Few automakers have the quiet confidence of Hyundai, and nothing in its lineup is a better example of exactly that than the plus-sized Palisade.
This is an SUV that took the fight directly to its rivals and immediately shook up one of the most important segments in the industry. It’s got style in spades, plenty of power, and a long list of features that make it a prime choice amongst people-movers this size.
With subtle styling and technology tweaks, the 2023 Hyundai Palisade continues to push upmarket with its premium content – and pricing to match. Thankfully, it still does what it needs to, and it does it all well enough to deliver strong value in a crowded field of three-rows.
Chances are, those shopping for a sport utility this size are doing so because they need the space that comes with it. If that’s the case, consider the Palisade a solid pick – although there are others that do better in that regard. There’s the gigantic Volkswagen Atlas, for instance, while the Buick Enclave is another behemoth in the segment.
It’s not as if this Hyundai is small, however, with well-used dimensions and lots of room for small items. Where the Palisade is noticeably cramped compared to those rivals and beyond is the third row, which won’t be much good to anyone beyond preadolescent age. It’s technically supposed to accommodate three passengers across, but even children are likely to find the roughly 1,092-mm (43-in) bench on the narrow side.
In that way, the Palisade feels closer to the GMC Acadia that ranks near the bottom of the segment in terms of size instead of the VW Atlas that sits at the top. However, with the ability to pull 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) – plus a new tow mode to optimize the powertrain’s performance, and auto-levelling rear suspension – it offers competitive towing ability for the segment. Cargo room is reasonable, too, with 509 L with all seats upright and 1,297 L with the third row folded.
The 3.8L V6 that powers the Palisade generates plenty of output, while the eight-speed automatic transmission is quick to kick down a gear in response to sudden throttle input, making passing on stretches of single-lane highway about as easy as it gets. Torque is what matters most when moving the kind of mass this SUV is capable of, with a progressive build-up towards the peak of 262 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Considering the Palisade’s size, plus its standard all-wheel drive, fuel consumption is so-so for the segment, with the 10.1 L/100 km burned during a 210-km initial evaluation drive better than its official combined rating (11.2). V6-powered competitors like the Atlas and Enclave have worse ratings, while the GMC Acadia, Nissan Pathfinder, and Honda Pilot are a little better. Meanwhile, the sleek and stylish Mazda CX-9 and Subaru Ascent that get their power from turbocharged four-cylinder engines are better still.
Driving Feel: 8/10
The steering is awfully light for a three-row SUV that tips the scales at roughly 2,000 kg (4,409 lb), although that has its benefits when navigating parking lots and the like at low speeds. It also firms up quite nicely as the pace quickens, although it still lacks outright feel – a by-product of its electric operation. Otherwise, the Palisade isn’t too tippy or top-heavy in spite of its size, with a solid and planted poise here that can be felt from the driver’s seat.
While the steering feel fails to convey the weight of this three-row, it feels smooth both around town and on the highway. It manages imperfect surfaces well, and that’s in spite of the 20-inch wheels that are standard across the lineup. Ride quality is impressive, with the Palisade outperforming some high-priced rivals with fancy adaptive suspension systems. It’s reasonably quiet, too, although this tester generated noticeable levels of tire noise on smooth asphalt – even with its all-season rubber.
Despite being billed as high-end Nappa leather – which is something of an arbitrary term, it’s worth noting – the upholstery in this range-topping tester feels just OK. The non-perforated portions in particular are unspectacular, although the seats themselves certainly look nice. They’re also heated and ventilated both up front and in the second row, while the driver’s seat now offers pseudo-massage functionality.
The 2023 Palisade adds a Lexus-like aggression to its looks, with a massive grille that incorporates its signal lights in a similar way to the smaller Tucson crossover as well as the Santa Cruz pickup that’s based on it. Simple crease lines make it less slab-sided than it would be otherwise, while the top trim’s new wheels look as if they were borrowed directly from Lincoln’s lineup.
The interior’s new centrepiece is a massive 12.3-inch touchscreen, while the air vents have been updated; otherwise, it’s largely the same as before. That’s mostly fine, even in the top-of-the-line Ultimate Calligraphy trim that makes the biggest strides towards the middle ground between mainstream and premium entries, although the console controls aren’t much to look at.
User Friendliness: 9/10
Not only does the push-button gear selector look and feel a little chintzy, but it’s not nearly as intuitive as the type of T-selector that’s typical of SUVs like this one. But then the rest of the physical controls for everything from climate and audio to drive mode and ignition stop-start are worthy of praise.
