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Mark Richardson's dog, Elvis, sits in the back of a 2020 Hyundai Palisade with handler Richard Lafond.

Mark Richardson

My dog, Elvis, is used to riding in different cars. If he had his way, he’d go for a ride in every car with an open door. His first experience with us, collecting him from his breeder five years ago in Memphis, was a two-day drive north to his new home through unfamiliar snow, and he watched the endless traffic slide past through droopy, resigned eyes.

Most drives now are quick visits across town, heading to the park or to visit friends or family who love dogs, so they always have a happy ending. There was that one visit to the vet that led to a Cone of Shame and two missing items of tackle, but he doesn’t think about that anymore; at least, I don’t think he does. I’m not sure what he thinks when he’s in the car, but he still wants to ride in anything with wheels.

The bigger the better, of course, because he’s an 80-pound spaniel and needs some room to stretch out. So on paper, at least, the Hyundai Palisade would seem as good as it gets. The third row of seats folds flat, creating almost 1,300 litres of space without having to drop the second row. That’s plenty of room to look out the windows, to wonder where we’re going and how long it will take.

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Today would be a different trip, however: a three-hour highway run to Ancaster, Ont., for his first dog show. There could be no issues with the vehicle. We had to arrive in plenty of time, comfortable and relaxed. There would be enough stress in the show ring.

The three-row Palisade presented Elvis with plenty of room to stretch out.

Let me back up. I hate dog shows. My mother bred dogs in the U.K., and I spent almost every weekend of my preteen years at shows, bored stupid. I swore that when I grew up, I would never go to another dog show; as an adult, my own dog was always a rescued mutt.

But then a few years ago, my wife and I decided to give a home to a purebred Clumber Spaniel because I’d always gravitated to them at the British dog shows. We found Elvis, and we’ve been inseparable ever since that long drive through the snow.

There are very few Clumber Spaniels in Canada, maybe 50 or so, and now there was a specialty show for the breed. The call went out to breeders and owners to bring their pups, and a friend who actually enjoys showing dogs offered to handle Elvis in the ring. How could I refuse? I bit the bullet and registered him for the “altered” class, to fly the flag.

The Palisade has a driver intercom system that makes it easy to communicate with backseat passengers at normal volume.

Mark Richardson

So here we were, driving down the 401 toward Ancaster on a pleasant Sunday morning. The Palisade was certainly comfortable. Elvis wasn’t complaining. I chatted to him during the drive with the Driver Talk intercom system. This allows the driver to talk at normal volume through an intercom to the rear row, without having to turn and yell into the back as our parents did with us. I don’t know if this worked to comfort Elvis; it probably just annoyed him.

On the long, straight highway, I could set the active cruise control and the Palisade’s lane-assistance feature, and not have to touch the pedals or the wheel for minutes at a time. The vehicle would hold its place in the lane and at a safe distance behind traffic without any input from me, at least until we came to sharper curves in the road; the record was eight-and-a-half minutes.

The Palisade's active cruise control and lane-keeping assist made for a relaxing drive.

Mark Richardson

Even so, I kept my eyes on the road, and the Palisade did an admirable job of slowing and resuming speed and keeping everything inside quiet and relaxed.

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We arrived at the show in plenty of time, rested and ready to take on the world. Sadly, my dog-handling friend who was driving separately in a Jeep took a wrong turn along the way and arrived late, both haggard and high-strung. For a while, it seemed I would have to step into the ring to handle Elvis, but all ended as it should. Almost 20 Clumbers were there and Elvis won his class.

Elvis performed admirably in the show ring and won his class.

Mark Richardson

“You know,” I said to my wife on the drive home, as the wheel and the pedals took care of themselves on the straight, smooth highway, “this dog-showing thing was kinda fun. Maybe we should do it again.” And I pressed the button for the intercom to the third row. “What would you think of that, Elvis?”

Elvis didn’t reply. He was watching the endless traffic slide past on the other side of the rear window, wondering where we were going and how long it would take.

Tech specs

2020 Hyundai Palisade
  • Base price/As tested: $38,699 / $51,226
  • Engine: 3.8-litre V-6
  • Transmission/Drive: 8-speed automatic / AWD
  • Fuel economy: (litres/100 km) 12.3 City, 9.6 Hwy. 11.1 comb.
  • Alternatives: Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Subaru Ascent, Honda Pilot

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

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