First Drive – 2020 Hyundai Palisade vs. 2020 Kia Telluride

by Tony West, Sommer Thornton and Daryl Payne

Two of the most impressive midsize SUV’s go head-to-wheel for segment dominance.

In a big city like Chicago, the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride can be spotted on the streets every hour, affirming their popularity in the Midwest. Editor Sommer and Motorsports Correspondent Daryl compare notes from their illustrious first drive reviews with the 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD and the 2020 Palisade SEL AWD to see which a lux lover and a sports-toy fiend would put on top.

The 2020 Palisade is available in three trims from the base SE FWD starting at just $31k to the SEL ($33k) to the top of the line Palisade SX Limited AWD that sells for $46k. The Telluride is comparably priced with four trims, the base LX, the EX, the Telluride S and the top-of-the-line Telluride SX AWD we reviewed that sells for about $46k.

The Palisade takes the segment by storm by offering everything a small clan could use to travel in ultimate comfort and convenience with clever new technology.

Check out the First Drive Highlight Video!

The Palisade is a midsize SUV, low and stout with dimensions longer than its peers. It’s boxy, chromed out rigid body isn’t the prettiest, but the interior is where the SUV shines. Highly functional, the Palisade’s spacious cabin seats up to eight comfortably. Power folding 3rd and 2nd rows can be operated from the trunk that, when folded allows for 86.4 cu.ft. of cargo space.

2020 Palisade 2nd row cargo
2020 Palisade 2nd row cargo

The highly versatile Palisade has controls for just about everything in the cabin including the instrument cluster’s 7 inch digital display that can that can show a real-time camera view of the side blind spot when the signal is enacted, and a wealth of controls for the standard 8 inch center touchscreen.

The Hyundai Palisade offers a muscular road performance with a powerful 291 horsepower V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission with five drive modes. With capabilities for a range of hobbies and professions, Hyundai’s flagship midsize SUV is a home-run attracting older and young adults, macho guys and adventurous travelers, blue-collar workers, creatives and athletes.

The only other new flagship that can compete with the new Palisade is the stuntastic new SUV from Kia – the 2020 Telluride. After testing out the new Telluride and Palisade, Editor Sommer and Motorsports Correspondent Daryl pit them against each other at the top of the segment.

For Hyundai the Palisade furthers their successful run of flagship whips that include the Venue and Kona, and redesigned Elantra and Sonata.  Kia, the other Korean automaker has seen recent success with the new Optima, the all-new Niro and decked-out Sorento.

2020 Telluride
2020 Telluride

The 2020 Kia Telluride is a sexy new big-body with an outstanding powertrain and drivetrain, and plush first-class cabin. It hits every mark with poise and precision both on the road and off the beaten path. The new Telluride edges ahead of the Palisade in only a few areas, like its unparalleled looks inside/ out and amazing performance capability. But Palisade owners may argue that the Palisade has more advanced safety technology.

Check out the Telluride First Drive Highlight Video!

The fact that the sexy new Telluride has cool features like the dual sunroof, heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, and off-road capabilities beyond what the Palisade offers gives it dominance over the freshman midsize class. Base model premium SUVs don’t offer as much and both the Palisade and Telluride top models are both well under $50k.

Palisade vs. Telluride – Skillful Design vs. Fresh Sexy Flair

The 2020 Palisade and the 2020 Telluride both stun from far and near. Both have unique looks for the brand and push the limits of their brands’ athletic features. What will ultimately set one above the other will be in the eye of the beholder.

2020 Palisade
2020 Palisade

Motorsports Correspondent Daryl liked the Palisade’s brawny frame tall and stout at 196 inches long, with a 114 inch wheelbase, hood creases and big bumper muscles. The Palisade has a big satin chromed-out grille with cascading effect, with satin chrome door handles and chrome bumper accent and a chrome step.

2020 Palisade Rear Spoiler and tail lights
2020 Palisade Rear Spoiler and tail lights

On the Palisade SEL stylish new LED headlights and vertically connected front LED daytime running lights and fog lights are understated but instantly recognizable. As are the vertical LED rear tail lights. Heated body-color side mirrors and rear spoiler look good with the silver roof rails and chrome accents in any paint color. Bold C-pillars and muscular haunches display the Palisade’s strong road presence and hints at its all-weather capabilities and spacious cabin.

