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Hyundai HYMTF, -8.32% has shuffled its crossover SUV lineup several times over the years, from the Santa Fe to the Veracruz to the Santa Fe XL. The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is an all-new 3-row model, replacing the Santa Fe XL with a bigger, more powerful, more luxurious SUV with a new name intended to connote strength, stability and style in a very competitive segment of the marketplace.
What’s new for 2020?
Everything. Built in South Korea for the North American market, the Palisade rides on a new platform, and is longer, wider and taller by about 3 inches in each dimension than the Santa Fe XL that it replaces, and rides on a 114.2-in wheelbase (4 inches longer than Santa Fe XL). It uses a bigger, more powerful V6 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission, adding two speeds to Santa Fe XL’s capability. The Palisade’s interior is more spacious, including 4.5 additional cu ft. behind the third row and an additional inch of third-row legroom. Hyundai has simplified its packaging for Palisade, with a well-equipped base SE model and loaded Limited model bracketing a more configurable mid-trim SEL model, designed to address both value and aspirational buying trends.
The Palisade replaces the Santa Fe, only bigger.
What we like
- Great exterior styling
- Impressive levels of standard and available content
- Genuinely comfortable third row and usable luggage space behind
What we don’t
- Only one powertrain available
- Could use a little more horsepower for spirited driving
Front-wheel-drive examples of Palisade are rated to achieve 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving, while all-wheel-drive editions are rated to achieve 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.
Standard features and options
All Palisade models come with a naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V6 engine with gasoline direct injection and four valves per cylinder with variable valve timing. Running on the Atkinson Cycle, the V6 puts out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission with FWD or available AWD puts the power to the ground.
Also read: Should you buy a car with all-wheel drive?
SE (starting at $31,550 with FWD; $33,250 with AWD) models are well-equipped, with automatic headlights with high-beam assist, LED daytime running lights, heated power outside mirrors, 8-passenger seating, cloth seating surfaces, second-row power folding seats, a tilt-and-telescoping haptic feedback steering wheel, remote keyless entry, radar cruise control with stop and go, an 8-in display audio system with rear seat quiet mode, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, Apple AAPL, -0.09% CarPlay and Android Auto.
SEL (starting at $33,500 with FWD; $35,200 with AWD) models add no-charge second-row captain’s seats or bench seat choice, heated front seats, a remote engine starter, and proximity key entry with push-button start. Available features include LED headlights and taillights, a sunroof, a hands-free lift gate, an 8-way power driver’s seat with integrated memory function, ventilated front seats, leather seating surfaces, heated second-row seats, third-row power seats, a heated steering wheel, a 10.25-in color touch screen with onboard navigation and traffic flow via HD Radio, a 7-in high-resolution TFT LCD multi-information display, multiple device connection, Driver Talk in-car intercom, a QI wireless charging pad and Blue Link Connected Car System.
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Limited (starting at $44,700; $46,400 with AWD) models include all of the standard and available features from SEL, plus additional standard features including side-mirror approach lights, a dual sunroof, heated and ventilated captain’s seats in the second row (no bench option), premium Nappa leather seating surfaces, a 630-watt Harmon Kardon premium audio system with 12 speakers, QuantumLogic Surround and Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology, a 12.3-in full digital display instrument cluster, a head-up display, a surround-view monitor, blind spot monitoring and ambient lighting.
The Palisade comes with a host of standard and available safety features as part of the Hyundai SmartSense suite. Standard features include forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, high beam assist, driver attention warning, smart cruise control with stop and go, lane following assist, and rear occupant alert. Available features include blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, safe exit assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, and ultrasonic rear occupant alert.
Behind the wheel
We drove the new Palisade in and around Coeur D’Alene, Idaho on a variety of city streets, multi-lane highways, curvy country roads and even some gravel and dirt tracks. Our test SUVs were SEL and Limited trim models with AWD. The Palisade soaked up the miles with ease, remaining composed over rough surfaces and cruising nicely when the roads got twisty. Selectable driving modes include Smart, Normal, Sport and Snow, adjusting front and rear torque distribution, throttle and shift patterns at the turn of a center-console mounted knob. A heavy foot on the gas pedal induces some thrashy noises from the V6, which is otherwise quiet and smooth. Handling is smooth and composed, and Palisade exuded competence in all situations it faced.
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Other cars to consider
2020 Ford Explorer – One of the sales leaders gets a makeover, including a switch back to rear-wheel drive.
2019 Subaru Ascent – A new entry into the three-row class from the formidable minds at Subaru, all-wheel drive standard.
2019 Volkswagen Atlas – The biggest SUV that VW has built to date is also one of its best.
2020 Toyota Highlander – One of the best minivan alternatives will get a makeover for 2020, and it’s bound to be good.
2019 Mazda CX-9 – Mazda is making a push toward premium, and hasn’t lost its Zoom-Zoom.
2019 Honda Pilot – It’s tough to beat Pilot’s ride and reliability, even if its looks are still a little truck-ish.
2019 GMC Acadia/2019 Chevrolet Traverse/2019 Buick Enclave – GM’s three-row trio have been differentiated a little, but still share the same platform and enviable passenger comfort.
2020 Kia Telluride – The new corporate sibling shares a platform (but no sheet metal) with the Palisade.
The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is an elegant, competent, midsize 3-row crossover SUV that is a worthy successor to the Santa Fe XL. At $31,550, the SE FWD base model represents a solid value, while the loaded Limited at $44,700 approaches luxury qualification. If you’re in the market for a new family vehicle, add the Palisade to your list for consideration.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.