Hyundai's Palisade exceeds expectations in so many aspects that it leaves one thinking: "Is this really a Hyundai?"
With the Palisade, "extremely impressed" doesn't even begin to describe just how blown away we were.
So we'll say this from the outset: not only do we recommend you buy the Hyundai Palisade, but we also believe it to be the best value proposition for a luxury-oriented car, south of the S$250,000 mark.
The best way to describe the Hyundai Palisade is to say that it's smooth like butter, and that's not just because we want to make reference to BTS' recent hit single (the Korean boyband are also Hyundai Global Brand Ambassadors). From the 3.5l V6's power delivery to the way this behemoth of an SUV rides, the Palisade is nothing short of smooth and refined.
A Smooth Drive
The surprise begins the moment you sink into the driver's seat and start the engine. The first time we started the engine, we thought that it failed to crank because of just how smooth and vibration-free it idled. And mind you, that was a cold start too!
Hyundai's local dealer, Komoco Motors, tell us that they could have brought in the Palisade with the 2.2l diesel engine, but they decided to opt for the 3.5l V6 petrol engine instead. And man, did they make the right choice in doing so.
We can safely say that the absolutely refined V6 makes a world of a difference to the in-cabin experience, whether the car is idling or on the move.
And it's not as if the diesel engine's torque is required to move this 1.9-tonne car either: the 3.5l V6 packs 277hp and 336Nm of torque, bringing it from 0-100km/h in an admirable 8.2 seconds.
Beyond the hard figures, however, is the way the Palisade delivers its power when accelerating. You're not so much propelled to 100km/h as you are gently wafted there.
We know that describing an engine as being "creamy" or "smooth" is pretty hackneyed, but in the case of the Palisade, smooth and creamy is exactly the right way to describe its powertrain.
The 3.5 V6 never feels unrefined or coarse, and the large capacity and natural aspiration doesn't throw you violently back in your seat when accelerating. Instead, what it does is bring you to the speed that you want in a brisk, yet extremely relaxed manner.
Aiding in this smooth and effortless power delivery is an eight-speed torque converter that does its job so well, one rarely perceives it changing gears because of how swiftly and smoothly it swaps cogs.
What a Buttery Ride!
Clearly, the Hyundai Palisade's drivetrain shapes up to match the effortless power delivery and refined characteristics found only in other premium marques like BMW. However, that amazingly solid drivetrain would be wasted if the Palisade didn't have an equally refined suspension to match it.
On this front, we're happy to say that the Palisade delivers a well-damped ride that perfectly matches the relaxed yet potent drivetrain.
With front McPhersons and rear multi-link suspension, the Hyundai Palisade provides excellent comfort-oriented damping. Luxury cars tend to have that sense of "waft-ability", and the Palisade delivers that with an astounding amount of sophistication.
One either feels the suspension ironing out road imperfections, or softening them to the point where you feel like you're just gliding over the road, rather than riding on it. Combined with the high riding position, the buttery smooth drivetrain, and airtight insulation from noise, vibration, and harshness, the Palisade truly makes its occupants feel like they are absolute VIPs.
One minor complaint we have is that the rear suspension does tend to skit about ever so slightly, especially when the car is unladen. Realistically, this translates to the passenger feeling as though there are some minor bumps on the road knocking vibrations back into the cabin.
Considering that this is a high-riding SUV with a long wheelbase, we feel that we can overlook this minor imperfection, especially when one considers that the suspension is not electronically controlled.
In the Captain's Seat
Front passengers get a lot of things to play with. There's the heated and ventilated electric seats, a massive 10.25" infotainment system, wireless charging, and a sunroof. And then the driver gets a heated steering wheel, and a full-colour head-up display.
Although the Palisade is arguably a very large car (it's only slightly smaller than the BMW X7), it does wrap around the driver, and the high driving position and boxy shape mean that one can easily place the car.
If the driver does find themselves in a tight spot, there's also a 360-degree camera and front and rear sensors to make manoeuvring the Palisade effortless.
