Known for producing stylish, smaller vehicles, Hyundai and its sister company Kia have gone big with large SUVs targeted at families – the 2020 Hyundai Palisade and 2020 Kia Telluride.
They are taking on standbys that include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer. A recent Trucks.com test of each found them worthy, refined contenders that offer better value than many of the contenders in this segment.
While there are exterior sheet metal differences and varied interior design, they are almost identical. They share the same platform and engine — a 3.8-liter, V6. And it is tuned the same for both models, producing 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The SUVs also have the same 8-speed automatic transmission and identical gear ratios.
The sister brands price both vehicles similarly. With features such as premium sound systems, all-wheel-drive, captain chairs, leather seating, and an extensive automated safety suite, the top trim level runs $48,000 or so, depending on options. That includes the delivery fee.
WHERE THEY DIFFER
They differ is in character. Kia has angled both the styling and the marketing of the Telluride to the adventure set. The vehicle looks more rugged and trucklike. It is at home gliding over of dirt road in a forest or rigged for a camping expedition. Hyundai’s Palisade leans to the elegant. It’s a people mover by day and a premium ride for date night.
The two SUVs also diverge a touch in driving dynamics. The Kia’s suspension feels bouncier on the pavement. The Palisade has a firmer, planted character that sets it apart when driving on the highway or curvy roads.
The differentiation comes from the one significant area where they vary in components and engineering – the suspension. Kia equips the Telluride with shock absorbers manufactured by Mando, a South Korean supplier. That system is tuned to provide a softer ride. But it bounces a bit when there’s not much of a load in the vehicle. It tightens up when you fill the SUV with people or cargo.
Hyundai puts a Sachs system into the Palisade. Sachs is a German company and shows its heritage by providing firmer road feel and cornering behavior. The Kia drives like a Lexus and the Hyundai like a Mercedes-Benz. Both are good, but each has its character. And the luxury analogy is apt. Anyone who still thinks that South Korea can’t produce refined vehicles with top-notch build quality needs to take one or both of these models for a drive. The top trim levels bump into the bottom level of the luxury market.
Both offer well put together interiors with decent ergonomic controls. They vary somewhat with each of the brands putting their own stamp on the cabin.
Fuel efficiency is another area where the Palisade and the Telluride diverge slightly. The front-wheel-drive Palisade has a 19 mpg rating in city driving, 26 on the highway and 22 for combined driving. Its Telluride sibling gets 20 in the city, 26 on the highway and 23 for combined driving, or about 5 percent better fuel economy. The all-wheel-drive versions of both vehicles are rated at 19, 24 and 21. The difference between the two ratings for the front-wheel-drive version could be rounding to the nearest whole number and the Hyundai’s slightly heavier weight. Both vehicles have the same 0.33 coefficient of drag, a measure of how much air resistance the SUV creates.
Drivers who have towing needs should probably opt for the newly redesigned Chevrolet Tahoe, but both the Kia and Hyundai have a modest trailering rating of 5,000 pounds. But it is better to pay the extra cost – a Tahoe starts at about $8,000 more – for a truck-based SUV if trailering anything of size is going to be a frequent activity.
Like the Highlander and the Pilot, the Telluride and Palisade are built-with unibody architecture that provides a smoother, car-like driving experience despite their large size.
Buyers looking for a well-equipped seven- or eight-passenger SUV that is comfortable and quiet need looks at these two new choices in the segment. They should not reflexively go out and purchase another Highlander or Pilot because that’s what they are replacing. That is a competitive segment that accounts for about 5 percent of annual new vehicle sales. It’s worth taking a fresh look, and the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade should be at the top of the consideration list.