When news of the coronavirus broke, it was the middle of the week and my mother-in-law was in the middle of a week-long stay at our place. At the time, I had a 2020 Hyundai Palisade press vehicle that was struggling to pull at my heartstrings. It’s odd, right before news of the virus broke, we were using the Palisade as a regular midsize SUV. Then, as more and more news of the virus came out, we decided to jump into the craze to stock up on things. So, I got to see the regular side of the Palisade through normal consumer lenses and then through the crazed maniacal eyes of someone looking through a pandemic.
My week with the Palisade also came a few weeks after I spent time with the Kia Telluride. With the two SUVs being near-identical twins, comparisons had to be made. Interestingly, the Palisade and the Telluride are two very separate vehicles from one another, with two specific characters. It may have been amid a pandemic, but the world doesn’t have to be crumbling to like the Palisade. Whether you choose the Palisade over the Telluride is more than just what looks better in your eyes, though that is the main differentiating factor.
We borrowed a Palisade SEL AWD trim that cost $43,155. Automakers usually only have fully-loaded models in the press fleet, so seeing a mid-level SEL trim arrive at our doorstep is interesting.
Where the Telluride goes for a rugged, upscale look, the Palisade goes all-in on the luxury part. The silhouette and overall shape of the Palisade is similar to the majority of midsize SUVs on the market, Hyundai really focused on the Palisade’s front end as its focal point. The base SE and mid-level SEL trims come with an enormous grille with at least 100 – that’s my best guess – little points. The grille also flows directly from the hood to the lower air intake in a stylish way. It’s definitely striking, though it’s easy to see why some may not love the design. For what it’s worth, the grille is also a pain in the tuckus to clean.
The headlights are also fantastic. Slim, which contrasts the bulkiness of the body, with an LED running daytime light that flows straight into the fog lights. It’s a little thing that showcases how much attention Hyundai put toward the design.
The rear end is nearly identical to the Telluride’s except for this small portion of glam next to the taillights. A similar trim piece is located by the lower reflectors. These trim pieces don’t do a lot for the Palisade, but it does add another dimension to the rear for that upscale feel. Overall, if you’re not into the whole rugged thing, the Palisade’s luxurious appeal is a great difference.
While the exterior can be confused for being something pretty similar to the Telluride, the Palisade forgoes its own path on the inside. Let’s get the few negative things about the cabin out of the way. One, the interior can get a little loud at highway speeds. Then, there’s the issue of the light interior shade of gray that highlights nearly every blemish and imperfection. Just like with the Telluride, you’ll want to choose a darker interior shade. Oh yeah, the shift buttons instead of a traditional shifter may annoy some. I sure didn’t like it, but my wife did. It was the same thing with the trim.
Other than those few things, the Palisade’s interior has few flaws. Everything you’d want out of an eight-passenger, midsize SUV is here in spades. You’re getting comfortable seats, generous space in all three rows, loads of cargo space, and easy-to-use tech features. As usual, Hyundai manages to get everything right in a cohesive way. This may sound like a straightforward thing, but you’d be surprised to see how many other brands manage to get little things wrong.
Where the Palisade really flexes its muscles as a minivan alternative is when it comes to storage and design elements. The main difference between the Palisade and the Telluride are with their respective center consoles. The Palisade has a less conventional layout that puts buttons, dials, and switches closer to the driver. More crucially, it uses the available space more efficiently.
The lack of a traditional shifter means you get a larger center console cubby that can accommodate two cups with a nifty springy holder design, a USB port, and a wireless charging pad. Below the cubby, you’ll find a helpful nook to store something. My wife found this little storage area especially useful for her purse. While there’s no denying the Telluride’s design for the center console is sharper, the Palisade’s is more useful.
The SEL trim we tested came with an 10.25-inch display (optional extra) and a 7-inch display in the instrument cluster. Unlike its South Korean cousin, the Palisade’s touchscreen hasn’t been tacked onto the dashboard. Instead, Hyundai’s designers actually designed a trim piece that incorporates the touchscreen with the instrument cluster and the dashboard. It’s a much better alternative.
Additionally, the Palisade has second- and third-row controls from the trunk. I’m not 100 percent sure about this, but the Telluride doesn’t have buttons to control the third row from the trunk. For owners that actually plan to use the third row regularly, having buttons in the trunk will be a massive bonus. For the cupholder fans out there, the Palisade has two cupholders per door for passengers in the second row. Those may be the coolest design features in the whole cabin.
Overall, there’s a sense that Hyundai put ease of use and passenger comfort above all else with the Palisade. There aren’t any major things that really help the Palisade stand out as being a major cut above the Telluride, but a bunch of little things. And when you shuffle seven passengers around, those little things will add up to be massive ones.
Power for the Palisade comes from the same 3.8-liter V6 engine that’s found in the Telluride. In the Hyundai, the engine produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the tester we had came equipped with all-wheel drive. It’s a fine engine, helping the SUV get to 60 mph from a standstill in less than 7.0 seconds, which is quicker than the Telluride.
A handful of available modes are available to either wake the powertrain up or make it more efficient. “Smart” continues to be our favorite, getting power from the engine with a quick poke of the throttle pedal while ensuring the SUV is efficient at other times. Mostly in “Smart” mode, the Palisade averaged 18.3 mpg – slightly worse than the Telluride.
There’s not an ounce of sportiness with the Palisade – forget about finding a Mazda CX-9 competitor with this. It feels slightly cushier than the Telluride with a comfort-first mentality. The ride is soft most of the time with tons of body roll and noticeable movements of weight being transferred around corners. For the Palisade’s intended purposes, its light steering and highway cruising ability will make it a fine choice for the majority of drivers.
It’s easy to look at the Telluride and fall in love with the midsize SUV. It truly is a spectacular option that looks fantastic and has the opulent cabin to back it up. In my eyes, the Palisade doesn’t look as good as the Telluride, whether you staring at the exterior or the interior. But, at the end of the day, looking better doesn’t help the Telluride be a better eight-passenger vehicle. Spend some time with the Palisade, and it could win you over with a few handy differences.
You really can’t go wrong with either SUV. They’re both excellent options and are so close together, that it’s practically a 1-2 finish between the two. If you’re honest with yourself and your checklist of what you’re looking for in a midsize SUV, you may find that the Palisade is a better option than the Telluride. If that’s the case, know that you’re still getting one of the best midsize SUVs on the market.