One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: Like Liesel, 2020 Hyundai Palisade is a well-developed, elegant flagship

The three-row Hyundai Palisade is the Korean automaker's new flagship SUV.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Remember Liesel from "The Sound of Music"? She was the well-developed, elegant flagship daughter of the Captain Von Trapp. Liesel was a star of the movie in her own right thanks to one rainy night in an Austrian gazebo but paired nicely with the rest of the Von Trapp family lineup to create a desirable must-see. In their case, a flock of singers destined for worldwide fame.

A parallel can be made between Liesel and the brand-new 2020 Hyundai Palisade. Designed to sit atop the Hyundai lineup as its flagship SUV, the Palisade shares many of the aesthetics with its stable mates, but clearly stands alone as the most refined model.

More than anything, the Palisade signals a turn toward a more premium brand identity for the Korean automaker. Thought is shares an engine, wheelbase, and transmission with the 2020 Kia Telluride, the Kia and Hyundai are two very different vehicles.

2020 Hyundai PalisadeThe Hyundai Palisade is elegant, yet adventure-ready.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

With a glance at its body style, it's easy to see who the Palisade was designed for- families who want a touch of elegance in their lives but don't want to pay upwards of $50,000 (or even $40,000) to get it.

The Palisade is a longer, wider, taller three-row SUV than the Santa Fe XL it replaces. It competes directly with the Telluride, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Atlas.

The exterior of the Palisade is fitted with premium features including standard LED daytime running lights, LED accent lighting, automatic headlamps with high beam assist, and heated power outside mirrors. Optional features include LED headlamps and taillamps, door handle greeting lights, side mirrors with LED turn indicators, an upgraded grille, and sunroof.

2020 Hyundai PalisadeThe Hyundai Palisade is a sister to the Kia Telluride, but the two models have distinctly different flavors.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The three-trim level Palisade doesn't fit into the Hyundai lineup like an enlarged version of the Kona, a purposeful move according to Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai North America. His design vision sees the Hyundai lineup not as nesting dolls, but as chess pieces with whole sets obviously belonging together over small/large vehicle near duplication.

Under its hood is a 3.8-liter V6 engine that achieves 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The SUV, which has front-wheel drive standard, had sufficient power to get it where it is going during test driving around Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It didn't have any issues charging uphill or passing at speed on the highway. Braking is strong but not touchy and the SUV is quite stable on the road. All-wheel drive is available.

Moving inside, the differences between the Palisade and the rest of the Hyundai lineup become even more apparent, though the differences between it and Genesis , the luxury arm of Hyundai, models become fewer and farther between. The Palisade, in its SEL and especially in the Limited grade, looks and feels more premium than most other vehicles in its class.

2020 Hyundai PalisadeThe Hyundai Palisade is plush and elegant.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

A six-way power adjustable driver's seat is standard but more premium grades have available eight-way power driver's seat and either two- or four-way power lumbar adjustment, ventilated front seats, integrated memory for driver's seat, heated front seats, and heated second-row seats. The top Limited trim has a leg cushion extension.

Cloth seats are standard and two different types of leather are available. A second-row bench seat is standard in the base model and available in the midgrade SEL trim. Captain's chairs, a heated steering wheel, wireless charging, and a power-folding/reclining third-row seat are available in the SEL trim and standard on Limited models. A proximity key, remote engine start, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are standard in SEL and Limited trims.

2020 Hyundai PalisadeIts seats are comfortable and the cabin has high-quality materials throughout, especially in higher trims.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

When it comes to the center console, Hyundai got clever. In addition to placing the available wireless charging pad in a place that doesn't detract from small item storage space or allow it to slide around, the cup holders fold out of the way to allow for an unobstructed storage experience. There is additional storage below the center stack, where charging cords can be run so they are kept out of sight.

Other neat tech includes the available 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster, the Blue Link connected car system, and Driver Talk in-car intercom system. Rear Seat Quiet Mode, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto come standard.

The Palisade comes with standard or available most of the modern safety and driver assist equipment you'd expect from a new vehicle including forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, parking distance alerts, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, and blind spot monitoring.

2020 Hyundai Palisade Blind Spot MonitoringThe Palisade's available blind spot monitoring system uses a camera to monitor what traffic is in your way and showcases the image on the driver's information screen when the driver switches on the turn signal.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

It also comes with a standard suite of equipment and tech, including trailer sway control, that would normally be part of an available towing package, meaning the SUV is ready to tow up to 5,000 pounds right off the lot.

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is on sale and has a starting price of $31,500 for the base SE model. Its midgrade SEL will set you back $33,500 while the top-tier Limited starts at $44,700. All-wheel drive is available on all trims for an additional $1,700. On the SEL model, Hyundai sells a $2,200 Convenience and $2,400 Premium package. Drive guidance will cost buyers an extra $1,250 and a sunroof is another $900. There is a $1,045 destination and delivery charge.

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The CX-50 is surpsingly capable off-road.

Mazda

I have driven all of the Mazda vehicles that have been sold in the US market over the past three decades. On everyday roads and on racetracks. I’ve appreciated their “zoom-zoom”. Good power. Punchy torque just where it was needed. Well-balanced and sporty handling. A bit of growl for the versions that called for it. Plus, tasteful-but-modest styling and more or less elbow room, depending on the model. Mazda’s have been made for sports-car enthusiasts and to ferry families. But, I had never known a Mazda called an “overlander”. Until now.

