Class: Midsize Crossover
Color: Moonlight Cloud
|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.
Miles driven: 847
Observed fuel economy: 20.6 mpg
Driving mix: 25% city, 75% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/25/21 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $49,200 (not including $1295 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Special paint ($400)
Price as tested: $50,495
The great: Premium cabin appointments, generous passenger space
The good: Plenty of power, decent fuel economy, long-trip comfort
The not so good: More highway road noise than we’d like
How brand conscious are you? I ask, because you can pay an awful lot for a badge. I think you know where this is going…
A couple of years ago, I got a call from a colleague regarding my relatively positive take on Cadillac’s midsize 3-row XT6 crossover. And, indeed, I found the XT6 to be a nicely finished and extremely refined vehicle; an excellent multi-passenger highway long-haul cruiser. After defending my position on the XT6, I asked what he would suggest instead of the Caddy. “Palisade” he said. “Hmm,” I thought.
Here at Consumer Guide, we generally recommend cross shopping within category. And, the Palisade (Midsize Crossover) and the XT6 (Premium Midsize Crossover) are in different categories. The distinction between categories primarily comes down to body type and price range, and thus the Hyundai and the Caddy play in different strata. But the question raised by my colleague is, do they really?
A bit of history: The Hyundai Palisade and close cousin Kia Telluride were introduced for the 2020 model year. Both vehicles represented exceptional dollar value, and offered near full-size SUV room and comfort at a midsize crossover price. And, even the mid-level trims were very nicely equipped and finished.
For 2021, Hyundai added a new top trim level to the Palisade lineup: Calligraphy. If you were only a casual industry observer, you might think that Hyundai was overreaching with the Calligraphy, but consumers seem impressed. Hyundai reports that Calligraphy models account for roughly 40 percent of Palisade sales. Additionally, during my first test drive of a Palisade Calligraphy, two separate strangers asked me if I was driving the new Range Rover. Really.
Now, other mainstream brands offer high-end versions of their midsize crossovers. The Toyota Highlander Platinum and the Ford Explorer King Ranch both play as near-premium vehicles, but the Palisade takes things a half step further.
For 2023, the Palisade lineup ascends through five trim levels: base SE, popular SEL, new XRT, well-equipped Limited, and luxury-level Calligraphy. The new XRT sports an off-road theme, and is similar in concept to the new Ford Explorer Timberline. All Palisades come with 3-row seating. Base prices for the Palisade lineup range from about $35,000 to $50,000. So, if you’re not thinking about a premium crossover experience, you can still build a nicely equipped Palisade for less than $40,000.
Among the many things separating the Calligraphy from lesser Palisades are a unique grille, specific exterior trim, unique 20-inch alloy wheels, Nappa leather seating surfaces, massaging seats, ambient cabin lighting, and a generally more upscale interior.
A 2023 Palisade freshening brings with it blockier exterior design, a higher-resolution touchscreen, and Wi-Fi hotspot.
All Palisades are powered by s stout 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Power goes to the front wheels unless AWD is ordered.
Consumer Guide spent time with an AWD Calligraphy. Essentially a one-price trim level, our test car came to $52,395, including the only available option, extra cost paint (Moonlight Cloud, $400).
Inside, the luxury-alternative thing comes across pretty convincingly. The fluted leather door trim, matte-finish aluminum accents, and weathered-look wood inlays not only look high-end, the modern design looks like something you’d find in a top-trim-level Audi or Volvo. Color us impressed. The cabin is functional as well. The control layout is uncomplicated, and touch-screen operation is easy to learn and simple to manage. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, by the way.
There’s plenty of adult space in the front and 2nd rows. The third row, which is relatively easy to reach, will accommodate a midsize adult for a reasonable amount of time, though in practice we’d reserve placement for younger and more nimble passengers. If there’s a single metric by which the Calligraphy fails its luxury mission, it might be cabin noise. Windrush levels, though acceptable at this price point, are high for the premium crossover class. Fortunately, the excellent Harmon Kardon sound system provides plenty of incentive to turn up the music and squelch the noise.
Moving along, the large V6 serves up plenty of useful torque at low speed and ample passing and merging power. When pushed the engine sounds refined, and is hardly heard in relaxed cruising.
Our test-drive experience include some serious highway time. Before hitting the road we were averaging a reasonable 18.9 mpg in mostly city driving. After a quick run to Des Moines, Iowa from the Chicago area, our average fuel economy jumped to 20.6 mpg, not bad given that the vehicle was well loaded with people and stuff.
On the highway, we found the headlights aimed too low for easy sign reading at night. Though the road ahead was well illuminated, speed-limit and other signs were located just above the light field. This may be a problem easily fixed by a simple adjustment.
As for cargo, the Palisade provides plenty of useful storage space in back. A relatively low floor helps when loading and unloading the big stuff.
While there’s nothing wrong with driving a Hyundai, driving a Palisade Calligraphy is very much like driving a vehicle $10,000-20,000 more expensive. While we wouldn’t fault shoppers for opting for the more affordable Limited trim level, the Calligraphy might represent the best value option in the Palisade lineup. If you’re not especially brand conscious, Hyundai has a luxury-crossover deal for you.
2023 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)