2023 Hyundai Palisade Review and Test Drive
An impressive all-arounder designed for American families.
They say the third time's the charm, and for Hyundai’s quest to build a competitive three-row, midsize SUV, that’s undoubtedly true. When the automaker replaced the Santa Fe XL with the first generation Palisade a few years back, it found an eager base of buyers who sought its combination of value, quality, utility, and style. Now, the 2023 Hyundai Palisade gets several updates that make it better than ever.
Hyundai says it aims the 2023 Palisade at Millennial parents with two or more kids. They’re professionally employed, live in the suburbs, and earn an upper-middle-class income. To keep this contingent interested in the 2023 Palisade, Hyundai updates the styling, freshens the interior, adds new technology, and debuts a rugged-looking XRT trim level. The company also makes a few structural changes in an effort to hopefully improve the Palisade’s crash-test rating in a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) assessment.
For 2023, the Palisade lineup includes SE, SEL, XRT, Limited, and Calligraphy trim levels. At the start of the model year, base prices range from the mid-$30,000s to the low $50,000s, including the destination charge to ship the SUV from the Ulsan, South Korea, factory that builds it to your local dealership.
For this 2023 Hyundai Palisade review, I test-drove the Calligraphy in Southern California. It came with all-wheel drive and carpeted floor mats, bringing the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) to $52,610, including the $1,295 destination charge. Hyundai provided the vehicle for this Palisade review.
2023 Hyundai Palisade Review: The Design
Hyundai’s efforts to improve the 2023 Palisade’s looks are easy to see. The chubby-cheeked face is gone, replaced by a more technical appearance that I would describe as an “angry alien.” I think the new grille, lighting, and fascia make the Palisade even more distinctive while adding a layer of modernity to the SUV.
The revised front end and restyled rear bumper also alter the SUV’s proportions, and the 2023 Palisade is half an inch longer than before, with the added length evident forward of the front wheels. In addition, new 18-inch and 20-inch alloy wheel designs debut, and the Palisade Calligraphy trim offers an exclusive Robust Emerald paint color for the new model year.
Inside, the Palisade gets a new instrument panel, reworked instrumentation, a redesigned steering wheel, and changes to the interior lighting, control surfaces, and materials. As a result, the overall ambiance aligns with recent Hyundais, and the quality matches newer Genesis models. In addition, the increased use of matte black control surfaces with white markings makes more of the buttons easier to see and operate. At night, the cabin is illuminated by lavender blue control lighting.
Hyundai’s three-row SUV retains its floating center console design with a storage tray beneath. Unfortunately, the design is limited because you cannot see the lower tray or its contents while driving. The automaker tries to overcome this limitation by making the cupholders into a multi-functional bin with a tray-style cover. Other storage locations remain helpful, and several are genuinely thoughtful, like the front and rear door armrest slots perfect for holding smartphones, separate device storage pockets in the second row, and cupholders placed where children can easily reach them.
New 2023 Palisades continue to offer three rows of comfortable seats. The Calligraphy test vehicle’s eight-way power driver’s seat supplies a good driving position and offers an adjustable thigh-support cushion. However, I wished for a greater range of adjustability, especially concerning the bottom cushion angle.
With Calligraphy trim, the 2023 Palisade adds a new Ergo Motion driver’s seat. It contains air chambers that can intermittently inflate to help keep you fresh and alert on a long drive and side bolsters that automatically enlarge when you put the SUV into the Sport driving mode or drive it with enthusiasm. This semi-massaging driver’s seat is just one of several that help the Palisade to stand out in a crowded segment.
Second-row passengers also get comfort improvements. The center armrest is newly adjustable, and starting with the SEL Premium package, heated and ventilated front and second-row seats are standard equipment. Hyundai also offers the feature for the second-row bench seat in addition to the available captain’s chairs. Upgrade to Calligraphy trim for new wing-out second-row headrests.
Considering how roomy the second-row captain’s chairs were, the second row might be the best seating location in the Palisade. They supply plenty of leg and foot space, and the SUV offers numerous practical and thoughtful details, such as rear climate controls, heated and ventilated captain’s chairs, side window sunshades, cupholders located on the door armrests, smartphone storage pockets, and USB ports molded into the front seatback panels. The test vehicle even had a separate, oversized sunroof panel over the second row.
A power release function tilts and slides the second-row seats forward to clear pathways to the Palisade’s third-row seat. In addition, starting with Limited trim, the SUV offers a heated third-row seat, another differentiator that helps the Palisade to stand out. Additionally, the Palisade has one of the more comfortable third-row seats in the class.
