Driven: Love/hate relationship with the 2020 Hyundai Palisade

Great vehicle for growing family comes with its own built-in ‘mother-in-law’ technology

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Hyundai Palisade
3-row midsize Hyundai Palisade is a stylish new model on a new platform for the 2020 model year | Larry Edsall photos

Remember when you were in high school and, in an effort to turn some delinquent to the straight and narrow, the principal mistakenly appointed that kid to be the hall monitor, and all it did was make him even more of a bully, eager to enforce the rules he himself was eager and experienced at breaking?

Or perhaps your experience is with a back-seat driver, that person who rides with you and who is always pointing out how your driving could be improved. You wish they’d just shut up and go away, but you know that’s not going to happen as long as you both are alive and related, directly or by marriage.

Or maybe you had a younger brother or sister who was constantly poking and teasing and taunting you but you didn’t dare to retaliate because you were the older sibling and had to set the good example for that nagging little twit.

My first and most lasting impression of my week in the 2020 Hyundai Palisade, a mid-size crossover utility vehicle, was that it was equipped with the automotive equivalent of that high school hall monitor, “mother-in-law” passenger or pesky little sibling — which Hyundai terms Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Following Assist, standard features in Hyundai’s Smartsense safety system which also includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Smart Cruise Control and Rear Occupant Alert.

I’m sure there’s a switch the shut off this lane monitor that I found to be overly sensitive and annoying, but I wanted to see what it might take to keep the steering wheel from fighting my control unless I stayed dead-solid centered in the lane and to keep that bleeping beeper silent should I even approach the paint that marked the edges of that lane without employing the turn signal stalk. 

It took a while, but I finally found the solution to silence the technology — gravel.

The Wilson Pass Trail is basically the old road used by miners as they traveled between Goodsprings and Sandy Valley in Nevada
Sculptural reminder of the area’s mining history

Gravel roads have neither DOT bots nor painted lanes, so the lane-assist software apparently figures it can simply go silent and enjoy the scenery. Thus, for nearly 13 miles, the drive was wonderful and quiet, if at times a little too exciting.

Since the 2020 Hyundai Palisade has all-wheel rather than 4-wheel drive, I figured it would be fine on the Wilson Pass Trail that now serves as the back way between Goodsprings and Sandy Valley, old mining towns in the Spring Mountains southwest of Las Vegas. 

My Nevada Trails: Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails book rates the Wilson Pass Trail as the easiest of off-pavement trails and thus suitable for even a “normal passenger vehicle.” But it also rates it 6 on a 10-point scale for scenery. The book had it correct on both counts, well, except, perhaps, for a couple of places where the road narrowed to a single and rutted lane around a couple of blind corners. 

The Palisade made it through just fine, and silently!

Oh, there was one other place where things got exciting. As the trail descended toward Sandy Valley, I saw a yellow helicopter dive out of sight behind a hill. Before long, I saw the helicopter again, this time hovering over the road. Beside the road there was a warning sign, so I didn’t linger. 

Later, I learned that the warning sign marks the entrance to a business called Gunship Helicopters, which lets you shoot automatic weapons or sniper rifles at targets it has placed around on its 71-acre aerial gun range, apparently a popular place for a bachelor or bachelorette party or corporate team-building activity.

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Before we get to the things I liked about the 2020 Hyundai Palisade, I have one more nit to pick: Instead of a gear-change lever, the Palisade has push buttons. Park the Palisade in your driveway, press the P button and shut off the engine. Easy peasy. 

But note that when you decide to drive again, press the R and back out of the driveway, and then press the D to head down the street. However, make sure you hear the tone that sounds to alert you that you’ve successfully changed gear or you might still find yourself in Reverse rather than Drive, as I did once. 

Oh, and one other thing. When you shift out of Park, you have to give it a little gas, and the vehicle will lurch forward or back and you need to be alert to that fact or you might lurch into your garage door or right out into the street.

Don’t trust your grandchildren and their father with the car keys or your vehicle might be filled with birthday-party balloons. But at least they show the roomy second and third rows of the Palisade

So, Larry, you really hated the Palisade, didn’t you? Not really. While I am no fan of the overly aggressive “driver-assist” technology or of the transmission lurch, and while I prefer 4wd to all-wheel for driving off pavement, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade could be an ideal vehicle for a growing young family.

It offers a lot of luxury and three rows of seating in a mid-size package, and at a seemingly affordable price point in an automotive marketplace in which full-size SUVs cost $60,000 or more.

The Palisade was an all-new model for the 2020 model year, built on a new platform and with styling led by Sang Yup Lee, who worked at Pininfarina and Porsche, designed the reborn Chevrolet Camaro, was a chief designer at Volkswagen and head of advanced design at Bentley before going to Hyundai/Genesis as vice president of styling.

The Palisade comes with a big 10-inch navigation touch screen, wireless charging, 7 USB outlets, Harman Kardon audio, even ventilated seats in the second row to keep the kids cool. It also has front and rear sunroofs and a power rear liftgate. With all-wheel drive, it would seem a great family vehicle for exploring the national parks or for taking half a team to the local soccer field.

The 3.8-liter V6 provides 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque to the 8-speed automatic transmission (there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel should you want to choose your gear, which I did on the hilly mountain roads), and the HTrac all-wheel drive offers normal, sport, smart and snow modes to enhance traction for various driving demands and conditions. 

Overall, the 2020 Hyundai Palisade seems a sweet package for the growing family. And for whining old folks such as this writer, you can turn off the technology if you find it really annoying, and then turn it back on when your new-driver and screen-addicted grandchildren take the wheel.

2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD

Vehicle type: 7-passenger, mid-size sport utility vehicle, all-wheel drive

Base price: $46,525 Price as tested: $47,905

Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 291 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 262 pound-feet of torque @ 5,200 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic 

Wheelbase: 114.2 inches Overall length/width: 196.1 inches / 77.8 inches

Curb weight: 4,387 pounds

EPA mileage estimates: 19 city / 24 highway / 21 combined

Assembled in: Ulsan, South Korea

For more information, visit the Hyundai website.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great review Larry. I know that road from Good Springs to Sandy Valley well. My best friend from high school and college lived in Blue Diamond for many years. We called him Mojave Moses our desert guide. He is an artist and designer, now living in Prescott, who gathered desert flora and materials for eclectic projects. I, too, get annoyed with much of the nanny technology on vehicles. Haven’t reviewed the Palisade but asked for one for a big road trip that got cancelled because of the virus. Thanks for the excellent preview.

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