Car reviews - Hyundai - Palisade
Handsome styling, useful space, impressive equipment, polished road manners, refined AWD diesel.
Room for improvement
Front and centre-row under-thigh support, more grab handles, door bottle storage, AWD for the V6.
Hyundai prepares two-pronged attack on large SUV segment with Palisade eight-seater
18 Dec 2020
IF two heads are better than one, then surely two complementary large SUVs are equally as advantageous – certainly among a crowded competitor set. That’s what Hyundai Australia is hoping.
Joining a heavily facelifted Santa Fe in local showrooms is the Palisade; a large SUV covered extensively for price and equipment by GoAutoon December 11.
Built in the same Korean plant as Santa Fe but offering up to eight seats, the right-hand-drive Palisade has been two years in the making, following its unveiling at the LA Show in November 2018.
Back then it was left-hook only but Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) managed to convince its parent that a large SUV as practical as this is exactly what Aussie families need, especially when starting at a relatively attainable $60,000.
There’s sound logic to bringing it here too. While Palisade is a close mechanical relative of Santa Fe, its significant size increase – 210mm longer, 85mm wider, 170mm taller, riding on a 135mm-longer wheelbase – means this handsome, GMC Yukon-inspired SUV should carve out a niche all its own.
For some time now the Hyundai Santa Fe has passed itself off as one of the keenest large SUVs to drive, often to the detriment of its ride quality. But the Palisade suffers from no such sporting delusions.
Its family-value deal is all about delivering all-round satisfaction rather than favouring the person holding the reins.
HMCA has been involved in the chassis development of this XL-sized SUV from close to the beginning, resulting in a shared suspension tune with Eastern Europe. And from the outset, you can sense it was a wise decision.
Admittedly, there are two distinct flavours of Palisade – the front-drive V6 and the all-wheel-drive diesel.
We drove the extremes – an entry-level Palisade V6 wearing 245/60R18 Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport AS tyres and a Palisade CRDi Highlander AWD on same-brand rubber but 245/50R20 in size. The biggest difference is their traction.
Where the front-drive petrol feels a little disconcerting being peddled briskly on damp roads, the all-wheel-drive diesel is much more poised. For packaging reasons, Australia can’t access an AWD petrol Palisade and that’s a shame because its gutsy 217kW/355Nm 3.8-litre V6 deserves the grip to match its go.
The diesel is something of a surprise. It’s a 147kW/440Nm version of Hyundai’s decade-old R-Series 2.2-litre turbo-diesel – not the latest ‘SmartStream’ version going into the new Santa Fe – yet it’s so impressively refined, you could be fooled into believing it was the newer engine.
Tied to the same eight-speed auto as the 3.8 V6, its combined fuel number of 7.3 litres per 100km (versus 10.7L/100km for the petrol) pretty much seals the deal in terms of the diesel drivetrain being the Palisade pick.
Pounding across corrugated, hilly dirt roads, the 20-inch-wheeled Palisade Highlander AWD diesel proves effortlessly accomplished and is relatively quiet too, though you hear more road noise in the middle row than up front.
And when you’re back on the bitumen, its nicely progressive steering and amenable handling make it feel much smaller than it is.
If only the Palisade’s ride wasn’t so obvious in urban conditions, even on 18-inch wheels, though it’s far from uncomfortable and certainly preferable to nauseating body movement.
Inside, the Palisade continues its tale-of-two-halves model story.
The core architecture of its handsome dashboard and overall interior layout leaves little to criticise (apart from not being able to swallow 1.5-litre bottles in its doors), but the plastics and some of the trim garnishing on the entry model isn’t what you’d call premium.
It does get standard leather, though, and a heated electric driver’s seat.
The $11,000-dearer Highlander is basically all about dressing to impress.
On the outside, its sexy all-LED stacked headlights are the bomb, and inside, there’s lovely Nappa leather, plush suede headlining, and a bunch of other welcome luxuries like fan-cooled seating, driver’s electric cushion extension, head-up display, side-view monitor, wireless phone charging and a power tailgate.
While both models share a good-quality 12-speaker Infinity stereo with classy 10.25-inch touchscreen and wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, they also share one annoying hangover from originating in left-hand drive – the headlining shape.
There’s a dent above the driver where the overhead grab handle mounts for LHD but on the passenger side … it’s smooth.
There’s no facility to mount an overhead grip and nothing on the door to compensate – leaving the front passenger frequently looking for something to hang on to, and it’s made more obvious because the front seats don’t provide enough under-thigh support.
Neither does the centre-row bench, though in the Highlander there’s a solution – opt for seven seats, not eight.
If you tick the no-cost seven-seat alternative you get two centre-row buckets with in-built armrests and superior comfort to the front pair.
You also get heating and cooling, plus a neat little walkway to the rear three-seat bench that’s both useful and claustrophobia-free.
Not that sitting in Palisade’s roomy third row is a prison sentence – it’s just that everyone appreciates a nice view.
Whether you have a mid-row bench or buckets, however, they’re all mounted on runners so you can adjust legroom to suit and everyone gets circular roof air vents with USB ports aplenty, as well as 16 cupholders in total.
Other highlights include rear curtain airbags that go all the way to the D-pillar, one-touch seat folding, reclinable rear backrests, an almost-flat centre and rear floor, a vast amount of luggage space with the third row dumped, and plenty of safety features including crucial rear blind-spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rear occupant alert, and in the Highlander; safe exit assist.
There’s even ‘Driver Talk’, which projects the driver’s voice through the stereo speakers to the second and third rows while accounting for wind and road noise.
If you’re tired of yelling, turn the volume up and let the audio do your dirty work!
On first inspection, you can understand why someone might aspire to owning a Palisade because it’s a handsome, imposing SUV without being too in-your-face.
Yet the more time you spend behind the wheel, or use its voluminous space, the Palisade continues to hold up.
Its sweet spot is clearly the seven-seat Highlander CRDi all-wheel drive, yet even the base front-drive Palisade V6 seems persuasive enough to comfortably expand Hyundai’s market share in the large SUV category.
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