If you keep up with the automotive world at all, odds are good you’ve heard of the Kia Telluride. Kia’s new three-row SUV has proven to be a smash hit with both reviewers and buyers alike, with the former heaping praises upon it in the form of comparison victories and awards and the latter snapping examples up so fast that the brand’s dealers have taken to calling it the “Sell-u-ride.”
But if you’re a casual car reader, you might not know that Kia’s sister brand Hyundai makes a sibling to the Telluride that’s just about as good in every objective way.
Beneath the skin, the Hyundai Palisade shares practically everything with the Telluride — engine, chassis, electronics, et cetera. They’re even priced within spitting distance of each other; the base Hyundai is $31,775 to the Kia’s $31,890, and the top-shelf Palisade Limited’s $44,925 price is just $1,135 more than the Telluride SX with Prestige Package. The differences amount to cosmetics aspects — different styling, different dashboard layouts, different colors and trims, and a slight variation in chassis tuning.
Like the Telluride, the Palisade is a shocking bargain
Those who feel like treating themselves will likely go for the top-shelf Limited model, but my tester was the mid-trim SEL — the model that will presumably make up the balance of sales, which comes standard with features like heated front seats, keyless entry, and a host of advanced safety features like rear cross-traffic collision alert, blind spot collision alert, and Safe Exit Assist, which uses radar to watch out for onrushing traffic from the rear and keeps the back door from opening if needed.
Granted, my SEL had been loaded up with just about every option, pushing the price up to $43,295. Still, unless I was pinching pennies, I’d be hard-pressed to shave anything off the options list; certainly not the $2,200 Convenience Package that adds a hands-free liftgate, auto-leveling rear suspension and parking sonar among other features, nor the $2,400 Premium Package that brings power-folding third-row seats, heated second-row chairs and steering wheel, LED headlamps and leather upholstery.
What you can’t tell from the spec sheet is just how well this Hyundai feels put together. The days of Korean cars feeling like they’re made from duct tape and tin cans are over; this beast feels as well-made as a Mercedes, from the oily smoothness of the controls to the spectacular fit and finish. The controls are sensible (real buttons! real knobs! and a touchscreen!) and fall right where you’d want them to. It’s a trait found in almost all Hyundais and Kias, but it feels even more valuable in this appliance of a car.
Not the most handsome of crossovers, though
Part of the Telluride’s appeal comes from its rugged good looks, from its charmingly square-jawed face to its clean, simple profile and broad, boxy rear. The Palisade isn’t quite as charming to look at; the basic proportions are fine, but the blocky front end and odd headlamp placement brings to mind a French bulldog genetically engineered with the eyes of a spider.
The interior, however, is arguably superior to the Telluride, at least in terms of its design and layout. I doubt the designers had the Porsche Carrera GT in mind when they created the Palisade’s elegantly sloping center console, but it provides the same effect — leaving the driver feeling ensconced and empowered. The second row is big enough for all but the tallest teens, and while I didn’t test out the third row, it certainly seemed adequate for incidental use — though generally, it’s of more use folded flat to add to the cargo space.
Don’t expect a sporty crossover, but it’s great for real life
If your heart is set on a seven-passenger SUV that’s a blast to drive, I suggest saving up for a Mercedes-AMG GLS 63. The Palisade prioritizes a comfy ride over nimble handling; this is a sort of vehicle where you don’t mind skipping the exits off the interstate for the entertaining side roads. The naturally-aspirated V6 is peppy enough for around-town driving, though added manual control of the eight-speed automatic would be greatly appreciated; no matter what drive mode you ‘re in, the transmission will jump into manual mode for a few seconds after you toggle one, then quickly fall back to Drive.
One other note: thee active safety systems, while much appreciated, are a little overzealous for the real world. They seem tailored for sedentary suburban driving, where everyone respects the rules of the road down to the letter; in New York City, however, the blind spot warning and cross-traffic braking proved too conservative. The former, which would start beeping at you when you tried to change lanes into one with a vehicle two car lengths back, was merely annoying; the latter, which repeatedly jammed on the brakes while parallel parking because it thought I was about to be broadsided or sideswiped by passing cars, proved downright frustrating.
Still, most people don’t drive in New York City all the time, and most people don’t drive quite as aggressively as a New Yorker who’s also an auto journalist. And even if that does apply to you, the Palisade’s advantages are strong enough to outweigh those few demerits…especially at this price.
Price as Tested: $43,295
Drivetrain: 3.8-liter V6, eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
Power: 291 hp, 262 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Hyundai provided this product for review.
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