Three-row SUVs are hugely popular in our bigger-is-better market, yet Hyundai was late to the party, as the Palisade — its first full-size contender — didn’t launch until 2019.
Making a dent in the seven and eight-seat wagon domain is no cakewalk as the competition includes quality offerings such as Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.
The Palisade could also be considered as an alternative to the Land Rover Discovery, even though the classy Brit is a much pricier proposition.
As with Hyundai’s other current-generation models, the Palisade's edgy styling helps it to stand apart from the horde.
There’s no likelihood of mistaking the Palisade for anything else, as its huge, thrusting grille is flanked by slit-like headlights that make for a futuristic face.
The rest of the vehicle is more conventional from a visual standpoint, but its overall proportions gel well.
Clamber inside and you’ll discover the interior layout is neat and functional, although there’s acres of hard-plastic trim on the dashboard, centre console and door trims that detracts slightly from cabin ambience.
Even so, there’s plenty to like about the Palisade’s innards. There’s ample head and shoulder room not only in the first two rows of seating, but also the third.
Luggage space measures 510 litres with all seats in place, but this can easily be boosted to 1,297 litres by folding down the third-row seats. They fold flat into the floor, so you’re not left with an irregular-shaped load bay.
The tailgate is electrically operated, making life easy if you’re carrying many bags of groceries.
Standard features in the Palisade include a 20-centimetre infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, five USB ports, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The screen is intuitive and easy to use, and you can reach it from the driver’s seat without having to stretch too far.
There are physical controls for some functions, and wireless smartphone connectivity features make quick work of pairing your device to the system.
What is the Palisade Premium like to drive?
The Palisade Premium 2021, which is the range-topping vehicle The National tested, was equipped with head-up display, 12-speaker Infinity sound system, dual sunroofs, dual-zone automatic climate control, an intercom, a 31cm digital gauge cluster, push-button start, a 26cm infotainment touchscreen, as well as additional USB ports and wireless device charging.
Vehicles of this size (the Palisade is a tad under 5 metres long and 2 metres wide) often impart the feeling of being lumbering and cumbersome once you get under way, but that’s not the case here.
The Palisade is surprisingly crisp and agile in its responses, and the steering, brake and throttle are also nicely modulated, making it a pleasant vehicle to drive.
It’s also impressively quiet and supple-riding, so much so that it rivals the much pricier Land Rover Discovery with its refinement and on-road dynamics.
The 3.8-litre V6 and eight-speed work well in tandem, serving up smooth, unflustered performance and sufficient urge for effortless overtaking.
As for its off-road ability, the Palisade has Sand, Mud and Snow drive modes, but the monocoque-chassis Hyundai isn’t pitched as a bona fide all-terrainer in the sense that the more rugged ladder-frame-based Toyota Prado is.
Even so, the AWD Palisade is certainly up to the task of taking on moderately challenging sand dunes and rutted gravel tracks.
The Palisade is competitively priced as the entry-level model costs Dh139,999, while the range-topping Premium model we tested is pegged at Dh179,999.
The latter can also be had in seven-seat configuration, with captain’s chairs in lieu of a bench seat for the second row, in which case the price goes up to Dh189,999.
All in all, the Palisade is an impressively polished vehicle with few shortcomings.
Greater use of soft-touch materials in the cabin would have been nice but, even as it is, the big Hyundai is a great buy for anyone seeking a three-row SUV.