All but the base Palisade SE include what Hyundai calls a “smart” power liftgate. It can sense when the keyfob is within proximity of the SUV’s back end and will automatically open so that you can load items. That is helpful when your hands are full, and you’d prefer not to balance on one foot while waving your other foot under the bumper, which is how many hands-free tailgate systems work. In addition, hopping around on one foot can be dangerous on slippery surfaces.
However, the ”smart” tailgate isn’t intelligent enough to figure out that maybe you’re just standing near the back of the SUV with the key in your pocket, like when you’re cleaning the back window of grime while filling the fuel tank.Fortunately, you can turn this feature on and off using the vehicle settings within the infotainment system’s screen.
Assuming you want the tailgate to open, you’ll find competitive cargo space for the segment. Behind the third-row seat, the Palisade supplies 18 cubic feet of cargo room, according to Hyundai. Fold it down, and you get 45.8 cu-ft of volume behind the second-row seat. Maximum cargo space measures 86.4 cu-ft with both rows of rear seats laying flat.
2023 Hyundai Palisade Review: The Technology
Hyundai’s technology upgrades are perhaps even more dramatic than the 2023 Palisade’s new front styling. The new Palisade is significantly different from last year, with updated the instrumentation, infotainment, visibility, and safety improvements.
In addition to a 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display that is standard starting with SEL Premium trim, Hyundai adds a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system on all Palisades. In addition, several new features debut in 2023.
For example, the Blue Link connected services technology, which is complimentary for the first three years of ownership, expands to include user profiles, connected navigation routing, last-mile navigation via a smartphone app, and improved voice recognition capability. Blue Link’s remote engine starting function adds climate system pre-conditioning too, so you can heat or cool the cabin before setting off in the SUV. Additionally, Blue Link adds access to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Every 2023 Palisade has an embedded navigation system. Additional features include Bluetooth connectivity for two smartphones simultaneously, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a Quiet Mode that can turn off the rear speakers when passengers sleep, while leaving speakers on in the front of the Palisade. As you climb the trim-level ladder, the Palisade adds an impressive Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with 12 speakers, an improved wireless smartphone charger, and Driver Talk, an in-vehicle intercom system that projects the driver’s voice through the stereo speakers.
The new voice recognition technology is mostly excellent, but it made one mistake when I requested a change in the cabin temperature to 72 degrees. Instead of the small tweak to cabin temperature I expected, the system cranked the heat up as high as it would go, activated the front seat heaters on the highest of their three settings, and turned on the heated steering wheel. The Palisade was the second Hyundai I’ve evaluated in recent weeks that reacted this way to that particular command.
Hyundai locates the Palisade’s available wireless smartphone charger in a reconfigurable storage area that houses the cupholders. Unfortunately, it is an inconvenient location, and when the cupholders are in use it’s difficult to retrieve your phone from the charging pad.
Additional tech upgrades for 2023 include new digital key technology that works with specific smartphones and smartwatches (all except SE trim), a new full-color 10-inch head-up display (Limited and Calligraphy), and a digital camera-based rearview mirror (Calligraphy). Digital rearview mirrors are hit-and-miss in terms of their effectiveness, and the Palisade’s is helpful in some situations. The new head-up display is a winner for its wealth of information, including blind-spot warning notifications. Unfortunately, like most systems that reflect off the windshield’s glass, it doesn’t play nice with polarized sunglasses.
Safety upgrades are also a part of the 2023 Palisade’s comprehensive makeover. New front camera and radar units improve the SUV’s forward-collision warning and collision-avoidance capabilities, and the more expensive versions of the Palisade now offer evasive steering assist, front cross-traffic warning, and collision-avoidance features related to oncoming traffic and vehicles to the Palisade’s sides. Hyundai also reports that the standard adaptive cruise control system adds a machine learning feature that adapts to how the Palisade is typically driven by its owner.
That adaptive cruise control system pairs with a lane-centering assist system to power Highway Driving Assist 1, which is now standard for 2023. It gives you a semi-autonomous driver assistance system, but you must keep your hands on the steering wheel. As an upgrade starting with the SEL Premium package, Highway Driving Assist 2 is standard, adding a lane-change assist function to the technology.