While Daryl admires the Palisade, Sommer admires the 2020 Telluride. The 2020 Telluride, 2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year and MotorWeek’s Driver’s Choice for Best Large Utility Vehicle has taken the country by storm with sales and awards stacking up.

The Palisade is the muscular all-weather capable family compound on wheels. The Kia Telluride offers almost everything the Palisade offers, looks better inside and out and offers more off-road technology.

“With the Telluride, Kia has in one fell-swoop gone from being underrepresented in the highly competitive 3-row family utility market to being the new benchmark in roominess, features and technology that seasoned rivals must aspire to,” says John Davis, MotorWeek creator and host.

2020 Telluride
2020 Telluride

The 2020 Telluride long hood and wide grille give a feeling of an older Land Rover, adding to its elegant look. The Telluride’s boxy steel unibody frame is styled well with bold stacked headlights and instantly recognizable LED tail light strip. With a 5,000 lb. towing capacity and the options to add roof racks and brackets the Telluride is ready for adventure off the beaten path. In the Telluride SX, satin chrome accents the dark grey grille insert, lower door garnish, DLS surround molding and stainless steel scuff plates.

Both the Telluride and the Palisade offer 20 inch alloy wheels and a cool panoramic sunroof. The Telluride has a separated rear sunroof with separate controls for front and rear. Both the Palisade and the Telluride have a stretched hood that, along with a prominent C-pillar gives a wide big-body stance for both and adds more roominess for the third row.

2020 Telluride
2020 Telluride

Both the Telluride and the Palisade have a unique lighting design and cool welcome/ approach lighting. Both have protruding noses that aid high-speed and AWD performance. And both the Telluride and Palisade have lots of cargo space – the Telluride 21 cu.ft behind the 3rd row and 46 cu.ft with the 2nd row down. Both offer power tailgates. On the road is where both display their strength and weaknesses.

Nearly Identical Powertrains with Different Attitudes

The 2020 Telluride and the 2020 Palisade both boast a powerful V6 engine with direct injection. The Lambda 3.8 liter Atkinson Cycle 24-valve engine has 291 horsepower (4,600 rpm) and 262 lb.ft of torque (5,200 rpm.) With virtually the same engine, how do their performances differ?

The Palisade, with its resilient 8-speed automatic trans, AWD and available self-leveling suspension, stays strong and poised in all weather conditions. Takeoff is smooth and the whip is swift on the highway with great pickup. Daryl loved the cushion of the Palisade’s MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink independent rear suspension. But Sommer did not. Daryl enjoyed the rugged ride but Sommer prefers to ride high in optimal first-class comfort. So when she felt the bumps while riding over craters in the Palisade, and heard the turbulence with one window cracked, or when the rear contents slid around so loudly it was heard over the music, it made the entire ride less comfortable.

2020 Palisade
2020 Palisade

The Palisade is lightweight, but maybe too light with a curb weight of 4,284 lbs. It needs to be more planted and hold its own if hitting a crater or bump going fast. NVH should also be fine-tuned. Turning, braking and parking is all on a dime in many conditions in the Palisade thanks to rack-and-pinion steering, 4-wheel disc brakes and H-TRAC AWD. The Palisade also offers more distinctive drive modes with a dial for Comfort, Sport and Eco modes plus the AWD Lock that each show a different colored graphic in the 7-inch digital dash and in the 8-inch center touchscreen.

In the Palisade, Snow mode can distribute power properly on snowy/ slippery roads and suppresses wheel slip. Smart mode can auto adjust driving mode according to driving habits from braking to steering. Eco mode and Comfort mode feel similar, but Eco mode saves a ton of gas by reducing acceleration response. Sport mode offers more agility, aggression and tighter steering with a wider range of torque. In Sport mode, the Palisade can accelerate with aggression at high speeds. With a super-efficient trans, the Palisade can go from calm and tranquil cruise to swift and agile, able to bob and weave at high speeds, brake on a dime and twerk in tight parking spots. It’s also cool how the drive mode stays on when the driver gets in and out of the Palisade.

Thanks to electric power steering, the Palisade steers smooth and effortless. Auto Hold as well as Start/ Stop is seamless allowing the SUV to power down and back up with impeccable timing. Daryl was won over by the Palisade’s brawny character that can seamlessly morph to gliding in a mini palace. Sommer gives the Palisade high praise for the same reasons. But for her, the Telluride does everything the Palisade does, but with swag and sophistication.

