2020 Hyundai Palisade Review: Moving People – and Towing Track Cars?

It’s no secret that families looking to move people have migrated from the station wagon to the minivan and now, to the large crossover. These three-row lifted wagons all seat seven or eight people and offer small differences brand-to-brand in an attempt to woo consumers when the time comes to buy. Hyundai claims their 2020 Palisade is one of the largest inside and also, one of the most luxurious large crossovers on sale today. Additionally, the Palisade is rated to tow 5,000 pounds.

I spent a week with the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited to see how it would fare in both hauling people and acting as a weekend motorsports support vehicle.

What Is It?

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade was launched last year alongside its platform twin, the Kia Telluride. Both vehicles offer seating for seven or eight, depending if you choose second-row captains’ chairs or a bench seat. They are both motivated by Hyundai’s Lambda II V6, which displaces 3.8 liters and makes 291 horsepower and 262 ft-lb of torque. All Palisades and Tellurides are hooked up to an 8-speed automatic designed in-house. Front wheel drive is standard, but most will come with the optional all-wheel drive. If equipped with the factory tow hitch, both are rated to pull 5,000 pounds.

Though the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride are siblings, Kia positions the Telluride as the more sporty offering. Hyundai claims Palisade is “the three-row, upscale SUV” and thus, luxury is the focus.

My Palisade Limited was well-equipped, though it didn’t include that optional $395 tow hitch. We’ll still talk towing, but only in theory, down below. MSRP of my Palisade came in around $47,000.

Driving the 2020 Hyundai Palisade

It’s worth mentioning up front that, while Kia positions the Telluride as “sporty,” neither of these large crossovers is really equipped to meet that claim too well. So, I really appreciated Hyundai’s focus on technology and luxury over all else with the Palisade.

Stepping in to the Palisade makes a great first impression, with a large digital gauge cluster, large wide infotainment screen, nicely laid-out vehicle controls, and a mix of black Nappa leather, silver textured trim and slightly-glittery black plastic covering every surface.

Behind the wheel, the Palisade is comfortable above all else. Heated and cooled front seats are comfy and supportive, the steering wheel is heated, and the drivetrain is at its best when it stays out of your way. Though there is a “Sport” drive mode (in which the gauge cluster amusingly changes to very sporty red with aggressive font selection), I enjoyed my drives much more with the car in “Smart” or “Comfort.” Smart will automatically change drive modes based on your driving style at the time, so steering and throttle response can vary. It’s well-executed.

As I mentioned, the drivetrain is most impressive when loafing along. The eight-speed automatic clicks off smart shifts, but was occasionally slow to downshift when I pinned the throttle to pass someone. That Lambda II engine makes its power and torque high in the rev range (maximum horsepower at 6,000 rpm and torque peaks at 5,200). Winding the engine out resulted in plenty of shove, but felt silly given the comfort-first vibe of the Palisade. The transmission is controlled by a set of buttons in the center console, which frees up space for storage and other critical controls. There are paddles on the steering wheel, which can be useful to hold a gear or two on longer grades. Even with “comfort first,” the suspension and steering work together well in corners and off-ramps.

Driver assistance technology in the Hyundai Palisade was excellent, with smooth adaptive cruise control and well-programmed lane keep assist. Controls were easy to figure out and settings easily customized through the smart infotainment system. The Palisade offers a 360° view around the car using various cameras, and the side cameras show the side of the car when your turn signal is activated. The gauge cluster accommodates the video feed – it’s brilliant.

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Speaking of the infotainment – it’s fantastic. Hyundai’s latest system is fast and easy to use, with crisp graphics. I generally find Apple CarPlay to be a sort of kludge if the manufacturer has middling infotainment. Hyundai’s system in the Palisade was so good that I never brought a USB cable in the car. My phone stayed charged using the wireless charging mat, the built-in navigation was excellent and fast to find points of interest, and music sounded pretty good through the Harman/Kardon sound system (I’ve heard better H/K systems, but this one is good).

Riding in the 2020 Hyundai Palisade

While the Palisade is very nice to drive, the second row seats are truly the place to be. Hyundai offers a second-row bench seat if you must carry eight passengers, but you’d be best served offering the eighth person a Lyft account and choosing the capitains’ chairs. The second-row chairs can slide front-to-back based on legroom needs, are adjustable for recline, and offer both heat and cooling. The third-zone of the climate control operates with controls between the seats. With USB ports in the back of both front seats, cupholders in the door panels, and window shades in the rear doors, second-row passengers are treated to plenty of room and useful amenities.

The Hyundai Palisade’s best party piece, to me, is the third row. Many three-row large crossovers advertise that third row, and buyers understand it’s mostly intended for small children. Not so in Palisade. With the second-row seats moved forward, I can sit behind myself in every row of the vehicle – and I’m 6’1″. The third row has adjustable recline for each half of the backrest, as well as cupholders, USB ports, and air vents in the roof. Six adults would be pretty comfortable in the Palisade for many outings.

Towing and Hauling With the Hyundai Palisade

As mentioned earlier, my particular Palisade didn’t have the optional tow hitch. Hyundai claims the Palisade can tow 5,000 pounds if equipped, though. I think it would be a good option for someone who needs a family vehicle most times, and has an open trailer and smaller car to take to the racetrack or autocross every so often. 5,000 pounds will cover an open trailer (2,000 pounds or less) and something like a Mazda Miata or Honda S2000 with ease. Hyundai does not offer a trailer brake controller, so buyers will have to install one themselves or use something that operates in-line, as I did when towing with the Toyota Sequoia last year.

Given the Palisade makes its power and torque up high, the engine will be working on hills, but the 8-speed automatic and paddle shifters should offer good control. All Palisades include self-leveling rear suspension, which would help keep things level and stable. It’s not clear if a weight-distributing hitch is permitted.

I did get the chance to haul some tires with the Palisade, which was as easy as you’d expect from a big box on wheels. The second- and third-row seats both fold down electronically using buttons in the rear cargo area. Third row seats can be raised using power as well. Four of my racecar’s 245/40/17 tires fit behind the second row, and eight were a cinch with all seats folded.

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Mostly Roses, With a Few (Very) Small Thorns

Despite all of the praise I seem to be heaping on to the Palisade, there are two quirks that stood out in my week of driving.

The nicely-trimmed Nappa leather seats were already showing wear on the front seat thigh bolsters in the form of light creasing. My press loan only had about 8,000 miles on the odometer, so I question how well these seats will stand the test of time. Hyundai offers non-Nappa leather on the Palisade SEL, so that may be a better option for those who don’t love the quilted look or are concerned about long-term use.

Finally, the Palisade Limited offers all sorts of luxury features with technology to support. Yet power-folding mirrors are nowhere to be found. I’d chalk it up to “no big deal,” except the less-lux Kia Telluride twin offers them on the top two trim levels. Hyundai offers power-folding mirrors on the Palisade in other markets, so the omission here is a mystery.

Despite those two oddities, the Hyundai Palisade is an excellent option for a large, “do it all” vehicle. Though it prioritizes comfort over sportiness, it does so with skill and grace, and at a very reasonable price.

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