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 Palisade The 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 Palisade The 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 Palisade The 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 Palisade Its 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 Monitoring The 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.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

There are no coincidences in the automotive world, so it was no surprise that I found myself riding shotgun in a 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle prototype in front of SpaceX and Tesla's offices in Los Angeles. Ford's all-electric crossover is their most ambitious electric vehicle project to date. With styling, range, and debut location, they proved that they are targeting Tesla and their customers.

The Mustang Mach-E is, according to Ford, 100-percent Mustang. For those who are used to seeing the Mustang as a sports coupe with rear-wheel drive, an electric crossover with available all-wheel drive bearing the Mustang name might be eyebrow raising.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The Mustang Mach-E has many exterior design attributes usually reserved for the Mustang coupe.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

That skepticism is one of the many reasons why, during a secret reveal ahead of the global debut, Ford shuttled me around Hawthorne, California in one of the Mustang Mach-E prototypes. The company was out to prove to me that they built a vehicle worthy of the Mustang name.

The model Ford put me in was the Mustang Mach-E Premium all-wheel drive, extended range model. That EV runs to 60 mph from a standstill in a hair over 5 seconds. Because electric motors make torque immediately, the car pushes the driver and passengers relentlessly back in their seat as they make that run. The torque makes the car feel faster than it is.

For folks who want to go faster, the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance trim should do that same run in around 3 seconds. When the GT Performance goes on sale in early 2021 (late 2020 for the other models), the quickest accelerating Mustang you'll be able to buy will likely be electric.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E interior seats cabin The cabin of the new model is spacious.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

On a route around Hawthorne, I was able to experience the car's on-road manners. Even though it was an early prototype, the cabin was quiet. That's in part due to the lack of a motor but also because of the car's three performance modes for the Mach-E – Whisper, Engaged and Unbridled. In Unbridled mode, which is what I experienced, the car allows computer-generated internal combustion engine-like sounds to flow into the cabin when accelerating hard.

Unlike the Jaguar I-Pace's piped-in growl, the Mach-E's sounds natural for a performance car. It doesn't exactly sound like a gasoline-powered car, but it adds a soundtrack to the spirited drive that this author doesn't find obtrusive. In Whisper mode, the car is relatively silent.

Cornering, at least from the passenger seat, felt relatively flat. The low center of gravity of the battery pack helps a ton. Right now, there is no adjustable suspension system, like MagneRide, that is available on other Mustang models.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E infotainment screen steering wheel dashboard Ford has simplified the interior of the car in a very Tesla-esque fashion.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Mustang Mach-E takes many interior cues from Tesla design though many elements are unmistakably from the Ford team. There is a large, center-mounted screen that handles most of the controls of the infotainment system and vehicle functionality. Interestingly, while the center screen handles most of it, there still is an instrument cluster to provide vitals – something Tesla has done away with.

Display vehicles had gobs of space inside, including numerous of storage cubbies for nearly everything. Fit and finish were solid for vehicles this far along in the process and it felt more Tesla Model 3 inside than Mustang.

The new infotainment system supports routing based on how long you'll sit at a charger and which chargers you need to stop at – basically what a Tesla does. Another first for Ford is support for both wireless Apple Car Play and wireless Android Auto.

Additionally, the Mustang Mach-E has truly hands-off Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. It'll be an over-the-air update after launch for customers, but there are cameras in the car that watch the driver to make sure they are paying attention. If they are, and the roads are digitally mapped, the Mach-E will handle most of the driving duties for the driver. The system is very similar to how Cadillac's Super Cruise technology works and is not hands-off.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E rear seat back sunroof moonroof panoramic vegan leather The rear seats of the Mustang Mach-E offer more legroom than what you'll find in the Jaguar I-Pace.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It's difficult to determine how good a car is going to be based on a ten-minute ride in the passenger seat. However, it is obvious even after that little time that Ford checked all the right boxes during the development of their new EV. This is likely the first viable mainstream competitor to Tesla, and Tesla should consider themselves put on notice.

In short, the Mustang Mach-E should have performance similar to the Jaguar I-Pace or Tesla Model 3, but with more rear seat headroom than the I-Pace, and better reliability. It looks far more attractive than the Nissan Leaf or anything the Korean automakers are doing, and since it'll be available in all 50 states, you'll be able to purchase and repair it in a town near you, just like what you could do with an F-150.

The Vision T is likely a look at the design language of the new Hyundai Tucson.

Image courtesy of Hyundai

Next week, Hyundai will unveil a new plug-in hybrid SUV concept car. The model is the seventh in the automaker's series of Hyundai Design Center concepts that combines "emotional value" with "sensuous sportiness" in an application of the company's new design language.

"We pursue innovative solutions in design and add emotional value to our product experience through sensuous sportiness design language," said SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and Head of Hyundai Global Design Center. The SUV concept is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain indicating its eco-lifestyle focus and its inherent balance with the environment in which it is driven.

Hyundai Vision T concept SUV car front PHEV The side profile of the design shows off a new vision for Hyundai's compact SUV.Image courtesy of Hyundai

The SUV has a theme of parametric fantasy and transcendent connectivity. All of the concept SUV's body structures are connected from the body to light or trim features. The overall look is a seamless take on design boundaries, perhaps signifying the future seamlessness of home, vehicle, entertainment, and transportation spaces.

Ambient light reflects off concave and convex surfaces to create a sense of tension, according to Hyundai.

The vehicle features an evolution of the Hidden Signature Lamp (as seen on the new Sonata) and features a parametric air shutter that deploys to help adjust aerodynamics and design. The shutter is closed when the vehicle is stationary then moves to effect airflow, aerodynamics, and fuel efficiency.

Why might it be the next Tucson? Hyundai has already disclosed that this concept has the dimensions of a compact SUV. That ticks the Tucson box. There's also the name of the vehicle "Vision T" and the fact that nearly every SUV in the Hyundai lineup has either debuted or undergone a significant redesign in the last 18 months except Tucson. It's logical that Tucson would be up next and that it would evolve Hyundai's powertrain offerings given the success of the Kona EV.

Earlier, Hyundai announced that 13 new products would be making their way into the company's portfolio in the coming years including the Hyundai Santa Cruz truck.

No details about the car's plug-in hybrid powertrain are yet available. The full concept car will be revealed during AutoMobility LA.