Specific Palisade: Hyundai's new supersized $100k-plus SUV might be in a class of one
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Hyundai Palisade CRDi Limited
Palisade is Hyundai New Zealand's new supersized SUV. It's 210mm longer and 85mm wider than the Santa Fe, the cheapest model only gives you $10 change from a hundred grand and it's named after an area of Los Angeles where the sand is golden and the teeth are white. You get the idea.
What's the point? Well, large $100k-plus SUVs are a thing among European makers and Hyundai NZ likes to think of itself as one of the more premium mainstream brands. The pricing and sales of the Santa Fe (both very high) seem to bear that out.
That, and the fact that Palisade occupies a rather unique space because you can have it as a seven or eight-seater. The latter is a rare thing and while Hyundai NZ expects most buyers to opt for seven chairs (which go with the top Limited model), the fact you can have eight is the Palisade's USP. It's proof positive that this is a seriously big vehicle and people-focused machine.
You could count many rivals for the Palisade, including high-end mainstream SUVs (Ford Everest, Jeep Grand Cherokee) and the lower end of the large Europeans (BMW X5, Volvo XC90). But most you can think of will be five or seven-seaters. The exceptions are mostly heavy duty off-road vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado or Lexus LX and the Palisade isn't that: it's a unitary construction SUV with more car-like road manners and more modest off-road ability; although it certainly has some, with three "Terrain" modes on the AWD models.
To get a crossover driving experience with that number of chairs you really have to look at a traditional people mover. And for whatever reason, Kiwis aren't keen on people movers. Massive American-style SUVs, though? Love those.
So enter the Palisade. And let's start on the inside. We're spent some time in the Limited seven-seater, which is the model expected to do most business.
Up front you might be a bit disappointed to find the dashboard and console are very similar to the Santa Fe, even though the Palisade gets a sweeping binnacle covering both the instrument panel and 10.25in touch screen (they stand separately in the Santa Fe). Nicely made and functional, but you're not getting a whole lot more for your $100k-plus.
A bit less even, because while Palisade gets all the driver-assistance and safety tech of the smaller Santa Fe, it's missing some touches like its smaller sibling's completely virtual instrument display. The reason is simple: Palisade was launched back in 2018 in left-hand drive, whereas the current Santa Fe only landed late last year, so the smaller model is the newer one.
It gets more impressive as you move back. In the seven-seater, the second row contains two captain's chairs, with a substantial amount of real estate around to allow you to enjoy something approaching business class road travel. You really can stretch out.
The third row (which seats three, remember) is less luxurious but still very serviceable. The second-row captain's chairs have one-touch electronic folding for easy access back there and once you're in, speak nicely to those ahead of you and they can slide their chairs forward to give you more legroom. The third row also reclines by 10 degrees for a bit more comfort.
The Driver Talk feature allows those in front to speak to the back through the audio system, while Quiet Mode shuts down the speakers in the back. There are many, many USB ports and many, many more cupholders. There are Isofix child-seat attachment points not just in the second row, but also one in the third.
In short, Palisade impresses as a genuinely occupant-centric SUV. The ambience might be very close to Santa Fe, but in terms of space, practicality and comfort it's next-level. Even with all seats occupied, it retains 311 litres of luggage space: as much as a small hatchback. Or a vast 705l with the third row folded.
Dynamically, it's also comfort-oriented - as you'd expect. The diesel AWD powertrain is identical to Santa Fe and has the same virtues of a strong mid-range and impressive refinement. Palisade is not as quick off the line as its smaller sibling (it's 200kg heavier) but in rolling acceleration the performance deficit is not really noticeable.
The long wheelbase and softer suspension make Palisade an even more relaxed cruiser, although those same things and the higher centre of gravity mean it gets untidy very quickly in aggressive cornering. The suspension has been tweaked by Hyundai Australia for improved body control, but it's still fundamentally a large American-style SUV in the way it drives.
Aside from the number of seats, there are a few equipment differences between Elite and Limited. Both models are lavishly equipped, although you need to step up to the Limited to get the clever Blind-spot View Monitor (BVM), which gives you a live video feed in the instrument panel when you indicate, or the 360-degree Surround View Monitor (SVM) for parking. Sure, there needs to be some differentiation, but that's a little hard to swallow when both are standard on the cheaper Santa Fe Limited.
Palisade is a new kind of vehicle for the NZ market. For presence, in-your-face styling (we like it, honest), space and the potential for eight seats wrapped up in a comfortable crossover-SUV package, it certainly delivers. But if size isn't a primary concern, the Santa Fe Limited is still Hyundai's ultimate SUV.