The Toyota Highlander takes on the Hyundai Palisade in a battle between three-row SUVs that aim to provide excellent value and top-notch quality.  

Popular Three-Row SUVs 

toyota.com | hyundaiusa.com
toyota.com | hyundaiusa.com

The Toyota Highlander has a long history of hauling families in comfort and the Hyundai Palisade is the new kid on the block trying to steal market share. Today, we’re going to compare them without concern for their reputations. We’ll compare specs, driving performance, interior comfort, trims, features, and more to find a winner. Then, we’ll pick the better value and tell you why it should be your choice between these two.

Specs 

2024 Toyota Highlander - pressroom.toyota.com
2024 Toyota Highlander - pressroom.toyota.com

Toyota offers the Highlander starting at $40,665 and prices can climb beyond $52,000 depending on trim and options. Between those bookends, you’ll find 11 different trims with two distinct powertrains among them.

Most Highlanders use a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 265 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can get it with front or all-wheel drive but both employ an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It gets up to 21 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.

Additionally, the Highlander is available with a hybrid four-cylinder that makes 243 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. What it gives up in performance it tries to claw back in fuel efficiency as it gets up to 36 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.

2024 Hyundai Palisade 3.8L V6 - carsforsale.com
2024 Hyundai Palisade 3.8L V6 - carsforsale.com

The Hyundai Palisade starts lower than the Highlander at just $37,735 but it’s also more expensive at the other end with one trim topping $54,000. The lineup structure is far more simple too which we prefer. It’s available in six trims with one engine, one gearbox type, and, like the Highlander, the choice of front or all-wheel drive.

Under the hood of the Palisade is a 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6 that makes 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It sends that power to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Buyers who go for the AWD version benefit from a feature that allows the Palisade to send half of its engine power to the rear wheels.

Of course, with the additional power and performance of the V6 in the Palisade, fuel economy takes a hit. It gets up to 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. Unlike Toyota, there’s no hybrid option for Hyundai customers.

Driving and Performance 

2024 Toyota Highlander - toyota.com
2024 Toyota Highlander - toyota.com

The driving experience in the Highlander is what we’d call serene and insulated above all else. From the driver’s seat, the vehicle feels like it’s going to be sporty and taut but in reality, it’s more of a marshmallow on wheels. The steering is good at low speeds and that makes placing the Highlander easy.

At the same time, it feels very muted and numb outside of a parking lot. The pedals provide acceptable feedback but there’s very little to get excited about in the Highlander. The ride is smooth and soaks up bumps well but don’t expect it to ever feel engaging or fun. As we mentioned in our main review, the point of this SUV is comfort and from a driving perspective, it provides that just fine.

2024 Hyundai Palisade - hyundaiusa.com
2024 Hyundai Palisade - hyundaiusa.com

The Hyundai Palisade delivers smoother power thanks to its larger engine. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and capable too. We especially like how it delivers power in lower gears and keeps revs low at highway speeds when cruising. Similarly to the Toyota though, this isn’t a performance vehicle.

The chassis is largely designed to haul people smoothly over mile after mile and the Palisade achieves that. In fact, it’s a bit quieter in the cabin than in the Toyota. The Hyundai is just as prone to body roll during harder turns though which could upset rear-seat passengers.

Some aspects of the on-road driving experience are nearly identical between these SUVs though. For example, both can tow up to 5,000 pounds which is excellent in this segment. In addition, they both feature above-average visibility and multiple drive modes for different types of weather.

Comfort and Interior 

2024 Toyota Highlander - toyota.com
2024 Toyota Highlander - toyota.com

The Highlander sports a very business-like interior with big comfortable supportive front seats, a mostly black dashboard, and a function-over-form center control stack. We really like the fit and finish of the cabin as it feels above average and high quality.

Toyota also includes a number of soft-touch surfaces that help to distract from some of the cheap plastic in the interior. The infotainment system is available in two sizes and both provide a positive experience overall. The design of the dash and gauge cluster feels disjointed but that may not bother some buyers.