Hyundai is also aware that this big boxy car might have blind spots, so the Palisade is equipped with blindspot collision warning, and a nifty Blind View Monitor, which provides easy-to-see body-side views within the 7-inch fully digital meter cluster whenever the turn signal is activated.
There really isn't much to comment on the drive. The steering is heavily assisted, but it suits the character of the hefty Palisade, making it light to turn. The ride is also best suited for wafting around and has a relaxed nature about it even when one is making full use of the 3.5L V6's power.
The only bugbear we can identify is that sending all that torque and power to the front wheels means there will be lots of wheelspin even in the lightest of rains, and one can even feel the thick 20" tyres struggling to find traction when executing a simple u-turn in the wet. A set of summer tyres, rather than the all-seasons that the Palisade came with would go a long way to ameliorate this issue.
That said, the Hyundai Palisade's dynamics are properly sorted - apart from the near-perfect ride and comfort handling, there was no torque steer despite the massive spades of power sent to the front wheels from the V6 engine.
Strangely enough, the "Smart" driving mode that we found to be rather gimmicky and dim-witted in some Hyundais actually works like a charm in the Palisade as well!
Instead of choosing Eco, Comfort, or Sport mode, we'd highly recommend you turn the rotary drive mode selector to Smart, and let the Palisade very intuitively adjust by itself the throttle response and gearing based on the way you're driving.
Designed to be a proper eight-seater, the Palisade also doesn't skimp when it comes to comfort and amenities for the second and third rows.
Rear passengers get a panoramic glass roof, and their own aircon climate control zone, with roof-mounted air vents for both the second and third rows and lots of USB charging ports and cupholders throughout the cabin.
Here's a pop quiz: from the photos you have seen, *how many USB ports and cupholders does the Palisade have?
It shouldn't come as a surprise that second-row passengers will enjoy immense comfort, with plush leather seats that are infinitely adjustable and can be slid forwards and back, but the surprise is that the Palisade can take proper adults in the third row comfortably!
The third row of seats can be positioned to give passengers more than sufficient legroom, while still leaving limousine levels of space for second-row passengers.
Entry and egress into the third row are also extremely easy, with a one-touch button in place to pop the second-row seats, sliding and tilting them forward in one smooth motion.
Beyond that, the Palisade also comes with an absolutely smart design and packaging. The third-row seats fold down with one swift pull of a tab, whereas the second-row seats can automatically fold down at the touch of a button to give a fully flat cargo space.
With the second row up, the Palisade provides a whopping 704L of cargo capacity, and even with all three rows in place, there is still 311L of boot space.
*The Palisade has a total of 7 USB ports and 16 cupholders.
What is a Luxury Car?
There is an area of study that decision theorists explore, known as "transformative experiences". These are experiences that transform a person only after they have personally experienced them. For example, one does not know what it is like to be a parent until they have undergone the transformative experience of having a child.
Similarly, the Hyundai Palisade was a transformative experience for us. Never have we thought that Hyundai would be capable of creating something so solid and refined. It has been a while since we tested something with such good insulation from noise, vibration and harshness, and we were honestly surprised that we would experience it once again in a Hyundai.
Hyundai's dealer, Komoco Motors, tells us that there is no direct competitor to the Palisade, and although they have positioned the Palisade as their premium flagship SUV, there seems to be some hesitancy from them to label it as a luxury SUV.
We'll leave it to you, the reader, to undergo the transformative experience of being in a Palisade, and then determine if the Palisade is a luxury car.
In fact, in many aspects, the Palisade feels even more solidly built and far more refined than its German counterparts.
Sure, some may argue that the Palisade still has trim that feels cheap in some areas, and is missing some features, like adaptive cruise control, or massaging seats. But don't forget that these are also optional extras that come with extra costs on premium SUVs too.
We'd gladly put our money on the Hyundai Palisade, not just because it's cheaper, but because it really is that good.