The Telluride’s 3.8 liter GDI V6 has an overall performance similar to the Palisade. But the Telluride has a silkier launch that feels cleaner and more powerful. Even in Eco mode, the Telluride gets up and stays up. The Telluride cruises in cushioned comfort at high speeds and in every terrain.  Straight-line drivability is on another level in the 3-row SUV, making maneuvering easy. How the Telluride can be so calm and light yet brawny at the same time is amazing! With a punch of the gas the Telluride eats up the road leaving sedans in its dust. The SUV begs for adventure as a go-anywhere SUV. Power steering is fluid and easy but less responsive than the Palisade.

2020 Telluride

A drive mode selector with Smart, Sport, Comfort and Eco modes will fine-tune steering and throttle effort. The drivetrain that includes the 8-speed automatic transmission is clean and well-balanced but the drive modes don’t vary as much as the same drive mode options in the Palisade.

Eco mode, while keeping rpms low, feels identical to Comfort mode. Sport mode doesn’t hold back giving more power, but has the same throttle pressure in Comfort mode. AWD transfer selection allows for Comfort, Snow, Mud and Sand configurations. Snow mode prevents wheel slip by directly traction to wheels in need. Mud allows the Telluride to trek through rough roads. Sand mode helps the Telluride glide on sandy, gravel and unpaved roads.

Active-on demand AWD uses electrohydraulic AWD capabilities to redistribute power to front and rear wheels instantaneously. All the drivetrain and AWD perks make the Telluride more poised for adventure than the Palisade. And the Telluride performs excellent off the beaten path, even showing stats in the center touchscreen and a side cam view of the SUV in the digital instrument cluster.

The Palisade sits low, while the Telluride has a slightly higher ground clearance to better climb and maneuver. The Telluride features standard cushioned MacPherson strut front suspension and independent multilink rear suspension. Self-leveling rear suspension is available that can auto calibrate ride height. Breaking the Telluride isn’t on a dime- its’ on a needlepoint, even at very high speeds.

Abundant Safety Technology for Both, but Palisade More Innovative

The 2020 Telluride and 2020 Palisade have more safety technology than most of their midsize SUV peers. The Palisade has impressive new tech like the Rear Occupant Alert, Driver Attention Warning and the Blind Spot View Monitor that display a real-time side cam view of the Palisade’s right blind spot when the turn signal is on. The Telluride SX we reviewed fully-loaded offers a ton of safety features with the MSRP. The fully-loaded Telluride features Kia’s Drive Wise System that includes the Forward Collision Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance System with Pedestrian Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Following Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Reverse Parking Distance Warning and a rearview camera.

2020 Telluride Side view Cam
2020 Telluride Side view Cam

Most of the Telluride’s safety tech is great, complimentary and supportive. But other technology, like the Forward Collision goes off before the driver will have time to respond to a possible fender-bender. Then automatic braking, as part of the Forward Collision Avoidance Assist will brake the Telluride harshly, even if the driver is already swerving around the car braking or pulling in front. Steering assistance which works with other safety features will gently correct steering and push the behemoth back in its lane. The Blind Spot Monitor is very helpful, but having the warning illuminate in the side mirror, the driver’s instrument cluster and the Heads-Up-Display on the windshield can be a distraction. The Smart Cruise Control tech adds Leading Vehicle Alert and Lane Follow Assist.

The Highway Driving Assist System can maintain or auto adjust the vehicle speed of Smart Cruise Control when necessary. The Driver Attention Warning will monitor diver fatigue.

Not only does the 2020 Palisade offer more advanced safety tech standard, it has some of the best refinements. The base Hyundai Palisade SE features standard Downhill Brake Control, Forward Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Assist, Trailer Sway Control, Parking Distance Warning for the rear, Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), High Beam Assist, a rear camera and the Driver Attention Warning. Also standard on the Palisade SE is the Rear Occupant Alert that will monitor the 2nd and 3rd rows occupancy up to 24 hours after the driver leaves the vehicle. If a child is left in the back, an alarm will sound and a message will later be sent to their smart phone.

2020 Palisade side view camera
2020 Palisade side view camera

Safe Exit Assist and Highway Drive Assist are also available. Cool Safe Exit Assist prevents passengers from opening rear doors after the Palisade is parked by showing the warning and keeping doors locked if an approaching car is detected.

Available H-TRAC AWD features a torque split clutch with active torque control between front and rear axles.

