Hyundai’s largest SUV currently on sale in Australia, the Santa Fe, is set to be overtaken by a yet larger addition to the local range - namely, the Palisade, a model which only recently made its debut in the North American market and the marque’s home turf of South Korea.
Like the Kluger it will inevitable be competing with here, the Palisade was primarily conceived to butt heads with the Toyota Highlander, so it’s rather fitting that the larger SUV (which can seat up to 8 occupants) also tries to rain on the Japanese automaker’s dominance elsewhere.
During the local launch of Hyundai Venue, ironically the automaker’s smallest crossover, CEO of Hyundai Motor Cars Australia J.W. Lee alluded that the largest SUV will make its way Down Under and is on track for an introduction in 2020. Probably in its latter stages.
Naturally, the biggest hurdle ahead of the Palisade’s local introduction would be engineering a right-hand drive configuration, particularly if its bread and butter markets are in North America. It’s unlikely that Hyundai hasn’t already engineered some degree of driver side agnosticism to make this transition easier.
However, ramping up the production pipeline for both left and right-hand drive examples, as well as deciding on manufacturing locations and region-specific specifications, will be the next potential impediment.
To that end, the most popular engine in the Palisade’s arsenal is a naturally aspirated 3.8-litre petrol V6, a continuation of their Lamba II family utilising direct-injection and the more efficient Atkinson cycle, producing 217kW and 355Nm.
The familiar 2.2-litre CRDi four-cylinder turbodiesel could be another, more sensible, choice of powerplant for the Australian market and beyond. Regardless of which engine is employed, though, drive will be sent through an 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission and spread over all four wheels.
Whether or not this would mean the mild culling of the Santa Fe range is unclear, specifically pertaining to its inclusion of a 7-seat option. However, it would make sense to streamline the local portfolio to avoid unnecessary overlap in appeal. The Toyota RAV4, for example, is a strict 5-seater, leaving the Kluger’s reign internally unopposed.
Then again, automakers like Mazda are perfectly happy to concurrently offer both the CX-9 - another Palisade competitor - as well as the similarly specified CX-8. Perhaps, then, Honda offers a closer parallel to Hyundai Australia’s present SUV range given that the CR-V also offers a 7-seat configuration despite its modest size.
Should the entry-level Hyundai Palisade start at around $50,000, it would need to emphasise its more premium appointments and superior technology to quell comparisons with the less expensive Nissan Pathfinder, which trades pricing blows with the Santa Fe. And there’s also the Holden Acadia to contend with.
Being the SUV flagship model, the Palisade has access to all Hyundai’s latest and greatest tech, neatly packaged in their SmartSense suite and replete with active safety and convenience features, making it unlikely to snag any less than 5 stars from ANCAP.
A potential side effect to the Palisade’s local introduction could prove rather interesting, especially if Kia also rolls out its sister model, the Telluride. Other automakers, in turn, could start fielding larger SUVs if the local response to the Hyundai is positive, opening the door to such new-to-us models as the Ford Explorer, Toyota 4runner, Honda Pilot, and the Volkswagen Atlas.