A Top Choice Among Midsize SUVs, the Calligraphy Is Pricey
- Trim Tested: Palisade Calligraphy AWD
- Price as Tested: $52,310 (including destination charge)
- What We Like: User-friendly controls; roomy
- What We Don’t: Calligraphy is expensive
Hyundai’s largest SUV, the Palisade, debuted in 2020 and quickly became a top pick in the midsize 3-row SUV segment. Now, the Palisade has gotten a refresh for the first time since its debut. It’s not a full redesign – the 2023 we tested looks very similar to the 2022. But the Palisade still has a few new tricks for ’23, including a massaging driver’s seat and a heated third row, both available in the range-topping Calligraphy trim we tested.
Choosing the $50,000 Calligraphy over the $36,000 base SE means getting loads of features, including larger wheels, leather seats, a Harman Kardon stereo, and a dual-panel sunroof. However, if it were my money, I’d skip the Calligraphy in favor of the $39,000 SEL, which is one trim up from the SE and comes with lots of desirable stuff, such as leatherette (instead of cloth), heated and power-adjustable front seats, and automatic climate control.
Still, having the Calligraphy gave us a chance to test out every feature available in the Palisade, which we did during the week that we had it.
How It Drives
All Palisades come with a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine that knocks out highway passing duties with a lovely V6 growl. Different drive modes adjust the behavior of the engine and transmission – an 8-speed automatic – to make them more responsive or smoother. In Sport Mode, it felt lively – having a conventional transmission instead of a CVT helped. The Palisade can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is expected for a midsize SUV.
The Palisade felt composed around corners for such a big vehicle, helped no doubt by its nicely tuned 4-wheel independent suspension and smooth ride quality. It doesn’t feel as nimble as a Mazda CX-9, but it’s also larger, and the space seems worth the tradeoff.
Our test vehicle came with the optional all-wheel drive (AWD) system, which costs around $2,000. Hyundai positions the Palisade as a light off-roader and the related Kia Telluride as more rugged. Neither are rock crawlers, and the AWD knocks a few points off of the fuel economy, so buyers should only check that box if they deal with slippery roads regularly.
Interior Comfort & Quality
The Palisade Calligraphy packs on the luxury interior features: quilted leather door panels, a microfiber headliner, dual sunroofs, and colorful ambient cabin lighting. However, its $50,000 price puts it in the company of real luxury vehicles: the 3-row Mercedes GLE is under $60,000, and the Acura MDX is $49,550. The Palisade Calligraphy can’t match those vehicles’ refinement, but it offers more features for the money and a lot of space.
All three rows of the Palisade have above-average room for passengers. In the Calligraphy trim, the first row has a massaging driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated Nappa leather upholstery, and power adjustment. The second row has heated and cooled captain’s chairs that recline and slide. Second-row passengers also have their own climate controls and multiple charging ports, including a household outlet. The third row reclines at the touch of a button and has heating, which is unusual for this class. Accessing the cargo area, all 86.4 cubic feet of it, is easy with buttons in the back to fold the second and third rows.
Technology & Usability
For 2023, Hyundai upgraded the digital gauge in top models like the Calligraphy. The sharp new screen displays key details from various systems. My favorite is the readout from the Highway Driving Assist II (HDA II) system, which can drive the Palisade without human intervention for short distances. While HDA II was on, the digital gauge showed a graphic depicting the cars around me on the highway.
The number of safety features in the Palisade is impressive: automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, bicycle, and pedestrian detection, and a 360-degree camera. Remote Smart Parking Assist can pull the Palisade out of a tight parking spot without anyone inside.
The infotainment system is a straightforward touchscreen with simple graphics. It doesn’t bury key buttons behind digital menus; volume and radio tuning get their own knobs, as do driver and passenger temperature control. When in doubt, Hyundai seems to default to big buttons with clear labels. The result is straightforward to use and attractive.
Read our full 2023 Hyundai Palisade review for more specs and information about the entire Palisade lineup.
Carfax vehicle reviews let shoppers compare a vehicle’s specs against its competitors. However, some aspects of a vehicle – performance, comfort, usability – can only be evaluated through actual driving. That’s why we evaluate as many vehicles as we can, so you’ll know what to expect.
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