2023 Mazda CX-50Towing capacity extends to 2,000 pounds.Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 moves this traction-sophisticated automaker into the lands where the pavement ends and now takes the brand ‘off-track’. Although it’s not a new thing for many of today’s carmakers to add a backcountry model or two to their lineup, it’s new for Mazda. I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to check out this all-new crossover built on Mazda’s seventh-generation small SUV platform that is shared with the smaller CX-30. This 5-passenger utility is longer, lower and wider than the CX-5 that rides on the previous generation’s underpinnings. The CX-50 has been crafted with a roomier second row and more cargo room for the goods and gear that weekend warriors and adventurers want to carry.

The CX-50 comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation that gets 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo-charged powerplant with 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission. The sport ute can tow up to 2,000 lbs. with the naturally aspirated motor and up to 3,500 lbs. with the turbo-charged mill and Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) that brings a tow mode as well as Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The newest Mazda model has been made for North America only and is built in Alabama. It is the first Mazda vehicle with auto start/stop that can be deactivated.

2023 Mazda CX-50Mazda is a master of upscale interiors. Mazda

The new crossover starts at $26,800 and comes in S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, and S Premium Plus with the base motor. Turb-charged versions come in Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus that tops out at close to $42,000. A long list of technology and safety features are standard or available. Mazda says that Meridian, a fourth turbo trim will arrive soon with even more off-road cred; it will be set up with 18-inch black wheels AT, hood graphics and other backcountry goodies.

When you look at the CX-50, the first thing you’ll notice is exterior styling that speaks to its adventure-ready mission. Muscular bodywork, such as extra cladding, wide fender flairs and larger, more aggressive tires mean that this crossover has been designed not only to give a nod to the looks of a rugged crossover but to provide enhanced traction and a tad more suspension stretch for motoring over uneven terrain and along bumpy dirt roads. Planted on its haunches with functional air vents, it eschews minivan styling with a low and wide footprint that allows owners to have easy access to high-strength roof rails for loading gear on top; the roof has been made stronger than other Mazda crossovers to accommodate heavier loads, such as a roof-top tent. A panoramic moonroof- a first for Mazda- and attractive antiglare hood graphics and are tasteful additions.

The interior is attractive and roomy, with horizontal lines and “cleanable” surfaces as a nod to outdoor endeavors. Our Turbo Premium Plus model had bright orange reverse stitching that popped the cabin that has been crafted with uplevel trims and materials and brought heads-up display. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard, while the top models get a 10.25-inch version. A wireless charging pad and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Of note, is the rear power and programmable liftgate to the wide and deep rear cargo compartment, with a load floor that flush with the liftgate opening to help slide heavy items in and out of the back. An available line of cargo accessories makes stowage easier.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 is family roadtrip ready.Mazda

How did it handle over the 200-plus miles of our ride and drive? The Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 offers a lot like; many of its driving attributes are consistent with Mazda’s tuning and handling priorities across its product line. Traveling along coastal highways, carving mountainous twisties with tight turns and accelerating on flat and straight well-graded pavement, it has great Mazda manners: i.e., there is enough power and torque in the right bandwidth to move it well; precise steering with a slightly heavily-weighted leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-modulated brakes, especially with towing a 3,500-lb. load. We enjoyed using Sport mode for carving corners, as it brings elongated shifts from the six-speed automatic; a crisp response comes when sport shifting in “manual mode” and provides a quick throttle response.

We tried out the Off-Road mode on a course that included flat and uneven dirt roads, as well as hill climb and descent. Although there is no downhill descent control system, the brakes worked well, along with manual gearing. Of note, Mazda would be wide to add downhill descent engineering for steeper and slicker terrain. We were able to test the difference between Normal and Off-Road over a special section of the course with sandy corners and a winding track at a speed of 30 mph showing the improved traction in the Off-Road programming and the aid of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control that brings a bit of magic to transfer torque to the wheels where it is needed to keep the intended track-think of it like an enhanced traction control program that helps with steering and yaw control.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 comes with off-road driving modes. Mazda

Other aids for off-road and backcountry travel are: the i-Activ All-Wheel Drive system that is standard equipment on all CX-50s, with a 50/50ish power transfer front to back; 8.6 inches of ground clearance; an 18-degree approach angle and a 24-degree departure angle; and an optional 360-degree camera system.

*EPA reports: base motor fuel economy 24 city/30 highway mpg, while the turbo option gets 23/29 mpg and can run on regular or premium fuel.

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New electric SUV

Honda teases its first EV

The Prologue will go on sale as a 2024 model.

Honda

Honda is nearing the unveiling of its first electric vehicle, the Prologue, and today the automaker gave us our first glimps of the new vehicle. It's just a sketch, but Honda did share some production details and information on its product roadmap.

Honda DealerHonda plans to sell half a million EVs by the end of the decade. Honda

Honda says the Prologue will be an adventure-ready SUV "capable of satisfying everyday driving and weekend getaways with a strong hint of the well-received Honda e in the front fascia." The SUV was developed in Honda's Design Studio in Los Angeles, and was designed with an eye on Honda's global EV models. Honda said it focused on aerodynamics and fine-tuning the body to reducelines and improve range.

The Japanese automaker developed the Prologue alongside GM, but it has other EVs coming to market by 2026. By 2030, Honda says it will release 30 new EVs globally with a production volume of two million units. The co-developed vehicle is the first, but the rest will be built on Honda e:Architecture. In 2027, the automaker will begin building and selling a line of affordable EVs using the architecture developed with General Motors. Honda says it plans to sell half a million EVs in North America by the end of hte decade.

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