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Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD Review

Mark Savage
The 2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD has good looks, high value, and solid power.

I declared the Kia Telluride the finest SUV I’d driven in ages and an absolute winner in every way when I drove it last June. But its kissin’ cousin, the Hyundai Palisade is equally as praiseworthy.

Don’t make me choose between Palisade and the Telluride, although on price the Hyundai seems to have a slight advantage.

READ:2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD Review

Palisade is a mid-size sport-utility vehicle/crossover. Even in the tested mid-level SEL trim with AWD and loads of options, it is an outright bargain. Starting at $36,245, including delivery, the dark metallic blue (Moonlight Cloud) test vehicle ended at a modest $43,155.

Don’t believe that’s modest? Try pricing a Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas, Ford Explorer or Toyota Highlander equally equipped.

Palisade’s grille is stout with chrome nubs protruding to give its nose an interesting texture, and then there’s a swoosh of light cascading from the outer fender down to frame the two LED running lights and then a thin headlamp between that swoosh and the distinctive grille. In back are tall LED taillights (part of a $2,200 package that also includes sporty 20-inch alloy wheels.) Otherwise the body is a smooth rectangle that looks elegant atop those spiffy wheels.

Credit Mark Savage

Like the Telluride, performance is first-rate with a strong 3.8-liter V6 under the hood, creating 291 horsepower and 262 ft.-lbs. of torque. Palisade launches up to highway speeds with ease. Its push-button 8-speed automatic Shiftronic does a seamless job of easing through the gears to deliver luxury performance. There’s enough power here too that the Palisade will tow up to 5,000 pounds of trailer or camper. And the Hyundai offers five drive modes, including Sport and Snow.

The ride is excellent, nicely controlled and at ease on both highway and crumbling city streets. Few vehicles feel this capable of taming deteriorating roads’ potholes.

The handling is good too. The Palisade never feels like a large truck, more an easy steering crossover. While big at 196.1 inches long and 4,387 pounds, it feels fairly compact and manageable on the road and in parking lots. Then there’s AWD too that gives the Hyundai good traction, no matter the road conditions. AWD adds $1,700 to any of Palisade’s three trim levels.

Inside, the crossover delivers a handsomely styled interior that will seat up to eight if you go with the optional (no extra cost) second row bench seat. There’s a third row bench too that splits and powers up and down via buttons inside the rear hatch. For the record, those power seats are not available on the Telluride.

The test vehicle’s seats were light gray leather that matched much of the dash’s face, including gray wood-grained trim. The dash’s top and steering wheel were a darker gray leather and the door releases, steering wheel hub and other dash trim and buttons were decked out in a matte silver finish.

Credit Mark Savage
The crossover delivers a handsomely styled interior.

All that leather, plus copious sound-deadening material make the Hyundai’s interior luxury crossover quiet. There’s almost no wind or road noise.

Another plus, Palisade’s dash is smartly laid out with easy access to buttons and knobs, all laid out in a logical array. And there are blue lighted rings around the main gauges, so they’re super easy to see at night.

The test crossover added a 10.25-inch wide touchscreen with navigation system. It was easy to use and understand even when driving, which isn’t always the case with some systems. The wider split screen is part of a $1,250 Drive Guidance package that also includes satellite radio, Blue Link connected services and remote start, plus HD radio and Highway Drive Assist.

That drive assist helps keep the Palisade centered in its lane when you engage the smart cruise control.

Credit Mark Savage
The Palisade’s dash is smartly laid out with easy access to buttons and knobs.

Seats are comfy with the lower cushions being relatively flat, but the back cushions well-contoured to provide support. Both front seats are powered, the driver’s seat including a power lumbar support, plus front and rear seats are heated, along with the steering wheel. A $2,400 premium package adds the rear seat and wheel heat, plus an 8-way powered passenger’s seat, and the power-down third row seats and leather seating.

Another add-on is the power sunroof, which adds $900 to the cost. Still, with all the options this near luxury crossover stays south of $44 grand.

Standard on the SEL model are the major safety devices too, including smart cruise, a blind-spot avoidance program, cross-traffic and collision avoidance. Other features that come standard include the front seat heat, 8-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control and overhead rear air vents, remote start and push-button start, a head-up display, rear side window sun shades, leather steering wheel and ionizer air cleaner.

If you move up to the Limited model you get all the options included on this SEL, plus a few more. For instance, there’s a Harmon Kardon 630-amp stereo system, cooled front seats, a 360-degree camera, and a wireless phone charging system. That was included, the sticker said, in one of the option packages here. But I could not get my Android to take a charge, although it has in other test vehicles.

Also standard on all Palisades is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Credit Mark Savage
It has a hands-free hatch, which is powered by motion.

The hatch is hands-free so you can power it up with motion behind the hatch. Plus there’s a stop and go feature to save gas by switching off the engine when the vehicle is at rest.

Cargo room is generous too. Behind the third row seat there’s 18 cubic feet, which expands to 86.4 cubic feet with all the seats down. Note too that the second row seats will slide forward to increase rear leg and cargo room and the second row seats also can be partially reclined.

Palisade’s gas mileage also is decent. I got 23.1 mpg in about 70% highway driving, while the EPA rates this at 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. It drinks regular fuel. By comparison I managed 25.9 mpg in the Telluride test drive, in a mostly highway drive with four people aboard.

Pricing works in Palisade’s favor, as I mentioned above. The base 2-wheel-drive SE model lists at $32,545, including delivery, and comes standard as an 8-passenger vehicle. The tested SEL listed at $36,295 with AWD and moving to the top-level Limited will run you $47,495 for an AWD model.

Possible I’ve run out of accolades to pile onto the Palisade/Telluride duo. But if you’re in the market for a mid- to large crossover, do yourself a favor and compare both with whatever is on your shopping list.

Overview: 2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD

Hits: Good looks, high value, solid power, good handling, nice ride, plus AWD. Quiet interior, seats up to 8, power lower/recline third row seats, heated front seats and steering wheel, 5 drive modes, sunroof, smart power hatch, many safety features, blue instrument gauge rings, wide screen, easy dash controls, smart cruise and doesn’t feel like a big truck. Decent gas mileage.

Misses: Not much, the wireless charger didn’t seem to work.

Made In: Ulsan, South Korea

Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 291hp

Transmission: 8-speed automatic/Shiftronic

Weight: 4,387 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Length: 196.1 in.

Cargo: 18.0-86.4 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 19/ 24, 23.1 (tested)

Base Price: $36,245 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $35,990

Major Options: Convenience package (20-inch alloy wheels, auto-leveling rear suspension, LED taillights, front park distance warning, smart hatch, 7-inch high-res instrument cluster, ultrasonic rear occupant alert, wireless phone charger, rear side window shades, 3rd row USB outlets, 115-volt power outlet), $2,200

Premium package (leather seating, premium dash/armrests, Bi-LED headlights, 8-way power passenger’s seat, driver’s seat memory, heated second row seat and steering wheel, 3rd row power folding seats), $2,400

Bench seat option (second row), $0

Power sunroof w/LED interior map lights, $900

Drive guidance w/nav and 10.25-inch touchscreen, Highway Drive Assist, Sirius HD radio, Blue Link services w/remote start, driver intercom, $1,250

Carpeted floor mats, $160

Test Vehicle: $43,155

Sources: Hyundai, Kelley Blue Book

Editor's note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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