Replacing the Santa Fe XL, the new-for-2019 Hyundai Palisade is a 3-row crossover that seats 7 or 8 passengers. Sharing a chassis and engine with the similar Kia Telluride, the Palisade is available with front- or all-wheel drive and is powered by a V6 engine. Competitors include the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas.
Palisade is offered in three trim levels: SE, SEL and Limited. All get a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine. Sole transmission offering is an 8-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard across the lineup with Hyundai's HTRAC all-wheel-drive system available as an option. Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.
The SE starts at $31,550 and comes standard with 8-passenger seating. Standard features include Android Auto and Apple Car Play support, forward-collision waring, lane following assist and driver attention warning. The SEL lists for $33,500 and gets 2nd-row captain's chairs that reduce passenger capacity to 7. The Limited has an MSRP of $44,700 and adds digital instrument cluster, dual-panel sunroof and Nappa leather seating surfaces.
Though Palisade is an all-new vehicle for Hyundai, the South Korean automaker played it safe by making its tried-and-true 3.8-liter V6 as the sole engine offering. This engine appears in other Hyundai and Kia vehicles and has proven to be reliable and trouble free. In the Palisade, it provides adequate acceleration. Posting a 0 to 60 MPH time of about 7 seconds, it's a tick or two slower than a Chevrolet Traverse or Honda Pilot. In around-town driving the engine provides good acceleration away from a stop and enough passing power on the highway. Load up with four or five passengers, and acceleration is noticeable blunted.
The 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly, almost imperceptibly. However, when going up grades or around corners it's sometimes caught in the wrong gear that necessitates a shift or two. Hyundai's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range. However, it does have automatic torque vectoring and several driver-selectable modes include sport, comfort, eco and snow. In addition, you can lock the center differential. This makes the Hyundai system slightly more capable off-road than some others, but its certainly not ready for the Rubicon.
EPA numbers for the front-drive model are 19 MPG city and 26 MPG highway. AWD models net the same city rating, but drop to 24 MPG on the highway. Those numbers put the new Hyundai smack-dab in the middle of the class for overall fuel efficiency. Hyundai says that regular-grade gasoline is fine, as is the case with most competitors. In routine around-town driving, expect to average close to the EPA city rating. Throw in some gentle highway cruising and that number will climb north of 22 MPG. Straight highway cruising generates about 26 MPG overall.
As you might expect, Hyundai played it safe when engineering the Palisade's driving dynamics. It's not too cushy and it's not too racy. The suspension does an excellent job of filtering out the rough stuff and controlling unwanted secondary motions. There's no bobbing or bounding on badly broken pavement. Overall, the Palisade nails that sweet spot where most buyers will simply say, "it rides just like I hoped it would."
Dynamically, the Palisade doesn't pretend to be a sports-themed crossover. Though completely competent, the somewhat slow steering and flaccid suspension quickly get overwhelmed when the road gets twisty. Driven at acceptable speeds, most will find that the Palisade performs adequately in the bendy stuff. The all-wheel-drive system is supposed to aid on-road handling, but in reality, drivers have to be going much too quickly before they notice the benefits of active torque vectoring.
Stopping power is quite good and the pedal is very easy to modulate. As is the case with acceleration, when you add a few passengers or a load in the back, braking distances grow. Interior noise levels are acceptable. There's a bit more wind noise than expected, but the engine and tires are mute most of the time.
As is the case with most large crossovers, getting the interior right is the most important detail. In the case of the new Palisade, Hyundai hit it out of the park. The interior has a modern, upscale demeanor that would not be out of place in an Audi or Mercedes-Benz -- especially Limited trim. The control layout is neither overly busy nor is it bland. Stepping up to the Limited brings an all-digital instrument panel that's strikingly sharp.
The best part, from a driver's perspective is the blending of the buttons and touch screen display to provide a seamless interface that's both intuitive and logical. Climate controls are arranged in a simple pod at the top of the center console, audio controls just above that and the large touch screen with Hyundai's infotainment system just above that. Vehicles with the digital display get a gimmicky side-view monitor when you activate the turn signal. At low speeds it makes sense for parking, but at high speeds it is just distracting.
Like most automakers in this class, Hyundai offers a suite of safety systems that features surround-view cameras, lane-departure warning, cross-traffic alert and Hyundai's Highway Drive Assist. It works in conjunction with the adaptive cruise control to provide autonomous-like driving on highways. Unfortunately, it is prone to ping-ponging from one side of the lane to the other and doesn't brake as smoothly as systems found in competitors.
Front seats are nicely padded and provide great long-haul comfort. Head and leg room are quite good. The same can be said for the 2nd-row captain's chairs. Those in the back will find that leg room can be tight if the 2nd-row seats are all the way back, but otherwise comfort is quite good. In addition, the one-touch tip-and-slide feature makes it easy to climb in back. Door openings are large and the step-in height is modest, making it quite easy to get in and out, overall.
Palisade boasts 18 cu. ft. of cargo space behind the 3rd-row seats and up to 86 cu. ft. of space overall. That's better than the Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Highlander and on par with other offerings in the class. The load floor is flat, if a bit high and the opening is wide. Hyundai offers an improved take on the magic tailgate; you simply need to stand near the hatch with the key fob for 3 seconds and it will open. Interior storage is great, with lots of open and covered bins throughout.
Bottom Line - Forget the Santa Fe XL, Palisade instantly vaults Hyundai to the top of the large crossover class. It's roomy, comfortable, well equipped and economical. In fact, it does such a good job at meeting the needs of its intended customers, it might just be the new benchmark for the class -- if it weren't for its corporate cousin, the Kia Telluride, which is equally as good. Buyers in this class would be foolish not to take the Palisade for a test drive, but with prices that are already cut to the bone, don't expect to find many discounts on dealer lots.