Road Test Review: The 2023 Hyundai Palisade Refreshes A Class-Leading 3 Row SUV
Back in 2020 Hyundai dropped a bomb on the three-row SUV segment. The Palisade was like little else out there, an affordable sport-utility that borrowed heavily from the high-end with its stylish design, near-luxury interior, and smooth ride. Suddenly, rivals from Toyota (the Highlander) and Honda (Pilot) felt more than a little low-rent in comparison, as the Palisade's personality felt more aligned with Cadillac and Lincoln than it did sub-$50k fare.
Nothing stays still for long in the world of SUVs, and faced with a new enemy that threatened to steal away the hundreds of thousands of built-in buyers, the race was on to catch up to Hyundai's head-start. Models like the Ford Explorer and the Nissan Pathfinder began to lean-in to luxury lip service, and the Highlander and Pilot followed suit with redesigns of their own.
Hyundai has responded to this escalation with the 2023 edition of the Palisade, which aims to further refine, if not outpace the original edition. I spent a week behind the wheel to determine whether this once class-leading eight-passenger hauler could still position itself at the front of the mid-size pack.
What Stays The Same
It's important to understand that the 2023 Hyundai Palisade's core components haven't been changed as part of the update. This means that SUV retains last year's 3.8L V6 (rated at 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque), along with its eight-speed automatic transmission and optional all-wheel drive (with front-wheel drive standard on the base model).
It's a welcome retention, as the Palisade has resisted going all-in on the turbocharged four-cylinder game plan that so many of its peers have adopted. At the same time, the vehicle avoids the fuel economy tax that comes with the 'roided-up twin-turbo sixes offered elsewhere. Acceleration feels lively at all ends of the rev range, without running out of breath like a smaller, forced-induction motor, and the eight-speed autobox is perfectly tuned for smooth sailing. Fuel economy hovers around the 21-mpg combined mark.
Suspension tune has also been largely left alone, and it's here that the Palisade shows its softer side. This is not an SUV that yearns to hurtle from corner to corner, but rather one that's much more content munching miles on your daily commute or sailing serenely down the highway towards a distant destination. There's roll to be had if the Hyundai's steering is handled brusquely, and upsetting the automobile's balance by failing to slow down for speed bumps will quickly remind you that you're not piloting a Wrangler over the rough stuff.
The Palisade's 2023 refresh leans in to the vehicle's more genteel character. Primarily it's a fresh face for its hewn, angular body shape, taking the form of a bolder implementation of its grille and a more aggressive forward lighting stack (with a somewhat subdued reorganization of its back bumper). It's a tidy bit of design, but it stays close to the original, monolithic Palisade concept.
The interior has also been cleaned up and burnished with a better-to-read infotainment screen, whose 12 inches of diagonal viewing space are more fully integrated into the Hyundai's dash pod. Brand fans will likely notice the various trim changes that have been made throughout the cabin (especially towards the front, where a new steering wheel plays a starring role), but the claimed upholstery improvements are a little harder discern versus the already stellar seat sheets found in the previous model.
More tangible benefits include available third row heated cushions for tots banished to the way-back, and a massage feature that targets the weary bones of put-upon drivers.
Sticking To The Plan
If this list of feature changes feels modest, you're not wrong. Hyundai has taken a light hand to what was an already-excellent SUV, and the decision to not mess with success was most likely the right one. The Palisade continues to do everything right, especially if you're looking for quiet and comfortable transportation for the extended family (or a heap of luggage) in all types of weather.
I was even unable to flummox the vehicle's all-wheel drive system despite several days of continuous snowfall (with only the wipers refusing to lift the heavy, wet flakes that had accumulated in Detroit-style pizza hunks on the windshield on more than one occasion).
The Hyundai is roomy and well organized inside, and on my Limited trim tester the third row was powered and relatively easy to reach, even for adults. Safety gear includes a semi-autonomous, follow-along adaptive cruise feature, but this is balanced out by a gimmicky set of cameras that show a video feed from either side of the vehicle in the gauge cluster when the blinkers are activated. Any driver's aid that pulls attention from the road ahead is to be avoided, in my opinion, but it's easy enough to ignore.
Is the Palisade new enough to put more even mire space between it and the rest of the rapidly-gaining three-row sport-utility scene? Not exactly. Hyundai's handsome and affordable (ranging from $37,000 up to $50,000) machine remains an excellent all-arounder, but it's not quite as sparkling as it was when it first appeared a few years ago and ran laps around everything without a true luxury badge on the hood.
Still a pleasingly-priced alternative to lower-hanging luxury fruit, the Palisade has become somewhat of a victim of its own success, with the previous model forcing its competition to put in the reps needed to get on its level. The risk of being among the best is challenging those who covet the crown to try that much harder. In a battle like this one, the real winners are the buyers who suddenly have a much more appealing set of SUVs to choose from.
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