When it comes to the latter, the fuel-saving system doesn’t play as well with the auto brake hold function as it probably should, with the Palisade lurching awkwardly away from a stop when they’re both engaged. Of course, the simple solution is to use one and not the other, but then that sort of defeats the purpose of them in the first place.
Big windows all around make the most of outward visibility, while the large doors mean climbing in and out easy. Reconfiguring the rear seats for accessibility or storage (or both) is simple, too, with buttons and levers galore – particularly with the powered mechanisms to stow and raise the third-row seats that come in all but the base version. Every trim, meanwhile, features second-row release buttons in the cargo area, plus one-touch switches to make accessing the third row easy.
There will be some sticker shock for those who have been keeping an eye on the Palisade’s price since it launched a few short years ago, and rightfully so. Even skipping past the base front-wheel-drive version that was discontinued in favour of a full all-wheel-drive lineup, this three-row costs thousands of dollars more now than it did before.
Part of it comes down to the simplified lineup, which now has three trims to choose from: Preferred, Urban, and Ultimate Calligraphy. Beyond ditching the entry-level Essential trim of old, however, the 2023 Hyundai Palisade Preferred starts at $47,799 plus a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,975. That’s $2,300 more than the same trim cost when it launched, and $7,300 more than the original point of entry.
Meanwhile, the Urban trim that effectively replaces the old Luxury version starts at $52,999 before freight and tax ($53,499 with second-row captain’s chairs), while the range-topping Ultimate Calligraphy comes in at $56,599 before extras. Any paint colour other than white adds $250 regardless of trim.
Of all that makes the Palisade so compelling, its feature count ranks near the top. Beyond stuff like all-wheel drive and a robust advanced safety suite (more on that shortly), there’s the 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s new for this year, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a heated steering wheel and front and second-row seats in every trim.
The Urban trim gets even more good stuff, like an all-digital instrument cluster, 12-speaker stereo, power-folding third-row seats, ventilated front seats, and faux-leather upholstery. Then there’s the Ultimate Calligraphy that gets a fixed panoramic sunroof (a conventional one is standard), suede headliner, leather upholstery, ventilated second-row seats, and a wireless phone charger that works faster than before.
A full advanced safety suite is standard, with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking that includes pedestrian and cyclist detection; a junction turn assist system that can warn of oncoming traffic when making a left-hand turn; blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert; a safe exit assist system that can prevent the rear doors from being opened should a vehicle be approaching from behind; lane-keeping assistance; and adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic.
The Urban trim adds blind-view monitoring that provides a live look at either side of the vehicle when the corresponding signal is activated, as well as Hyundai’s highway driving assist that automates steering inputs – although it still requires two hands on the wheel. In addition to a camera-based rear-view mirror and head-up display, the Ultimate Calligraphy gets an even more advanced version of that drive-assist system that can automatically change lanes when the signal is activated.
However, there’s something contradictory about how it all works. The system will cancel automated lane changes at the slightest hint of driver input, while also warning to keep two hands on the wheel when attempting to feather it instead. Even then, it’s easy enough to disable those features without losing lane-keeping or adaptive cruise functionality.
For all the great stuff the 2023 Hyundai Palisade offers, there are at least a few omissions and oddities that betray its modernity. For example, there’s no centralized close and lock function for the power tailgate, while the smartphone connections are wired. There’s also that standard-sized sunroof above the front seats with its manually operated cover, and there’s no Wi-Fi hotspot that rivals like the Ford Explorer offer. While those grievances are fairly minor, they aren’t out of line with expectations of less expensive SUVs, let alone ones that cost between $50,000 and $60,000 before tax.
It’s not as if the Palisade’s asking price is totally unreasonable when what it comes with is taken into account, however. The problem isn’t so much the price itself, then, but the packaging. Ditching a true entry-level trim means a big financial leap, with the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot both cheaper to start (they can easily cost as much or more higher in their lineups).
But then there’s that move upmarket. It’s not as if the Palisade is in BMW or Mercedes-Benz territory, but it’s certainly a superior product to Hyundais past in every way imaginable. It also wouldn’t be unreasonable to compare it with Buick’s Enclave or even an entry-level Lincoln Aviator, both of which cost substantially more. That’s not bad company to keep for what remains one of the best mainstream three-row SUVs on the market.
|Peak Horsepower||291 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.6 / 9.5 / 11.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||509 / 1,297 / 2,447 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2023 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy|
|Price as Tested||$58,924|
$250 – Steel Graphite paint, $250