"A blend of luxury features with all-road capability" - Ross Kiddie reviews the new Hyundai Pallisade

Price: $114,990
Engine: Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 2199cc, 147kW, 440Nm, 0-100km/h, 9.5sec
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Fuel and economy: 7.3l/100km
Dimensions: Length, 4980mm; width, 1975mm; height, 1750mm


Even though my wife entertains me with a piano recital nearly every evening, I’m not really into classical music, nor am I a big fan of television advertisements.

With a combination of those two factors it’s a wonder then that I spotted the clever advertisement for Hyundai’s new sport utility vehicle – the Palisade.

The advertisement goes something like this – a group of musicians playing instruments slowly climb into the Palisade demonstrating how spacious it is on the inside. It’s a simple message that illustrates perfectly the capability of the Palisade, it is a big vehicle – seven or eight seats – all with armchair-like comfort.

Hyundai has made no secret of its target market for Palisade, it’s largely destined for the United States where I would expect it to sell very well. Down under, well that’s a different story, the Palisade will only appeal to a small number of buyers, those who like big and are comfortable driving something that stretches to almost 5m and weighs over two-tonne.

In New Zealand, the Palisade comes in five variants. If you want eight seats then you have no choice but to purchase the Elite, it comes with either a 3.6-litre petrol-powered V6 driving through the front wheels, or an all-wheel-drive model powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. The Elite lists at $99,990 and $106,990 respectively.

If you are satisfied with seven seats, then Limited specification is the model for you, the same engine options are available and you have got an extra choice of Nappa leather. The Limited V6 sits at $107,990, while the diesel is priced at $114,990 (Nappa adds $5k). The evaluation car was the latter, sans Nappa.

It must be remembered both engines are similar to those that power one of Hyundai’s best-selling models, the Santa Fe, and whereas I expected the weight of the Palisade to burden the diesel, I’m happy to report that that is far from the case. That is one of the reasons why I’ve been so smitten with the big four-potter over the years, it’s largely a continuation of the R-Series diesel that I have a lot of affection for. It is strong, smooth and silent and powers the big Palisade with gusto.

Saying that, the Palisade is not a vehicle that you should expect to do things quickly, while it does cover distance capably, it does so with relaxed motion, it performs in a subdued manner, and that is the measure of a good vehicle, something that carries out its purpose without strain or fuss.

Hyundai rate the turbocharged oil burner with 147kW and 440Nm, both outputs realised very low in the rev band (3800 and 1750rpm). It feels strong beneath the accelerator, powerful enough to surge to 100km/h in 9.5sec and will lunge through a highway overtake in 6sec (80-120km/h).

The engine is also rated with a 7.3-litre per 100km combined cycle fuel usage average. That’s a bold claim and one that I couldn’t replicate, however, my evaluation average of 8.8l/100km wasn’t that far distant and was helped by an amazing 6.3l/100km figure showing instantaneously at 100km/h, the engine very relaxed turning over at just 1600rpm.

Both engines drive through a fabulous eight-speed automatic transmission. There’s a paddle shift mechanism should the driver so desire, but I far preferred just selecting the drive button and letting the engine and gearbox do its own thing, something that delivers smooth shifts through a seemingly endless supply of ratios.

The push-button gear selection process is part of an intuitive yet comprehensive array of controls the driver has command over, the all-wheel-drive Palisade has genuine off-the-seal capability, it has 203mm of ground clearance and the drive to all corners will get you in and out of very sticky situations. My first thought was how capable it would be on the skifield access road, although finding a spot in a crowded car park may be a bit more of a challenge.

Mid-winter meant it was another wet weekend highway evaluation, however, the Palisade imparts a well-connected feeling on drenched roads.

That has a lot to do with the way the four-wheel-drive system works. While there are a host of driver-selectable individual terrain control modes, in standard drive mode power will be distributed proportionally between front and rear, and individual wheels depending on how grip is best determined.

On that subject, huge Bridgestone Dueler sport specification tyres (245/50 x 20in) offer prodigious grip in the first instance, they are both quiet and informative, just what you want in a large luxury car.

The driveline systems work seamlessly and are part of an extensive safety network both passive and active. It’s not only the safety features that make the Palisade attractive, it’s got everything on-board that will satisfy all occupants. A multitude of clever devices provide individual settings between front and rear, all designed so that each occupant can have his/her own freedom.

If you don’t need the rear row of seats upright, they fold down to provide a cavernous load area.

There’s no shortage of choice in New Zealand’s seven-seat SUV market. Where the Palisade has a point of difference is that it is not utility-based, it doesn’t have a body over ladder chassis design, instead, the fully monocoque structure has a platform engineered for one purpose from the ground up and that is occupant comfort. Stability and capability are additional benefits that are a by-product of that type of design.

That being the case, the Palisade will conquer sales with its all-round functionality and, dare I say it, its luxury features blending with all-road capability sets it apart from the competition.

Not forgetting that if you don’t need four-wheel-drive and want the benefit of that extra seat, the Palisade is a people-mover that will transport those from all walks of life, including the orchestra.

- Ross Kiddie