Expert Reviews

2023 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy Review

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

Canadians in the market for a family-hauling three-row SUV couldn’t have picked a better time to buy.

OK, the global semiconductor shortage is still impacting production, resulting in longer-than-normal lead times; and there’s the pesky problem of soaring interest rates. But aside from all that, there’s an amazing selection of this sport utilities to choose from. If that weren’t enough, segment favourites like the 2023 Hyundai Palisade have been updated to make them more competitive than ever.

Styling: 7/10

An evolution of the Palisade we first saw a few short years ago, the biggest change for 2023 is the grille, which is bold – if a bit busy – on this range-topping Ultimate Calligraphy trim. It’s a little more subdued on lesser trims, but the satin metal-look accents and oversized lights certainly make a statement here.

The profile and rear end are less distinctive, resembling many of the other SUVs in the segment. It’s handsome but not overly original, with new wheel designs setting the 2023 Palisade apart from those that came before it.

The interior is contemporary, with an overall look that appears cribbed from a modern Mercedes-Benz, giving it a decidedly upscale flavour. There’s a broad touchscreen and digital instrument display dominating the dash, with the rest accented by satin-finish touches and a swath of plastic meant to look like the inlaid wood found in much costlier machines.

Comfort: 9/10

In a family hauler like this one, it’s more important for an interior to feel good than look good, and the Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy offers plenty of comfort for its occupants. The first- and second rows offer captain’s chairs with plenty of adjustability, plus they’re both heated and ventilated. There’s also a pseudo-massage system for the driver’s seat in this top trim that helps stretch and improve circulation – something that came in handy during a multi-hour drive into Ontario’s cottage country.

The second-row seats can slide fore and aft on their rails, allowing for enormous legroom, or adequate just adequate space in the third row, but not both at the same time. The rearmost seats are snug compared to the ones in the Honda Pilot – which was redesigned for 2023 – or Volkswagen Atlas, as well as the Nissan Pathfinder, but they’re more spacious than those in the Mazda CX-9 and segment sales champion Toyota Highlander. Big cup holders, USB-C charging ports, and dedicated climate vents make the space reasonably functional.

Features: 8/10

In typical Hyundai fashion, it’s chock-full of features for the money – even at this top trim’s price point – but there are a few omissions. Beyond the missing Wi-Fi hotspot and a close-and-lock function on the tailgate, the continued absence of wireless smartphone connectivity is a head-scratcher. And while picking nits, Hyundai’s lack of keyless entry buttons on rear doors is an aggravating inconvenience. In fairness, those access-related complaints can be solved by programming the Palisade to lock and unlock automatically when approaching or leaving the vehicle.

There’s plenty more on offer here, like a powerful sound system, dual-panel sunroof, heated steering wheel, customizable gauges, and interior mood lighting, and onboard navigation. That’s all in addition to those great seats mentioned above, plus wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections. Hyundai also offers its subscription-based connected services that enable various functions to be controlled using a paired smartphone.

User-Friendliness: 7/10

The Palisade’s controls are well thought out with proper, user-friendly knobs for audio volume and tuning, plus temperature control, thus graciously avoiding the current trend of utilizing haptic controls and smudge-prone panels. Physical buttons are also present and easily found for seat heat and cooling, plus the heated steering wheel, and key system menu options for the infotainment unit, with a screen that’s grown this year to 12.3 inches and presents bright, crisp graphics. The steering wheel controls are also sensibly laid out.

The only ergonomic faux pas to speak of is the tedious push-button gear selector, which frees up cockpit space but requires an extra second of looking and pushing than is required to operate a preferred lever or rotary control found in other models.

Practicality: 9/10

Beyond the seating capacity for seven (or eight, depending on the trim), the Palisade offers a sizable cargo hold that will swallow 509 L worth of stuff behind the third-row seat. Both the second- and third-row seats easily fold flat at the touch of a button, increasing the available real estate to a maximum of 2,447 L, which sits solidly mid-pack within the segment.

Safety: 8/10

The Palisade’s extensive advanced safety features proved to be easily stymied by the winter weather experienced during this test – a common problem for many vehicles that use sensors and cameras for these systems. There’s an added level of anxiety here thanks to the repeated reminders about the inoperable safety sensors that include a distracting visual warning.

Additionally, once during testing while pulling out of a parking lot, a bold warning dominated the display proclaiming the vehicle was travelling the wrong way and should turn around. While the feature may be helpful if a driver inadvertently drives against traffic down a one-way street, this inaccurate warning stubbornly stuck around for the entire 30-minute drive home – even after pulling over, shutting the vehicle off, and starting it again.

When working properly, though, the Palisade is well-stocked with features that help with everything from emergency front and rear braking to lane-centring, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. Both the not-for-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2022 Palisade top marks for safety during their testing. The 2023 Palisade had not been tested at the time of this writing.

Driving Feel: 7/10

For a large vehicle, the Palisade manages itself well on the road. Handling and braking are both competent, and the big Hyundai feels well-planted during cornering at moderate speeds. The Palisade has a luxurious ride that smooths out all but the nastiest of bumps despite its massive 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires. There are several drive modes that range from eco to comfort and sport that offer variances in throttle responsiveness and transmission shift points. There’s hill descent control and a trio of off-road drive modes including sand, mud, and snow, plus a new tow mode.

Power: 7/10

The three-row segment is split between naturally aspirated V6 and turbocharged four-cylinder power. The Palisade uses the former, and it’s very much to its credit. While smaller turbo motors can offer more low-rev torque, the Palisade’s 262 lb-ft is competitive with the other machines in the segment. It’s also a smoother and nicer sounding engine than the smaller ones in some competitors, and there’s enough power to help the Palisade pull away from a stop or pass slower traffic quite effortlessly. The Palisade has a 2,268-kg (5,000-lb) tow rating.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

The Palisade’s combined average of 11.2 L/100 km puts it only slightly behind the likes of Mazda’s CX-9 and the Subaru Ascent that use turbo four-cylinders, and right on par with (or better than) V6-powered offerings like the VW Atlas, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder. The Palisade requires regular-grade gas, and its 71-L fuel tank gives it decent range.

During storm-laden testing, with the majority of the driving occurring on highways and snow-covered secondary roads, the Palisade showed a very reasonable average consumption rate of 10.3 L/100 km.

Value: 7/10

Hyundai has streamlined the Palisade lineup by scrapping the entry-level Essential trim. Now the lineup starts with the $47,999 Preferred trim, moving up to the Urban that adds several high-tech features, a premium sound system, ventilated seats, and blacked-out trim for $53,199. Topping the range is the Ultimate Calligraphy tested here that’s $56,799 and steps up the feature count further with nicer interior materials (including Nappa leather upholstery), a head-up display, the distinct grille treatment, and Hyundai’s so-called “Smart Park” feature that lets a driver move the vehicle forward or aft from the key fob. A non-negotiable destination charge adds another $1,975 to the asking price.

While some competitors offer lower starting points, the Palisade remains competitive against the best in the class.

The Verdict

When the Palisade first landed in 2020 it showed Hyundai was serious about competing with the very best in the segment. It’s been a popular choice ever since, and the updates for 2023 will surely help it continue to be even as new and refreshed competition comes on to the scene. The 2023 Hyundai Palisade is a large, practical, and very well-equipped machine that should give families just what they need in a three-row hauler.

Engine Displacement 3.8L
Engine Cylinders V6
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
Base Price $56,799
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,975
Price as Tested $59,124
Optional Equipment
$250 – Steel Graphite paint, $250