Class: Midsize Crossover/SUV
Miles driven: 271
Fuel used: 16.8 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Real-world fuel economy: 16.1 mpg
Driving mix: 75% city, 35% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/24/21 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $47,750 (not including $1175 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Carpeted floor mats ($180)
Price as tested: $49,105
The great: Impressive passenger room and cargo space, classy cabin trim with standard high-end features, strong dollar value
The good: Acceleration, ride quality, cabin small-item storage space, assembly quality
The not so good: Audio tuning knob a long reach for some drivers, some control buttons difficult to see in certain lighting conditions; disappointing observed fuel economy in predominantly city driving in cold, snowy weather
When the Hyundai Palisade came out for 2020 as a thoroughly modernized replacement for the South Korean automaker’s Santa Fe XL 3-row midsize crossover SUV, Consumer Guide quickly embraced it as one of its “Best Buys” in the class. One of the few complaints we could raise against the Palisade was that the top-trim Limited model seemed relatively expensive.
Apparently, Hyundai didn’t see things that way because for 2021 it adds a new line leader that’s pricier still. The Calligraphy is a deluxe-trim Palisade with a starting price (including delivery) of $48,955 with all-wheel drive.
Calligraphy’s added features are interior and exterior appearance items that make it $925 more expensive than a Limited. Inside the new model are quilted leather door panels; a perforated surface for the heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel; microfiber headliner; and premium sill plate for the lip of the cargo bay. You’ll know one when you see one on the street by the model-specific design of its 20-inch alloy wheels, triangle-surface grille, distinct front and rear bumper valances, bright lower-body and rear-bumper moldings, mirror-projected puddle lights, and a wider center high-mount stop light above the rear window.
While all of that pushes up the cost, none of it dilutes the Palisade’s strengths, things like passenger room and cargo space, premium-feel cabin materials, engine and chassis performance, assembly quality, and overall dollar value.
No matter what a buyer spends for a Palisade, it’s going to come with a 3.8-liter V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, this big-for-the-class powerplant is ready to get up and go from a stop—CG tests of a 2020 Limited found it could get to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds—and decently prompt transmission kickdown makes for no-drama highway passing capability. When outfitted with trailer brakes, the Palisade is rated to tow up to 5000 pounds. EPA fuel-economy estimates for AWD Palisades are 19 mpg in city driving, 24 mpg in highway operation, and 21 combined. This reviewer’s 65.5-mile stint in the Calligraphy, made up of 55 percent city-style driving, worked out to a modest 19.7 mpg. With a higher percentage of city driving, other CG editors did worse, though the frigid temps and blizzard-level snowfall during our test was a factor. However, it’s worth noting that CG editors collectively got close to 23 mpg (with a majority of highway miles) in their ’20 test.
The test truck exhibited a commendably smooth ride with good bump absorption. It handled well, too—when fully planted on pavement. However, snow-covered side streets found it getting squirmy and less responsive, even with the “Snow” drive mode activated.
Most Calligraphy standard equipment is shared with the Limited. That includes things like middle-row captain’s chairs; multifunction head-up display; 10.25-inch “widescreen” touchscreen display for the infotainment system that includes navigation, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity; Harman Kardon audio; dual-zone automatic climate control; adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function; dual-pane sunroof; and load-leveling rear suspension. A “Driver Talk” in-car intercom allows drivers to communicate directly to rearward passengers and has a “Sleep” mode that will play audio in the front row while turning second- and third-row speakers off so as not to disturb sleeping passengers. Seats are upholstered in Nappa leather, and are heated and ventilated in the first and second rows. All Palisades have forward-collision warning and mitigation with pedestrian detection, driver-attention warning, lane-keep assist, rear-obstacle detection, rear-occupant alert, and automatic high-beam headlights.
There’s ample head- and legroom in the first two rows, and just enough in the third row for two adults to tolerate a short trip, especially if second-row passengers can track forward a little. Middle seats have a one-touch power button within easy reach of third-row occupants that assists their entry and exit. Front- and middle-row seats exhibit comfort and good support. The driver’s position includes memory settings. The infotainment system is easy to understand and use. The instrument cluster incorporates a blind-view monitor that shows a video view of the appropriate bodyside whenever one of the turn signals is activated.
Storage spaces for personal items include big glove and console boxes, an open floor tray beneath the console, generous door pockets, and pouches on the backs of the front seats. Sixteen cup and bottle holders are arrayed through all three seating rows. USB ports built into front seat backs are accessible to second-row passengers; they are part of the total of seven device ports in the vehicle.
Cargo space with all seats up comes out to 18 cubic feet in an area large enough to hold a 100-quart cooler. There’s a handy bin under the load floor. Third-row power seat controls are included on the left side of cargo bay. Retracting the 60/40-split seats opens up 45.8 cubic feet of load space, and that grows to a maximum 86.4 cubic feet with the middle seats down. The captain’s chairs fold flat and even with the rest of the load floor, but with the usual gaps between and behind such seats. A hands-free power liftgate is standard on the Calligraphy.
Many of the features in the Limited and Calligraphy can be added to the Palisade SEL (which starts in the mid $30,000s) as options. Even if the upper models are somewhat pricey, at least Hyundai hasn’t forced shoppers to choose between their wants and their wallets.
2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)