As far as getaway destinations go, it’s hard to beat Palm Springs. The Southern California desert city is an easy, two-hour drive from LA or a 3-4 hour flight from most places in the US. With an average of 350 days of sunshine each year, the city normally has warm sunny pool days while most of the country is covered in snow. In these pandemic times, you can still find hotels open for tourists and many of the city’s restaurants now offer socially distant outdoor dining.
For my getaway to Palm Springs, I decided to drive the all-new for 2020 Hyundai Palisade and Hyundai provided one in the top-of-the-line AWD Limited trim.
I’m all about first impressions and I must admit I was stunned at first sight. Stunned when I first slid my butt into the sumptuous, cross-stitched leather seats and looked around at the seriously high-end fit and finish. And stunned when I saw the three rows of seats and stunned at the price, just over $47K.
And that’s not the base price, the Palisade Limited, loaded with every option available, is $47,605, including Hyundai’s $1,045 freight and handling charge. If you gave me this SUV, and it had no brand badges on it, I would guess it was a Lexus, INFINITI or maybe an Audi or BMW, it’s that good.
The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is the Korean automaker’s first SUV offering three rows. It enters a crowded market, as pretty much every other car company already offers a three-row SUV.
The Palisade (and its twin the Kia Telluride) are quickly dominating that market with a combination of durability, reliability, features and value. For its reasonable price, you get a capable, luxurious, spacious, well-designed vehicle with Hyundai’s industry-leading warranty (5 years or 60K miles full bumper-to-bumper warranty, 10 years or 100K miles powertrain warranty).
You also get a stylish SUV, packed with features that will comfortably haul around seven people (eight if you skip the Limited’s second row captain’s chairs). The Palisade is fun to drive with a good driving position, excellent visibility all around and an extreme amount of safety and driver assistance technology that works seamlessly as you drive.
The Palisade, especially the premium Limited model, delivers a luxury SUV experience. With quilted premium Nappa leather seats (well, seating surfaces anyway) and the well-thought out use of wood and aluminum trim, it just feels very nice as soon as you get inside.
The thorough suite of infotainment and safety features and the ease of using the multiple drive modes adds to the comfortable driving experience. Everything you feel and touch feels like quality, there is a noticeable lack of cheap plastics here.
Palm Springs is a quick, 100-mile freeway drive from LA. The Palisade shines on the highway at speed, just quiet and rock solid as I cruised at 80 mph. Luxury features like adaptive, radar-based “Smart Cruise” cruise control with various lane-warning and keeping functions make the drive comfortable and easy. Like a luxury car, the cruise control will take you to a full stop, then back to full speed and back again.
Those big, quilted Nappa leather seats are very comfortable, with no aches or pains even after two hours on the road. I’m a stickler for quiet interiors and the Palisade provided just that, it was easy to have a conversation while cruising on the freeway.
As I drove, I really liked the cameras activated by the turn signals, they show a wide angle view from the side-view mirror, virtually eliminating the normal blind spots next to you. The image temporarily replaces the speedometer and it’s a very helpful and organic feature that all cars should have.
With normal driving during the road trip, I averaged about 25 mpg and also liked that the Palisade prefers regular, not premium fuel.
For all trim levels, power comes from a 3.8L GDI (gasoline direct injection) V6 engine with 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Power gets to the pavement via an eight-speed automatic transmission with Hyundai’s SHIFTRONIC paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The engine is rated for 21 mpg (19 city / 24 highway) and offers decent performance given its size. If you put the Palisade into SPORT mode (making the instrument panel lighting racy red), the performance is markedly improved.
For traction this Palisade had Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD system. There are multiple drive modes including SNOW and the AWD system can be locked so it’s always working. The rear suspension is self-leveling which is good for big loads of people and/or cargo.
The Palisade comes with a very full suite of safety tech, all kinds of traffic and pedestrian warnings and lane departure alerts. Some highlights include side-view mirror cameras which display in the dashboard when the turn signals are activated.
A very cool feature I haven’t seen before, there are seven individual tiny seat belt lights on the dashboard letting you know exactly which seat (or kid) doesn’t have their seat belt on. There’s also a Driver Talk feature which broadcasts the driver’s voice through the sound system, perfect for telling the kids to sit down.
For entertainment there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with a Harmon Kardon premium audio system. You can also control and monitor your Palisade remotely with Hyundai’s Blue Link app.
Eating and Staying in Palm Springs
The desert oasis offers an extremely wide range of dining options and is a great destination for foodies. For a quick bite downtown, Blaze Pizza makes great pies in front of you in their 800-degree open-flame oven. Le Vallauris, also located downtown, first opened in 1972 and has authentic French cuisine with live music. Workshop Kitchen is another great option with a modern, progressive menu and excellent craft cocktails. It’s located in the city’s trendy Uptown Design District.
As a resort city, Palm Springs offers all kinds of accommodations, from boutique hotels to luxury resorts. For an intimate, luxury boutique experience at the edge of the vibrant downtown area, try the Ingleside Inn. Be sure to have a meal at Melvyn’s, their restaurant and piano bar, a long-time favorite of long-time Palm Springs resident Frank Sinatra.
I really like one of the city’s newest options, Kimpton’s The Rowan. It’s truly in the heart of downtown Palm Springs and as the city’s only high-rise building, some of the rooms and suites have wonderful views of the Coachella Valley.
Exterior photos by Freddy Sherman, interior photos courtesy of Hyundai USA.
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