Hyundai Palisade & Kia Telluride: Which Flagship SUV Is Right For India?

The first-ever 3-row, fullsize SUVs from both the Korean brands are leading the charge in the US. But the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade are also very exciting for India, and they are under consideration. Read our first drive review plus faceoff between these two.

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In America big is beautiful. In the automotive context that's also meant successful for the most part! The Hyundai Palisade is the Korean carmaker's first fullsize three-row SUV ever. In the past the Santa Fe XL or long wheelbase was Hyundai's biggest SUV. The Palisade is almost 5 metres long and has been designed primarily for buyers who want 3-row, 7 or 8-seater SUVs for family use, to take on volume selling cars like the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and yes now even the Kia Telluride. The Telluride is Kia's first ever fullsizer too, and has also been done keeping the same market segment in mind. And like the Palisade it is also named after a town in the American state of Colorado. It is 5 metres in length and so a tad longer than the Palisade. The two cars come from sister companies, and so yes are very very similar.

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Hyundai Cars

Engine and Gearbox

Now both these SUVs share the same platform, and they were created so that respective brands can enter a new segment for the very first time, with a very clear eye on the US market. But there has been a lot of speculation, whether Kia or Hyundai would consider bringing them both, or at least one of them as their big SUV flagship to India. Well, that is my reason for driving both these cars - and driving them back-to-back.

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The 285 bhp making 3.8-litre V6 GDi petrol engine is common to both cars 

There has been much said about each of these, and so I won't bore you. Suffice to say that besides platform the two share the same drivetrain too. The 285 bhp making 3.8-litre V6 GDi petrol engine is common to both cars. And in the exact same state of tune too. Both therefore have 355 Nm of peak torque. And yes both cars use the same 8-Speed auto gearbox too. There's no manual option - which makes sense in this segment.

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Both cars get the same 8-speed automatic transmission as well 

This drivetrain is standard here in the United States, but in other markets the Palisade also gets slightly smaller displacement V6 petrol, and a 2.2 litre common rail diesel option. It is that diesel that interests me - but let's leave that for another day! Neither car has a hybrid variant though.

Styling

The two may be similar underneath the surface, but oh boy, are they different to look at. The Palisade aims to be luxurious, swanky, and so is chrome embellished, well built and well finished, and carries the largest iteration of Hyundai's cascade grille. The slim lights treatment is similar to the new Santa Fe and Creta, Kona and Venue. The daytime running lights (DRLs) slicing through the headlamp cluster and into the bumper - that is a different element. Some of this face is what has in fact inspired the new gen Creta's styling no doubt. The sides and rear are simple, but yes the taillights are quite distinct too.

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While the Palisade gets Hyundai's latest iteration of the cascading grille, the Telluride gets the signature tiger nose grille 

If the Palisade is meant to appeal to the suave, the Telluride is all about butch muscle. The car is more square, is a tad bigger and emphasises its unique styling through some specific elements. The vertically rectangular headlamp with an orange DRL is very cool and very unique.

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Here's a closer look at the vertically rectangular headlamp with an orange DRL 

The tiger nose grille is wide and the car gets a nice wedge shaped D-pillar - as the rear angles down - almost Range Rover like. The tailgate is also wide and the taillights - again very character defining. I have received a lot of feedback that some of the stance is akin to the Rolls Royce Cullinan. I don't see that to be honest. To me the Telluride is more like the GMC/Chevy or Cadillac range. And that is no surprise - given the buyer it is aimed at.

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Both the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade get wider tail gates 

I feel the Palisade's looks are a bit much, and the car's metal surfaces make it look bulbous. It is also a bit too blingy. The Telluride on the other hand wins the styling sweepstakes for me - for being like nothing else, and also being very handsome - a car you will not forget in a hurry. But looks are purely subjective anyway - so I'd love to know what you think.

Cabin and Features

Inside the cabin, both cars are very well finished, and here's where the Palisade will definitely win your heart. It is more luxurious looking and feeling. Quilted leather seats and door panels, sleeker surfaces and even a button stack instead of a gear lever for the transmission. The car also gets a 12.3" screen for its virtual digital instrument cluster (on lower variants that is an 8" screen, with dials).

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The Hyundai Palisade gets quilted leather seats and door panels 

In the central console it has the same 10.25" touchscreen as the Telluride's. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and BlueLink embedded-sim connectivity are also on offer. Both cars have a smaller 8" touchscreen on lower variants. The Palisade's cabin is roomy, and even the third row gets USB charging points. The second row is ample, and the seats are well positioned, comfortable.

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The cabin of both the Hyundai Palisade and the Kia Telluride are well finished 

The second row in higher variants has the individual captain seats, with a 3-seater bench on lower trims. The second row has optional power sliding and power folding functionality. The two get massive boots with electric tailgates. In the Palisade you get 509 litres of cargo space. But fold the 3rd row don and that expands to 1276 litres. The Telluride has slightly more room with a 595-litre boot that expands to1302 litres. Optional equipment like the big sunroof and electrically folding third row seats, are pretty cool. The car's cabin is right up there with - dare I say it - a Mercedes-Benz.