The second-row seats are available as a bench or as a pair of captain’s chairs. Both options provide good headroom and legroom and are comfortable. Second-row sunshades and a sunroof are also available. Top trims get real leather upholstery, and an intercom system too.

The third row is pretty cramped and is only suitable for children. At the same time, it diminishes rear cargo space which caps out at 16 cubic feet. Storing the second and third-row seats does open up over 80 cubic feet of volume for gear and other things.

2024 Hyundai Palisade - hyundaiusa.com
2024 Hyundai Palisade - hyundaiusa.com

While the Highlander sort of shoves its gauge cluster and infotainment system in the face of front-seat occupants, the Palisade sits those features lower on the dash. As mentioned, it provides good visibility but it also blends nicely with the rest of the dash design. Like the Highlander, there is a mix of high-quality and low-quality materials in the Palisade though it feels like the mix leans toward luxury just a bit.

The front seats are a bit wider than in the Toyota and don’t offer the same lateral support but they feel great nonetheless. The center control stack looks more modern too and offers a mix of physical and touch controls. Just like in the Highlander, buyers can get either a bench or a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row.

We really like how many small details Hyundai baked into the Palisade like the cargo net storage pockets on the side of the second-row seats and the front-seat controls that rear-seat occupants can use when nobody is sitting in the front. The third-row seats also offer a bit more legroom and headroom than in the Highlander.

We’re not suggesting you take five or six of your grown-up friends on a cross-country road trip, but it would do better in that scenario than the Toyota. Rear cargo space caps out at just over 18 cubic feet with maximum storage north of 86 cubic feet with the rear seats all stowed.

Trims and Features 

2024 Toyota Highlander Limited - pressroom.toyota.com
2024 Toyota Highlander Limited - pressroom.toyota.com

Toyota has 11 total trims but many are copies of one another but with different engines. For example, things kick off with the LE which gets 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, tri-zone automatic climate control, and an 8-inch infotainment system. Next is the Hybrid LE which is identical but instead has the hybrid engine.

Above it is the Hybrid LE Nightshade which is a hybrid with LE features and a bunch of black trim and some black wheels. Then there’s the XLE which adds a sunroof, roof rails, faux leather upholstery, and second-row captain’s chairs. The XSE is next which adds a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels, and interior ambient lighting.

Next is the Hybrid XLE which adds the hybrid engine to the XLE features. There’s also a Nightshade version of the Hybrid XLE. Again, it simply adds black trim and black wheels to the vehicle. Above those is the Limited trim with 20-inch wheels, real leather upholstery, power-folding mirrors, and a 12.3-inch infotainment system. A Hybrid Limited trim combines those features with the hybrid engine.

2024 Hyundai Palisade XRT - hyundainews.com
2024 Hyundai Palisade XRT - hyundainews.com

The final two trims are the Platinum and Hybrid Platinum. They each get 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a heads-up display, and heated second-row seats.

Hyundai’s Palisade lineup kicks off with the SE which comes with 18-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch infotainment system, cloth upholstery, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Then there’s the SEL with heated front seats, a hands-free liftgate, and faux leather upholstery. Above it is the XRT with some rugged-looking body cladding but zero real off-road enhancements.

Next is the Limited trim with its sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, second-row ventilated seats, third-row heated seats, and a heads-up display. The Calligraphy is near the top of the lineup with its Nappa leather upholstery, massaging front seats, a suede headliner, and a digital rearview mirror. Finally, the Caligraphy Night Edition adds black wheels, black trim, a dark center console, and exclusive upholstery to the SUV.

The Verdict 

2024 Hyundai Palisade - hyundaiusa.com
2024 Hyundai Palisade - hyundaiusa.com

Those interested in this segment won’t feel like they’re getting a raw deal with either of these SUVs but we think that the Palisade offers better value overall. It features more standard horsepower, more interior space, better interior quality, more available luxury features, and a longer warranty on top of all that. The only caveat is that those who absolutely need great fuel efficiency can’t really get it in the Hyundai.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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