Just as the minivan once kicked the station wagon to the curb as the family hauler of choice, the three-row SUV has now pushed aside the minivan. Since the Hyundai Palisade's introduction in 2020, it—along with the mechanically similar Kia Telluride—has been among most popular options in the segment with its combination of great value, a plush interior, and a raft of features that ease the task of ferrying a herd of children through suburban America. For 2023, Hyundai gave its three-row schooner a facelift and additional equipment. Our first drive of the new Palisade revealed a comfortable, dynamically sound crossover that can even fulfill the promise of decent, if rarely used, off-road capability.
Exploring the roads around Asheville, North Carolina, we found this Palisade to be the same friendly and easy-to-drive partner as the 2020 original. This checks out, since the 2023 update largely left the mechanicals alone, focusing instead on exterior styling and interior features. We'll let you decide whether the new armor-like grille and thick, boomerang-shaped LED headlights are attractive, but look is certainly more eye-catching than the previous iteration.
As before, the 3.8-liter V-6 produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, with the eight-speed automatic also carrying over. The Palisade is still available in front- or all-wheel drive; we sampled an all-wheel-drive Calligraphy model during our visit to Asheville. The V-6 provides adequate oomph for a vehicle of this size—the Palisade never felt lethargic in city traffic, and merging onto the highway was a breeze. We recorded a 6.9-second sprint to 60 mph for the Palisade in a 2020 comparison test, and we'd expect a similar result with the new version.
While ascending a steep hill can sometimes leave the transmission flummoxed, shuffling through the ratios as it searches for the right gear, the eight-speed generally shifts smoothly around town. Mashing the throttle can also catch the transmission off guard, although switching into Sport mode provides more aggressive shifts. The Palisade is also fitted with paddle shifters, but don't be fooled into thinking they make this big SUV an engaging drive. Their unhurried shifts didn't make the Palisade noticeably quicker.
The steering is precise and sufficiently weighty—switching to Sport mode adds heft but no feedback. The Palisade rides fairly smoothly, although it can feel a bit taut over rougher pavement, and body roll is well controlled for such a large vehicle. The brakes, while devoid of feel, stop the 4500-pound SUV well enough (hauling it down from 70 mph in a class-competitive 173 feet in that 2020 comparison test). Hyundai touted increased sound deadening for 2023, but we still heard a fair amount of wind noise whooshing by the sizable side-view mirrors at highway speeds.
While the school pickup line and Target parking lot are the Palisade's usual haunts, Hyundai nonetheless wanted to demonstrate the SUV's adventurous side. (A new XRT trim level plays up that theme but doesn't include any meaningful hardware upgrades.) On a mild off-road trail, traversing through muddy puddles and deep ruts, the Palisade proved to be a surprisingly capable companion. It absorbed small bumps well, and the ultrasharp front, rear, and bird's-eye camera views helped us avoid skirmishes with rocks and trees. Still, the pavement-oriented tires struggled for grip in the mud, and we wouldn't recommend pushing the Palisade beyond a dirt two-track.
Inside, the Palisade is just as pleasant as before. Hyundai provides a luxurious cabin for a fairly affordable price, with the top-of-the-line Calligraphy model starting at $50,195 (add $1900 for all-wheel drive). The Calligraphy's interior is full of supple materials, such as the nappa leather that wraps the extremely comfortable seats. New for 2023 is the Ergo Motion driver's seat, which automatically starts massaging your back and bottom during a long drive to help reduce fatigue. The seats also tighten the bolstering around your ribs when you engage Sport mode, making you feel more snug when you're navigating twistier roads or just need a hug.
The Palisade now comes standard with a 12.0-inch touchscreen, which displays a crisp, modern graphics, and the refresh adds several features that are crucial for placating a crowd. Along with available heated and ventilated seats in the first two rows, the third row gains optional heated seats—just like the new Range Rover—while the second row is also fitted with adjustable wings on the headrests to keep noggins from flopping over during naptime. The Palisade becomes the first Hyundai to offer a Wi-Fi hotspot, providing 4G LTE service from Verizon, and it features the latest version of Hyundai Digital Key, which allows owners to use an iPhone, an Apple Watch, or a Samsung Galaxy to lock, unlock, and start their car in lieu of a key. Six USB-C and one USB-A port plus a wireless charging pad should keep everyone's devices charged up.
Parents will also be happy to hear that the 2023 Palisade adds side-impact airbags in the second row, and parking-collision-avoidance assist joins a host of other driver assistance features. There is also a digital rearview mirror for increased visibility when the Palisade is full up with passengers or cargo, auto-dimming mirrors to reduce glare, and a new Tow mode (although towing capacity remains 5000 pounds). With all of these new features coming for around $50,000—and many of them available on cheaper trims—the 2023 Palisade continues to make a strong value argument while providing competent driving dynamics and adding an uptick in freshness to the design.
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