Daryl loves the steering assist function in the Palisade saying it’s the best he’s seen in an SUV. Steering assistance works in conjunction with other safety features like the Lane Keeping Assist, Highway Driving Assist and Lane Following Assist. After a gentle rumble of the steering wheel, steering effort is redirected to help gently push the Palisade back in its lane. Though most, if not all of the safety features in the Hyundai Palisade are well-refined, some are OCD. Mainly the Palisade has many warning beeps that overlap and can confuse the driver.

The 2020 Palisade beeps for the reverse warning, beeps when the car is parked, beeps when there are groceries in the back seat, beeps for the seatbelt and beeps when drivers are exiting the vehicle. It would help if an icon appeared for each beep.

Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, which is supposed to mitigate an imminent collision, will activate auto braking when a car pulls in front of the Palisade even if the driver is already slowing down. There needs to be some calibration or variation because every potential collision might not require hard braking. Once while driving the Palisade, a car slowed down in front, and as Daryl was slowing down the Palisade broke completely. Luckily, the Forward Collision Avoidance Assist can be set to warning only.

Similar to the Telluride’s Driver Attention Warning, the Palisade also has a Driver Attention Warning System that displays a chart to represents driver attention and fatigue. Highway Driving Assist works on behalf of the Palisade’s Smart Cruise Control to keep the Palisade centered in its lane and a safe distance behind the car in front, auto-adjusting vehicle speed.

Lead Vehicle Departure Alert gives a gentle beep and shows and icon in the instrument cluster when the driver isn’t paying attention and the car ahead moves forward. It’s helpful but sometimes it too is OCD. If the drivers is at a stop light and turns their head slightly to take in the peripheral, the alert will go off like a nagging grandma. If stopped and the driver takes their hands off the wheel, a notification will tell the driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel.

The safety features make a clan feel more secure in the Palisade. But the Telluride adds confidence it can go anywhere in any weather.

Beautiful Cabins with Plentiful Comfort and Controls

The 2020 Palisade and the 2020 Telluride both have illustrious cabins that put all 8 passengers in first-class comfort with convenience at an arm’s reach. There is an argument for both being the most innovative in a flagship mid-sized SUV below $45k. Sommer and Daryl both agree that after reviewing both, the Palisade edges out a narrow win with its interior. While both cabins are well-thought-out, it’s more about the Palisade compensating where the Telluride falls short.

2020 Hyundai Palisade interior

Inside the Palisade is a well-lit mini mobile condo with optional captain’s chairs for a 7-passenger configuration. Drivers of the Palisade Limited are in the lap of luxury with an 8-way power heated and ventilated seat with memory and -4-way lumbar adjustment. Premium Nappa Leather is standard on the Palisade Limited or available on other trims with the Premium packaging. The dope perforated Nappa leather with piping sets off the grey wood accent on the dash, the LED lighting setup and the natural lighting from the greenhouse that gives the Palisade a more airy feeling. Chrome trims the steering wheel, dash and doors.

The 2nd row of the Palisade offers captain’s chairs or power folding bench seats operable from the rear. A one-touch 2nd row slide button is standard for ease climbing into the 3rd row. An underfloor storage compartment adds to the abundant cargo capacity the Palisade offers with 44 inches of front legroom, 42 inches of legroom in the 2nd row and 31 inches of legroom in the 3rd row.

2020 Palisade center stack
2020 Palisade center stack

The sweeping enter console of the Palisade is dope with a huge drawer and retractable cup holders. There’s another lower shelf that’s big enough for a tablet. The center console houses the gearshift buttons in place of a traditional shifter that saves a ton of space. Buttons on the center console panel are well-thought out, with space in-between and easy-to read labels. Cool ice blue ambient LED lighting gives off a soft glow easy on the eyes but still easy to find things when it’s dark.

Second row passengers have their own climate control system with optional heated seats. And each rear passenger has two cup holders. Second row passengers each have their own roof vents, sunshades and dome light. Also cool is the plastic area around the seats that makes messes easy to clean, and the USB port in the side door of the third row. A button accessible from the 3rd row will recline the seats.

2020 Palisade interior 2nd row
2020 Palisade interior 2nd row

The 2020 Kia Telluride also offers an abundantly comfortable cabin with premium configurable LED ambient lighting and LED accent lighting all-around including the 2nd and 3rd row cargo lamps and LED vanity mirrors. The top-of-the-line Telluride SX features satin chrome door handles, leather wrapped door armrests and stainless steel pedals. The Telluride SX also has standard heated and ventilated 10-way leather seats with 2-way lumbar support, seat extension, thigh support and memory. Premium Nappa leather front seats are optional.