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In the Palisade you get 509 litres of cargo space. But fold the 3rd row don and that expands to 1276 litres. 

On the Telluride the fit and feel are also premium. The design is very obviously more solid and simplistic - to keep with the car's rugged pickup truck feel. In terms of equipment you get almost everything that the Palisade offers. But there is only a much smaller 7-inch screen in the instruments and you don't get power folding third row seats.

Seat ventilation, head up display and multi zone climate control are available on both cars too. UVO Connect is available here too, as well as all the other connectivity and comfort features like in the Palisade.

Safety

Safety gets a big thumbs up on the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride. Adaptive cruise control, lane-follow and lane-keep assist, ABS (anti-lock braking) with disc brakes on all four wheels, tyre pressure monitoring, ESC (electronic stability control), reverse parking sensors, and collision avoidance assist are standard features across the variants on both cars.

The cars also get 3 child seat mounts, and front/ side/ curtain and driver knee airbags as standard equipment. Higher variants get the outside mirror-mounted cameras that display the respective blind spot image on the central instrument cluster when using left or right indicators. That's nice!

Drive Performance

I drove both cars and began with the Kia Telluride, since this is one car I had been itching to drive given its meteoric rise in popularity in the US - amongst auto media and customers alike. It has bagged most of the key North American car awards for 2020 and is also a Top Three finalist for the 2020 World Car of the Year award - a first-ever achievement by any Korean car.

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The Kia Telluride is amongst the Top Three finalist for the 2020 World Car of the Year award 

The car will coast along and while smooth, has a slightly leisurely build up of speed. It lacks any urgency at first, but take the engine past 4800-5000 rpm, and the beast awakens - and how! The gearbox is quick and responsive though shifting down can be a touch slow in highly dynamic situations. It gets Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart drive modes.

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The Kia Telluride comes with Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart drive modes 

The last one is like Auto and it keeps the car in either Eco, Comfort or Sport - depending on road conditions, and driver inputs. There is an immediate sense of body roll on the Telluride though. One thing I will say in its favour, that you still don't get a sense of the weight it is pulling. It is very smooth and easy to drive. When you put it in the sport mode and the steering stiffens up a bit, it also handles quite nicely. But yes, it is at higher speeds and of course on twistier roads, that body roll does creep in. But ride quality on the Telluride is really great. The car feels ample and comfortable in all conditions.

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The driver seat in the Palisade feels more commanding 

On the Palisade things are similar yet different. The engine has the same leisurely feel. Both cars get the same brakes, but on the Palisade they feel sharper. The same is true for its steering. The driver seat in the Palisade feels more commanding too and gives you that higher-riding SUV feel. It also gets multiple drive modes, but in addition to the ones from the Kia, the AWD Hyundai also gets a Snow mode for low traction driving surfaces. The ride quality is just as good, but then there is the handling difference. Now mechanically the two cars are very similar but there's a different rear suspension setup on the Palisade. And I have to say it does improve handling tremendously. Overall the feeling that you get in the Palisade is plusher, more refined. I have to say in performance terms the Palisade is just a notch higher than the Telluride and the ride quality is also pretty exceptional.

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The Hyundai Palisade and the Kia Telluride come with optional AWD but neither is a hard-core off-roader

Both cars have an optional self-levelling rear suspension - but that's only on the top end AWD. Luckily for me, both cars that I had with me were in their top spec; and so were fully loaded. So while both cars are very similar, the Palisade just feels that extra bit refined and sharper in the drive dynamics department. In the US both cars start at just around $32,000 and top off at about $46,000. Both have optional AWD like I said - but neither is a hard-core off-roader. Still both will manage a fair amount of non-tarmac living with ease. The Palisade and Telluride get a tonne of standard and optional equipment. And don't forget, both also have the three rows and massive cargo space.

Which Car Is Right For India?

So? Which one should India get? It's close, very close, but the great thing is that despite being the same car on so many levels, the two have wildly different character and appeal. The ideal situation would be for us to get both. But that's just me being greedy and a business case may not support that argument. So, while the Telluride is way sexier, the Palisade is the better car overall - both for its driveability and its luxury offering.

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Hyundai is seriously considering the Palisade for India, while Kia has not yet started thinking in that direction 

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Kia could also bring in the newly released Sorento that sits below the Telluride, as its flagship SUV - to take on the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and Mahindra Alturas G4. Hyundai could keep the Santa Fe away from India. The Palisade could then drive in just above the Kia Sorento and play in the luxury set, to become a true flagship for Hyundai. This would also allow the sister companies the room to not directly compete head-on for a change. So while I still believe there is a very strong case for both the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride to come to India anyway, the Palisade may have the stronger case here.

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