I find Highway Driving Assist 2 almost flawless, and it strikes me as ready to transition to a hands-free system like Ford BlueCruise or General Motors SuperCruise. However, you must keep your hands on the steering wheel for the technology to work. As for the adaptive cruise control system’s new machine learning capability, all I can report is that after more than 400 miles of driving the SUV, this system still took too long to get back up to the set speed after changing lanes to pass slower vehicles or as traffic ahead took an exit ramp and cleared the path ahead.
Additionally, with all the blind-spot monitoring and collision avoidance systems on board, it’s hard to imagine a driver of a high-end Palisade changing lanes and hitting someone or something. I particularly like the camera-based Blind-Spot View Monitor, which works in concert with the radar-based blind-spot warning system and shows the driver a live feed of what’s in the SUV’s blind spots as long as the driver uses the turn signal.
Lastly, during this particular evaluation week, I needed to use the surround-view camera system more often than is typical. It proved its worth when parking in cramped spaces, along curbs on busy boulevards, and reversing in dark and unfamiliar areas.
As I write this review, crash-test ratings for the 2023 Hyundai Palisade are incomplete. That’s because the company modified the SUV’s floor and center roof pillar structures this year, presumably to ensure that it will improve protection levels in the new, more stringent side-impact tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Unfortunately, the 2022 Palisade earned no better than a Marginal rating in that new test.
Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not published full test results for the 2023 Palisade due to the same engineering upgrades.
2023 Hyundai Palisade Review: The Drive
Mechanically, Hyundai makes no changes to the 2023 Palisade besides adding a new Tow driving mode for versions with all-wheel drive (AWD). A 3.8-liter V6 still lives under the SUV’s hood, generating 291 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, which is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can choose between Eco, Comfort, Smart, Sport, and Snow driving modes, and with AWD, a Lock mode evenly splits the power between the front and rear wheels. A self-leveling rear suspension is available, and the Palisade is still rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds if the trailer is equipped with trailer brakes.
The Palisade’s V6 engine is powerful and quiet, and the SUV returned 20.8 mpg on the testing route, coming up just short of the official EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg in combined driving with the AWD system. Hyundai says it has undertaken additional sound-deadening efforts with the 2023 Palisade, including adding acoustic laminated rear window glass to help hush the cabin. Whatever they’ve done, it works.
I’m not a fan of the Palisade’s push-button transmission, which is distracting when you need to change gears. Also, the Smart driving mode, which is supposed to automatically adjust the powertrain depending on how you’re driving the SUV often produces irritating lags in response accompanied by delayed transmission downshifts. I used Normal mode for the majority of my driving.
If you didn’t know, the Hyundai Palisade and the Kia Telluride are corporate cousins. They share plenty of components, but each automaker approaches their SUVs from different perspectives, which helps to differentiate them in the marketplace. I share this only so that you will understand the comments that follow.
By the seat of my pants, Hyundai seems to tune the Palisade’s suspension to exhibit a firmer and sharper initial response to bumps, cracks, and holes in the road, followed by a softer follow-up to the first impact. Kia seems to take the opposite tactic, feeling soft at first and then attenuating impact shock and soaking it up while still communicating what’s happening at the road surface to the driver.
As a result, the Kia Telluride feels smoother to drive and more communicative than the Hyundai Palisade, which displays a stiffer ride yet ultimately feels more isolated from the road. The difference is subtle, and unless you can drive the two nearly back-to-back (like I did within two weeks), you might not discern any variance. But it’s there.
The Palisade is nice and quiet on the highway, quick and easy to maneuver around town, and handles remarkably well for this kind of vehicle. I was pretty surprised by its predictable sure-footedness when driving across the Santa Monica Mountains, which made the SUV enjoyable to operate and easy to trust. Sport mode helped, too, keeping the powertrain poised for quick response to throttle inputs.
Is the 2023 Hyundai Palisade a Good SUV?
While the 2023 Palisade remains an acquired taste due to its unusual front styling, it is nevertheless an excellent choice for a family hauler. From its spacious interior and commendable cargo capacity to its high-tech infotainment, convenience, and safety systems, this midsize crossover SUV is among the more appealing choices in the segment.
What’s more, it offers exceptional value. Every 2023 Hyundai Palisade comes with an industry-leading warranty offering ten years or 100,000 miles of powertrain protection plus five years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, including roadside assistance. Hyundai also gives you a complimentary three-year subscription to Blue Link connected services, and you get free scheduled maintenance at your dealership for three years or 36,000 miles.
When you consider all of these benefits in combination with the Palisade’s sense of style, its quality materials, and its near-luxury grade interior with the Calligraphy model, only that otherworldly front end might give you a cause for pause.