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Hyundai offers its biggest SUV to date

With six SUVs in the lineup now, the full-size Palisade just announced and — according to Hyundai America chief operating officer Brian Smith — another on the way, is Hyundai becoming an SUV company that also makes cars instead of a car company that also makes SUVs?

Currently, there are six in the North American pipeline: the Nexo fuel-cell crossover, the Tucson, the Santa Fe, the Kona, the Kona EV and the Santa Fe XL. Palisade is No. 7 and Smith said one more is coming.

The count may not as yet have overtaken its cars (eight), but that’s certainly where the market is headed.

The Palisade is bigger than anything Hyundai has built to date, even the short-lived Veracruz. It has seating for eight and, even with eight people, 509 litres of cargo room. That grows to 1,296 litres with the third row folded.

Its styling is bold, with a massive front fascia, huge vertical daytime running lights and a gaping grille. It’s also pushed out to the corners, for a rather boxy but attractive shape.

It embodies a break with tradition, as well. Lead designer SangYup Lee said that unlike some carmakers that try to make each model look like a smaller or larger version of its sibling, Hyundai is aiming to share design cues but not copy them. So, while the Santa Fe, for instance, has daytime running lights that sit like eyebrows above and separate from the headlights, the Palisade’s begin in the eyebrow position but carry through down to the headlights.

The Palisade also aims to take a chunk out of the premium large SUV segment, with premium touches including power-reclining third-row seats, quilted leather upholstery and a premium feel to the dash, centre console and related components.

Under the hood, the Palisade doesn’t break much new ground: a 3.8-litre V-6 motor delivers 291 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 262 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 r.p.m. It’s connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system. That system provides an electronic variable-torque-split clutch with active torque distribution between the two wheels.

A new snow mode adjusts torque split from front to back and side to side to maximize whatever traction may be available.

As well, where once there was a competition to provide as many cupholders as possible, today’s rivalry seems to be about how many USB charging ports you can provide. They’re everywhere: on the console, on the front seat back (for middle-row passengers) and in the third row.

The Palisade also features eight driver safety features, including lane guidance, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, auto high-beam, driver attention alert, safe exit and smart cruise.

Safe exit is an extension of both cross-traffic and blind-spot alert: it senses when an object is in jeopardy of striking a door — such as a cyclist passing from the rear — and prevents that door from opening.

Rear passenger alert also seeks to avoid child deaths due to abandonment in cars on hot days: it uses ultrasound to detect rear-seat movement and first alerts the driver to check the rear seat when turning off the car. If that alert goes unheeded and the system detects movement after the car has been locked, it not only honks the horn but also sends an alert to the driver’s smartphone using Hyundai’s BlueLink connectivity system.

That BlueLink system provides for remote starting with climate control, car finder, remote unlock and lock and diagnostic tools.

The system comes free for five years and uses the driver’s smartphone as an interface.

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade will be available in summer of 2019 in Hyundai dealers across Canada. There’s a joke about singer Freddy Cannon in here somewhere — I just can’t think of one.

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