Believe The Hype – Times Two

You may not want to read about a couple of mid-sized, three-row SUVs. However, these two vehicles are generating a lot of buzz that has been the talk of the industry.

Of course, this segment has been on fire. New products have been introduced over the past few years that have moved the bar in terms of meeting the needs and wants of families looking for this kind of vehicle. And, believe me, there's more to come in this segment.

However, I have never seen so much excitement surrounding two such vehicles in a long while. Both just happen to be cousins of each other from the same corporate family.

Of course, I'm talking about the 2020 Hyundai Palisade and the 2020 Kia Telluride.

In the time I had the chance to drive both of these vehicles, I had a lot of questions hurled at me. Where shall I start?

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First of all, both the Palisade and Telluride are derived from the same platform. Each shares the same wheelbase, Lambda II 3.8-liter V6 engine, transmission, and driveline. From there, both the Hyundai and Kia are completely different from each other.

The V6 engine is remarkable. With 291 horsepower on tap, it does a great job hauling both the Palisade and Telluride with absolute ease. This is the hallmark of these two mid-sized SUVs – that engine will make a believer out of anyone driving anything else in its class.

Part of the equation is the 8-speed automatic. On both the Hyundai and Kia, the transmission offers very smooth shifts that make any drive a wonderful one. I found no hesitation or lag in shifts in both vehicles. That speaks volumes when you are considering using one to tow a 4,500-pound trailer and its contents.

From both points come the differences. This is where it gets really complicated. It is because they are absolutely wonderful – I know, spoiler alert. Yet, they are different in many ways from the platform and engine bay outward.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD

The first thing that will catch your eye is each vehicle's design. Kia's approach was to make a brawny SUV that has an air of masculinity and toughness. Early concepts showed a more aggressive, off-road side that enticed consumers of its possibilities in terms of capability. This is probably why the buzz has been loud and strong for the Kia.

Hyundai took a more upscale approach to the Palisade. The family front end, with lower headlamp units flanking a massive grille, provides distinction in the class. If you choose the Limited, you might even think it could be a more premium offering tasked to chase more expensive fare. There is more chrome extenuating its beltline, giving it a more luxurious style while offering high value.

Stepping inside the Kia and you get a lot of the good qualities found across its SUV lineup. The tablet-like infotainment screen has been widened to 10.25 inches with a three-pane home page. The instrumentation had two analog dials framing a TFT screen for information and a feature that would blow my mind. When you turn on your turn signals, the TFT screen will show you a view from a camera behind the corresponding mirror. Unlike Honda's system, Kia's monitor works on both sides, rather than the passenger side.

In typical Kia fashion, there is a conventional gear lever with plenty of controls located around it. The controls in other places work logically and offer great tactile control. In all, the Telluride offers the driver a great cockpit to drive from.

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In the Palisade, the instrument panel looks cleaner and more integrated with the wide infotainment screen framing the center stack perfectly. The instrument cluster for the Limited is a full TFT screen that is customizable depending on the drive mode you are in. Put the Palisade in Sport, and the instruments are in red. In Comfort and Smart, the screen is "normal" in white font. As for that turn signal monitor, that screen will appear in the middle of the corresponding dial – left or right.

Another deviation from the Kia is the gear selector. Hyundai chose to do a simple four push-button actuator with standard paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel. It provided a cleaner center console with controls positioned towards the gear selector. The Palisade is a very modern space befitting of its premium style.

Front seating in the Kia is big, supportive, and quite comfortable. Traversing the Twin Cities and up to St. Cloud offered a good test on how comfortable the Telluride truly is. The seats offer plenty of bolstering and support without fatigue. Second-row seats are as comfortable as the front row ones. They offer plenty of adjustments for rake and recline. The biggest surprise was the third-row access and space, for which the one-touch access made life easier for adults – yes, adults – to get into the third row and have plenty of space back there.

The latter was demonstrated by having six of my automotive enthusiast friends take over the remaining six seats of my Telluride tester with a short ride between two restaurants in the Lake Minnetonka area. No one had a bad thing to say about the interior space inside the Telluride SX.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD

In the Palisade, the Limited offered a similarly patterned upholstery with an equally supportive front seat. I had no problem taking the Hyundai back on the Interstate in our drive route from North Central Illinois back to the Western Burbs. Second-row seats are equally exceptional, as is the one-touch access to the third row from both sides of the Palisade. I also found third-row space to be equal to the Telluride with enough comfort for adults out back.

And, no, the Palisade Limited was not loaded up with fellow journalists and Hyundai executives to demonstrate this for me. Maybe one intrepid journalist went back there and tried out the third row in one of our testers.

While ride quality is excellent on both the Telluride and Palisade, you can tell minute differences between the two on how they achieved their driving dynamics. It all comes down to personality, where the Telluride is all about family adventure and the Palisade exudes an air of luxury and elegance in its gait. A lot of consumers who may end up driving both in comparison might not pick that up immediately, but a few more miles can reveal their personalities in full display.

Which makes this comparison a rather difficult one. It comes down to which vehicle fits your style based on their personality. The truth is that I drove two very, very good mid-sized three-row SUVs, and both of them offer something for everyone.

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If you are looking for a conclusion from this comparison between the 2020 Hyundai Palisade and the 2020 Kia Telluride, I am sorry that I cannot give you one. I would suggest shopping for both and deciding which one fits your style, personality, and life the best. You may even fall in love with both SUVs.

DISCLAIMER: The Kia Telluride SX was provided by Kia Motors America. The Hyundai Palisade Limited was provided by Hyundai Motor America, along with travel and logistics.

All Photos by Randy Stern

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