Just like the Palisade, the Telluride offers 7 or 8-passenger configuration with 2nd row power folding buttons in the cargo area and 3rd row 60/40 split-folding bench seats. Steering wheel and shifter are both leather-wrapped. Premium cloth headliner trim and premium cloth-wrapped A/B pillar trim are optional for a more luxurious look.

2020 Telluride
2020 Telluride

Perforated Nappa leather seats in the Telluride SX have a dope design that lo like fins. And 2nd row passengers have manual rear curtains. A cool dual sunroof allows 2nd and 3rd row passengers to have their own skylight operable without disturbing the front sunroof. Heated 2nd row seats are available with the Telluride SX Prestige Package ($2,000) that also adds ventilation, carpeted floor mats, rain sensing wipers, a cloth headliner and the Heads–up-display.

2020 Telluride 2nd Row
2020 Telluride 2nd Row

The Telluride’s center stack is as well-thought-out as the Palisade’s with buttons for the drive modes, Auto Hold, Park Assist and AWD and the camera view.

Three-zone climate control, should make the Telluride feel even more luxurious but the climate control as a whole is very weak. As winter turned to spring, the Telluride had issues keeping warm even with the front climate control set to 75-degrees. It takes over 30 minutes for the Telluride to warm up and when it does, it has to stay set too high to just feel warm. Perhaps the dual sunroof causes there to be less insulation. Perhaps the insulation materials are cheap. There feels like the bi-level fan blows little to no air on the front passenger’s feet area.

Similar Infotainment Tech with Palisade more Advanced

Both the 2020 Telluride and the Palisade have first-class cabins with innovative tech like the Heads-up-Display and a side view monitor. Both offer stuntastic sound systems. Both have a cool digital dash and advanced navigation. The Telluride SX we reviewed boasts a 10-inch audio display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Bluetooth and Voice Command. When the driver backs up the rearview cam is automatically activated and will show an aerial view and forward camera view when prompted. An 8-inch display is standard. Along with a cool home screen display with three view areas for weather, audio navigation to display all at once, The Telluride’s center touchscreen has dope navigation with detailed street views.

Both the Telluride and the Palisade have a dope side cam view that is enabled when the driver puts on his/her turn signal. In the Telluride it is really helpful, but becomes a distraction at night when headlights shine too bright from approaching cars in the rear. It also stays on too long.

The Telluride offers up to six USB ports throughout and optional three power outlets, an 110V inverter and a wireless phone charger. The Telluride’s configurable Heads-Up-Display can show tons of info like the turn-by-turn navigation, speedometer, cruise control, and safety features like the Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Highway Driving Assist and other warnings.

With all that what makes the Palisade better? Two-zone climate control is much better in the Palisade with less frills. The Palisade offers a standard 8-inch display and optional 10 inch color touchscreen with Navigation and predicative traffic. The Palisade has a cooler 7 inch TFT LCD display optional for the drivers instrument cluster. It, like the Telluride shows a side cam view as the driver puts on their turn signal. The center touchscreen in the Palisade is bigger in its top tier Limited model that the fully-loaded Telluride at 12.3 inches. The Palisade’s center screen has three configurable panels with info like weather, audio and navigation showing all at once.

Unique to the Palisade is the detailed navigation display, controls for the 2nd and 3rd row in the cargo area and the Driver Talk In-car intercom system. Drivers can use this function to communicate with the 2nd or 3rd row passengers separately using the audio system. Rear sleep mode allows the driver to listen to separate audio from the rear passengers. The Palisade’s Head-Up-Display shows speed, cruise control, speed limit, navigation, audio and various warnings. A wireless charging station and the Blue Link Connected Car System is standard on the Palisade Limited.

Both the Telluride and the Palisade offer bangin Harmon Kardon sound systems with best being fitted to the Palisade Limited – a 12-speaker 630-watt premium audio system with QuantumLogic Surround Sound and Clari-Fi Music Restoration tech.

The 2020 Palisade and 2020 Telluride retail for around the same price and offer many of the same frills in radically different looking shells. Which is the best new mid-size SUV on the road? The battle may be a draw, because both make the segment richly more appealing.

Check out more pics from our First Drive with the 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD and the 2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL AWD on our social media!