Mountain Wheels: Hyundai’s mid-sized Palisade SUV gives shoppers some hard choices
Editor’s note: This story as been updated to correct the manufacturer of the Palisade in the headline and photo caption.
At first, it just seems impossibly big. How could Hyundai, historically known for tiny sedans, craft a vehicle so large that it’s difficult to park in a two-car garage, considering you already probably have a mid-sized SUV in there?
Such is the experience with the new Palisade, the Hyundai partner of the very popular Kia Telluride midsize SUV. I cannot say “version,” as that undermines the Left Twix-Right Twix nature of this admittedly quite different vehicle. Buyers shopping for a broad, imposing, up-to-eight-passenger SUV of Korean origin will have to do a bit of soul-searching between the two, but given that it’s almost impossible to actually get a Telluride in Colorado, perhaps there will be some more interest in Palisade’s unique value proposition.
Palisade comes at the very opposite end of the spectrum as the company’s Kona, but after a week behind the wheel, even doing a bit of gleeful cavorting on a dry and unpopulated midweek Loveland Pass trip during the holidays, I grew to appreciate Palisade’s scale and versatility. Palisade also was awarded the MotorWeek Driver’s Choice award at this week’s Chicago Auto Show.
I will say that I consider the Telluride and its yellow LED headlamps perhaps the more traditionally good looking sibling, but some are going to dig Palisade’s slightly metal-mutant look up front, especially with those unusual two-level projector beam headlamps and a gigantic, chromed grille that looks like it is made of tiny scissor jacks.
More likely, when called upon to do midsized SUV duty (as there is not yet a full-sized SUV of Korean origin, though one never knows what is on the horizon), Palisade easily ate up two bicycles and three passengers. It also cruised comfortably, smoothly and confidently, with some 196.1 inches of total body, with only the Pilot, Pathfinder and Explorer being a little bigger in its comparative set.
That said, it’s got more first- and second-row legroom than those three and can pack more cargo behind its third row than Highlander, Pilot and Pathfinder, if those are the dimensions that are important to you.
Power is generated by a dual-injected 3.8-liter, Atkinson-cycle V-6, providing 291 horsepower and 262 foot-pounds of torque. Palisade features an eight-speed transmission and optional HTRAC four-wheel drive, which came on my limited-level vehicle, priced at $47,605. Overall mileage was pretty close to the 24 mpg highway figure.
From the side and rear, you might get a hint of Dodge Durango and even some squared-off, European influences, with massive multibladed wheels and metal window, roof and lower body trim to brighten it all up.
Differentiating it from the Kia, Palisade features a somewhat overly large center console of what initially look to be very vague and alien controls. There’s a very large rotary knob that cycles through various drive modes, the sport setting of which dials up all of that power. Appropriate to our current conditions, the Palisade’s snow mode adjusts torque split and shifting to help improve traction, and there’s also a full AWD lock for really-not-messing-around snowy highways.
Gear shifting is now done by button, like a new Honda or 1960s Chrysler products, and a slippery silver plastic-metallic trim makes it all look a little spacey. Classy quilted and pillowy leather trim on the doors and soft seating make it additionally pleasant.
They aren’t kidding about the second-row legroom, and one-touch access to the smaller third-row seating is relatively simple, with a set of remote electric seat controls in the very rear of the cabin.
Other significant bits include a large 10-inch navigation display, a total of seven USB outlets in the cabin and the SmartSense technology package as a standard feature, with forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, lane assistance and smart stop-and-go cruise control.
There’s also the Driver Talk intercom system, so your third-seat passengers can actually hear what you are saying.
If all of that seems like too much vehicle for your needs, consider the compact Kona. For a somewhat more reasonable $30,005, my Ultimate AWD was complete with every option in the book and cruised along explosively fast with its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. A total of 175 horsepower goes a long way in a smaller vehicle like the Kona, and I was absolutely blown away by its ferocious nature — a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
For a compact crossover, the Kona’s lightness provides an easygoing but totally stable platform, with a drama-free, seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Is it like a more weather-friendly Korean rendition of the Volkswagen GTI? Perhaps. It’s certainly a bit austere on the inside, but the flashier ultimate package provided classy, fan-blade wheels, and some upgraded leather made it all quite impressive.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Spoiler alert: There was almost no drama whatsoever during my recent test of the accomplished, practical and even vaguely sexy-looking Hyundai Sonata hybrid.