Time is up on our long-term 2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy, and it’s just in time, too, as we got to experience Hyundai’s 2023 mid-cycle refresh for the popular three-row SUV just a couple of weeks ago.
Our Palisade leaves us in just as happy a mood as when it joined Autoblog’s long-term test car fleet. Over the course of the year, we put over 16,000 miles on this three-row family mobile, toting it all over the Midwest and Southeast. The only skipped beat came thanks to a rodent that decided the O2 sensor wires looked tasty. That put our Palisade out of commission for about two months while we awaited appointments and parts from Hyundai — if we’d have had access to it for those two summer months, we would’ve piled on even more miles.
Every other trip to the dealership in this Moonlight Cloud Palisade was a scheduled one. We only had to have one oil change performed, and beyond that, had Michelin X-Ice winter tires installed and uninstalled for the season changes. As Senior Editor John Beltz Snyder detailed in one update, those winter tires made our Palisade into a killer snow machine in Michigan’s slippery conditions. At a certain point during our long-term test, Snyder decided he didn’t have enough Palisade in his life, and bought one himself. We’ll let that endorsement speak for itself.
We originally took on testing a long-term Palisade because it sure looked like Hyundai’s first successful shot at the big three-row crossover and SUV segment, and we wanted to see if the vehicle remained as impressive over months as it was on the initial launch. We’re happy to see that the luster hasn’t worn off, and we’re just as smitten with this big hunk of Hyundai as we always have been.
Numerous thoughtful features made long-term life with the Palisade easy and convenient. Every time we’d hop out of the Palisade and into something else without its cluster-positioned Blind-View Monitors, it was a time of transition and wishing for the same in whatever car we might’ve been in. Even if you don’t rely on them, being able to take a quick peek in the dash to double confirm there are no cars in a pillar’s blind spot when merging on the highway is great peace of mind.
Want to fill this big three-row full of friends? Easy, the single-tap button to instantly slide the captain’s chairs forward and out of the way for third row access is one of the best in the biz (though the actual space between seat and pillar could be better for access). Plus, the electrical-folding third row is killer when you’re not in the mood to manually fold or yank up seats. This is the best combo of manual and electric-folding seats you can get for speed and ease of use.
There wasn’t a road trip this Palisade didn’t seem ready for, either. The number of cubbies, pockets and spots to store items got praise throughout the year. Charge ports are plentiful no matter the row, and the wireless phone charger worked nicely for times we forgot a cable or for passengers needing a quick juice-up. I even used the Palisade to move from house to house, taking full advantage of the boxy SUV’s utility-focused proportions.
We’ve also concluded that popping the extra cash for the top-tier Calligraphy is definitely worth it if you’re already considering the almost-fully-loaded Limited trim. Seeing and running your hands over the quilted leather on the doors and seats is a treat typically reserved for vastly more expensive luxury vehicles, so it made our sub-$50,000 Palisade feel like a bargain. Those white leather seats (no, they never stank) remained largely white and true to their original color throughout the year despite lots of seat time in blue jeans and other colored pants. That's better than past Hyundai efforts. Now, it’s hard to say what five years of wear and tear might do to them, but give Snyder a shout down the road, and he might have an answer for you.
As for running costs, our best purely highway trips saw us reach 25 mpg on multiple occasions. That’s 1 mpg better than our 2021 Palisade was EPA-rated for on the highway, so with a light foot, the rated fuel economy is readily attainable. Some of our more lead-footed staff saw fuel economy dip into the 15-17 mpg range when the driving was only short trips in and around town (this happened a lot due to social distancing from Covid keeping us from traveling longer distances). In mixed driving, fuel economy was largely on point with the 21 mpg EPA-rated combined figure. We suspect this will be what most owners experience in their day-to-day lives, since the 3.8-liter V6 doesn’t exactly inspire full throttle rips.
The engine's 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque proved adequate and is perhaps the one aspect of this car that doesn’t shoot above and beyond Hyundai’s competition. Its engine note is neither annoying nor pleasant, falling somewhere in the middle as “acceptable noise.” That said, if you ever do find yourself behind the wheel of an all-wheel-drive Palisade, we’re happy to report that you can still get a satisfying squeal out of the front wheels from a dead stop if you turn traction control off. Leave it on, and the car will bog down in an effort to save you some rubber.
Now that this Palisade is gone, and the refreshed one is here, the question remains: Should you spring for the updated model? Styling could be a deciding factor, as we’re split as a staff on whether the new face is better or worse than the outgoing one. Another big factor is tech, as the 2023 Palisade is rocking new features like a digital rearview camera mirror, auto-dimming side mirrors and a massaging driver’s seat. If any of those — or the many others that you’ll find detailed in our 2023 Palisade First Drive — are must-haves, then you should direct your attention to the new model. Otherwise, the pre-refresh Palisade that we just gave up is still a more-than-worthy garage candidate.
Below, you’ll find some final thoughts from our editors on spending a year with this big blue Palisade.
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — "Cruising around in the Palisade is just plain pleasant. With no kids, I truly have no need for its size, but I developed a soft spot for this SUV anyway. All of the tech is wonderfully executed to make long road trips a cinch. The Harman/Kardon audio system is plenty powerful to jam out to, and I stuffed it full of friends a few times, too. I'll truly miss not having it around."
Associate Editor Byron Hurd — "The 'v' word is probably not the sexiest on earth, but the first thing that always comes to mind for me is the Palisade's value proposition; it's basically impossible to beat. The big Hyundai is not exciting, but it gets the job done better than just about anything else in the mainstream space. I'd love it even more with the oomph of a well-calibrated PHEV powertrain."
News Editor Joel Stocksdale — "I didn't have as much time in the Palisade as some of my colleagues, due to the aforementioned rodent incident. But when I was able to drive the Palisade, it convinced me that it and its Kia sibling are still about the best three-row SUVs in the segment. It's superbly quiet and comfortable. The V6 is smooth and powerful. And that interior is superb. It's good enough that the Palisade in its higher trims would be a strong alternative to some of the entry-luxury options out there, even if it wasn't comparably more affordable. If I had one complaint, though, it would be that it's on the thirsty side. I'd love to see the turbo-hybrid powertrain from the Kia Sorento, et al, appear in the big Hyundai and Kia. It's proven to be healthy enough and refined enough that it could be a great option to the Highlander Hybrid and Ford Explorer Hybrid. The plug-in version would be icing on the cake. But even without a hybrid option, the Palisade proved itself to be a killer all-around hauler."
Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski — "After driving the Palisade 700 miles from Ohio to South Carolina then back again, I walked away extremely pleased with how comfortable and efficient the crossover was with four adults and all their stuff for a weeklong beach vacation. If I regularly hauled that many people in my day-to-day life, you can bet the big Hyundai would be on my shopping list."
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder — "Real-world testimonial: My family bought a Palisade as my wife’s daily driver because of the experiences we had with this long-termer. We put it through what we thought would be an extreme use case — two kids in car seats, two dogs and cargo including dog crates, a Pack ’n Play, a stroller and a week’s worth of luggage on a 1,900-mile road trip — but now we see that use case more often because of the freedom this vehicle affords us to travel like that. And we still love the thing. I’ve even conversed with a reader who bought a Palisade partly based on our coverage, who also loves it. I never thought something so practical could feel so good."