more off-road modes, although this is not a rock crawler, it is quite capable in light off-road situations. The Canadian version comes with Mud-Sand-Snow modes which tune the drivetrain in different ways. For instance, in Sand mode, it keeps the revs high, and distributes the torque 50:50, and mimics if it has a limited-slip differential. Hence, it transfers the power to the wheel with more traction and brakes the wheel with less traction. No matter how capable this system is, it is still front-wheel biased and rear wheels activate when the front loses traction, which helps the fuel economy overall.
Our tester comes as Luxury, the second-highest trim level.
Features and Driving Impressions
As a cost-cutting strategy, the Palisade shares the same platform with Kia Telluride, but also with Kia Sedona and Sorento. So, you should not expect any sporty driving experience, because as soon as you start driving this vehicle, you feel it has zero sporty pretensions. Also, it is a huge 3-row SUV, but you don’t feel like you are driving a huge vehicle as the suspension is tuned well enough so it feels like a car more than a truck driving dynamics. Driving smoothness level is also paired with lots of new technologies, which is one of the strongest points of the Palisade. As typical with recent Hyundai models, the Palisade offers the best bang for the buck in its class.
Hyundai offers four² different trim levels. If you want to get the all-wheel-drive (which you should), you need to skip the base trim. Our tester was the Luxury trim, which was missing few more features compared to the top trim called “Ultimate”, such as better looking rims, LED tail lights, Nappa leather, 4-way lumbar support, ventilated rear seats, head-up display, wireless charging pad, 12.3” instrument cluster, double sunroof (additional sunroof for rear seats), and LED interior lights. You can choose captain chairs in the top two trims, which is a huge plus for people who want their rear-seat passengers to be more comfortable, and it would be easier for people to get access to the third row without folding down the second-row seats.
Nevertheless, the Luxury trim is more than enough as you can save $3000 by opting for those features out. The Luxury trim comes with regular leather seats, driver memory seats, power seats for both sides, heated rear seats, 10.25” infotainment system, Harman/Kardon premium audio system and so on. As always, Hyundai’s adaptive cruise control and infotainment systems are really good. It is so good that it makes you want to buy this vehicle as it comes with even more advanced adaptive cruise control system, so it recognizes that you are driving on the highway and it allows you to keep your hands off the steering wheel for several minutes, not like 5 seconds for most brands. At the same time, lane keep assist is able to keep the car centered, it is not like bumping it inside the lane when it’s out. So, this is a revolutionary step going forward. It stops and starts moving smoothly and this is one of the best parts about driving a Palisade. Another interesting feature is, when you use your right/left indicator, it automatically switches the camera on that side, so you will see what’s going on in your instrument cluster. This safety feature was awarded as the best by AJAC.
Overall interior space with material quality and craftsmanship is one of the best in its class. There are lots of soft touch-plastics and some hard touch plastics on the dashboard. Although we are not a fan of shifter buttons as you have to make sure you pushed it properly every time, or you can go the way that you shouldn’t, that’s why there are tons of interior space and they utilized that well. The third row has plenty of space, not as good as a minivan but one of the best in 3-row SUV segment.
One thing that Hyundai must change or improve, not only in Palisade, but all in their model lineup is the blind spot monitoring system. It is extremely annoying and intrusive. It beeps so loudly the first thing you want to do is disable it. Palisade’s blind spot cameras make this system obsolete; you don’t really need it. But if you don’t have that camera option, then you are pretty much stuck with this annoying system. Another bummer is especially if you are an Android smartphone user, you won’t get a full-screen experience like Apple users. We had some connection problems with Android Auto but we believe this was a problem unique to our tester.
When we check the other alternatives in this class, surprisingly the strongest contender is its cousin, Kia Telluride. Although they use the same platform, they look completely different. Hyundai / Kia tried their best not to use the same parts except the drivetrain, which means the Telluride also has underwhelming but comfort biased drivetrain. Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot get really old and they will be renewed soon, but they keep their values better than Hyundai. Subaru Ascent is also a strong contender with its symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, but it comes with a CVT transmission which may be boring for some people. Hyundai comes with torque converter 8 speed instead, which is more preferable. Ford Explorers’ new generation is also on the market for a few weeks (and we expect to test drive it soon). With a higher MSRP. Overall, Hyundai was able to enter the 3-row SUV market with a great price-performance proposition.
Conclusion & Pricing
With a stronger-than-ever product portfolio consisting of cars, CUV’s and SUV’s, the Korean automotive giant looks confidently into the future. The Palisade is a testament to this self-confidence.
Our takeaways are:
+ Great comfort and driving smoothness
+ Advanced adaptive cruise control and great infotainment system
+ Good fuel economy despite being a heavy vehicle
+ Great bang for the buck in its class (at a price of higher depreciation – almost premium German brand level)
Things need to be improved
– Intrusive Blind Spot monitoring system
– Underwhelming engine and transmission
– Shorter warranty in Canada, compared to the USA.
Article And Pictures By Dan Gunay and Varol McKars
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