Caraganza First Drive Review 2020 Hyundai Palisade: Champagne taste on a beer budget


I’ve reported more than once about how I tossed away my wretched (and thankfully to date only) minivan. I intentionally (allegedly) ruined the transmission and sold it to two unwitting used car salesmen who owned a small car lot and undoubtably learned a painful lesson about not driving something before actually buying it (It wouldn’t shift out of first gear).  I had nothing to do with the actual sale, only the actual ruining of the transmission; it was my wife in skinny jeans and a size too small top that got the boys to sign that check.  I never felt sorry for them, and the check did cash, so there’s that.

Since then we’ve owned only sedans. That’s been fine to a point, but I now find myself thinking about a vehicle that can actually do more than take us from point A to point B. This has been amplified by the fact that when I get an SUV as a press car for a week my wife, sans the skinny jeans and too small top, has started to rationalize our need for such a thing. After all, more than once in the last few years we’ve had to rent a truck, or van, to haul something that otherwise we could have been done in the aforementioned SUV.

There are also those weeks when I get an SUV (or pickup) as a press vehicle and my wife pulls out the list of things she’s been saving up that we need to haul that week. This leads to a normally busy week.

That included a recent week with an SUV new to the market.

Hyundai sent me the new 2020 Palisade which replaces the Santa Fe XL and is cousin to the Kia Telluride for a recent week. And yes, the wife’s list came out, giving me plenty of opportunity to spend time with it. And wonder just what sort of SUV I would buy.

Part of the issue is that I live on a beer budget but have champagne tastes.  Sure, I’d love to have something like say a BMW X7, or maybe a Volvo XC60 or a Mercedes GLC 350 perhaps. But I’d also like to continue paying my mortgage and be able to put food in my fat belly.  And the BMW ($92,00) the Volvo ($63,000) or the Mercedes ($71,000) would leave me with no place to live and mighty hungry.

That’s why this Palisade seemed sort of appealing to me.

The all new Palisade comes in three trims: SE, SEL and Limited. All are powered by a 3.8-liter V6 (291 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque) and have an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is an option. Passenger capacity tops out at eight with the second-row bench or seven with the captain’s chairs.


The exterior styling could be considered somewhat polarizing perhaps. The cascading grill dominates the front while the composite headlights and vertically connected forward lighting seem to create an odd sort of signature, but not an unpleasant in my opinion.

I had the SEL AWD for my week. In addition to all the features in the SE including such things as remote keyless entry, push-button ignition, adaptive cruise control, second-row air-conditioning controls along with safety features like automatic high beams, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, a drowsy driver monitor, lane keeping assist and a rear passenger reminder, the SEL adds such things as roof rails, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

Mine also had the Convenience package with a self-leveling rear suspension, second-row window shades, a wireless charging pad, third-row USB ports, and a household-style power outlet, along with the Premium package with LED headlights, leather upholstery, a power front passenger seat, driver-seat memory functions, heated second-row seats, power-folding third-row seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Finally, the Drive Guidance package added enhanced driver-assist features, like a 10.25-inch touchscreen (up from an 8-inch), a navigation system, satellite radio, an intercom system, and Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car system.

In other words, this Palisade was pretty loaded for $43,155.

And that’s the point.

Yes, you can get a GMC Denali for $48,000, or even a Lincoln MKC for $49,000. I’ve spent time with both. They are very good SUVs, but the Palisade is, in my opinion, in the same league, only less expensive.  The interior is well laid out and very user friendly. There is no fru-fru, no overly contentious sort of bells and whistles, just nice amenities that seem right in place.  The only slight annoyance was the push button shifter in the dash.

The Palisade then is a nice large SUV with a bunch of nice things that won’t break anyone’s bank.  No, you won’t be screaming around corners or trying to get a 0-60 time below 5 seconds, but you’ll have an SUV that has plenty of power, room, and features all at a decent price.  The all new Hyundai Palisade is a great value, and that means that if I were looking for a decent SUV (and I just might be soon), it would be at the top of my list.

2023 UPDATE: In October of 2023, Hyundai gave me another week with a Palisade. This go round it was the Calligraphy the new top of the line model that was introduced in 2021. The Calligraphy model added unique exterior lighting elements, boldly designed 20-inch wheels, a distinct grille finish, and standard all-wheel drive. Inside, there’s a faux-suede headliner, quilted-leather upholstery on the doors and seats, and a perforated leather wrap on the steering wheel.

Also in 2021, the rest of the lineup got the larger 10.3-inch infotainment display, in-dash navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, the in-car intercom, and a semi-autonomous driving mode rolled into the mid-range SEL’s Premium package. All models added wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights, and HD radio.

In 2022 Hyundai made several active safety equipment standard across the Palisade lineup, including rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and blind-spot collision avoidance. For the 2023 model year the Palisade got a facelift giving it a more squared-off look and the addition of updated wheel designs while inside the cabin has received some new features. The Palisade’s instrument panel got a higher-resolution 12.0-inch infotainment display, a redesigned steering wheel, and updated upholstery options. New features include a Wi-Fi hotspot, heated third-row seats, and a massaging driver’s seat. A rugged-looking XRT model joined the lineup and comes with 20-inch wheels, blacked-out exterior trim, and other design flourishes.

All these updates and the new top of the line model were nice for my week, and it was a good one. Of course, all this finery comes with a higher MSRP of $52,100, but at the end of the day it’s still a good value worth considering.

2023-2024 Model

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD
MSRP: $35,200
MSRP (as tested): $43,155
Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 291hp @ 6,000 RPM, 262 lb.-ft. torque @ 5,200 RPM
Transmission: 8-Speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 19 city, 24 highway, 21 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 22 mpg
Base curb weight: 4,284 lbs.
Exterior Dimensions (in.)
Wheelbase: 114.2
Width: 77.8
Overall height: 68.9
Overhang (front/rear) 37.2 / 44.7
Minimum ground clearance 7.9

Interior Dimensions (In.)
Head room (front (w/sunroof) / 2nd row (w/sunroof) / 3rd row (w/sunroof): 40.7 (39.3) / 40.1 (38.8) / 37.8 (37.2)
Leg room (front / 2nd row / 3rd row): 44.1 / 42.4 / 31.4
Shoulder room (front / 2nd row / 3rd row): 61.2 / 60.8 / 55.2
Hip room (front / 2nd row / 3rd row): 58.1 / 57.7 / 43.7
Cargo capacity, behind front seats:  86.4
Cargo capacity, behind 2nd row:  45.8

Basic: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 10 Years/100,000 Miles
Corrosion: 7 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 5 Years/Unlimited Miles

Greg Engle