The almost-palatial 2021-22 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy SUV is elegantly spacious with luxurious accommodations, smart technologies, and unexpected but appreciated amenities
Table of Contents
The 2021 Hyundai Palisade is a big easy of SUVs. It is friendly to drive with its nimble turning circle of 38.7 feet. Its 291-hp V-6 engine has strong power and mindful fuel economy from the eight-speed automatic transmission. And the pricing will convince skeptics to take a closer look.
The Hyundai Palisade compares with the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, three-row 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, VW Atlas, and platform partner Kia Telluride.
The Hyundai Palisade debuted in 2019 as the brand’s new flagship SUV. The nameplate is a reference to the coastal cliffs of the Pacific Palisades neighborhood in Los Angeles.
As the Santa Fe XL replacement, Palisade was built on a new SUV chassis with three rows of seating for seven or eight occupants. The large-midsize SUV crossover has standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive.
Among Hyundai’s five SUV models, the Palisade ranked third for sales in September 2021. With 7,961 sales, the Palisade followed the compact Tucson at 9,896 sales, the midsize Santa Fe at 6,573, the subcompact Venue at 2,877, and the subcompact Kona 5,774.
While some of the SUV sales were down in September, the Venue was up 88 percent over September 2020, and the Palisade was up by 3 percent over September 2020.
The only change for the 2021 model year is the addition of the Calligraphy, the new top-of-the-line trim level.
Other changes for the 2021 Palisade include content repackaging to add comfort and convenience to all trim levels.
LED headlamps are now standard, while sunroof and LED map-interior lights have been added to the SEL model and above.
Palisade trailer pre-wiring connectors were upgraded from a four-pin connector to an enhanced seven-pin connector.
The 2022 Palisade is now on sale with no physical or content changes, but pricing was increased by $475 to $490 across the lineup.
Palisade is sold in four trim levels of SE, SEL, Limited, and Calligraphy. Starting prices range from $33,860 to $47,900 for the Calligraphy AWD; pricing includes the $1,185 freight charge from Ulsan, Korea.
The front-drive Palisade Calligraphy tester was $47,600 with one option for three rows of carpeted floor mats, $215.
Special Calligraphy features include:
- Quilted-leather door panels
- Microfiber-suede headliner
- Premium cargo sill protection plate
- Perforated-leather steering wheel
A longer list of standard equipment is in the specifications chart at the end of this review.
Find current pricing and inventive offers here.
All Hyundai vehicles have extensive warranty coverage. The basic coverage is for 5 years or 60,000 miles bumper to bumper. The limited powertrain warranty is for 10 years or 100,000 miles.
New this year is free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. The maintenance program includes oil and filter changes and tire rotation.
The 2021 Hyundai Palisade SUV received a 2020 Top Safety Pick-Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In addition, the government’s National Highway Safety Administration awarded the Palisade the top five-star ratings for overall protection, frontal and side crashes, and four stars for rollover.
Palisade’s standard safety features include:
- 7 air bags,
- Lane-following assist and lane-keeping assist,
- Blind-spot collision-avoidance assist,
- Forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection,
- Highway Drive Assist, and
- Rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist.
The 2021 Palisade is sold in front- or all-wheel drive (HTRAC) models. All have a 291-hp 3.8-liter, Atkinson-cycle, direct-injection V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission.
EPA fuel-economy ratings for front-drive models are 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 mpg combined or 19/24/21 mpg with HTRAC.
While testing the 4,231-pound Palisade Calligraphy, I drove the majority of the week in Eco mode. I was surprised by the performance because that fuel-saving mode for engine and transmission performance usually has a maddeningly spongy throttle response.
For those who keep an eye on the fuel gauge, the Palisade’s Eco calibration is actually usable for most driving. Immediate launch power is somewhat reserved, as is close-the-gap acceleration on the highway. Still, in between, it worked to convince me I was saving fuel and emissions in a 16.3-foot-long family vehicle.
In the front-drive tester, my driving averaged 17 to 21 mpg around town, and I worked up to 22.5 mpg combined with highway driving. The highway mileage likely would have risen with more time using cruise control at the speed limit.
Palisade’s ride quality is comfortable but not soft. It is well-supported with a rigid chassis for vibration-free driving. The cabin is quiet, and the rear auto-leveling suspension nearly eliminates “head toss” at driveways and speed bumps.
The HTRAC all-wheel-drive system has six traction modes for Eco, Sport, Comfort, Snow, Smart (which adapts to your driving style) and AWD lock. Snow mode has more predictive calibrations, Hyundai says, to prevent loss of traction.
The transmission rolls through the gears so smoothly that you might not notice the transitions. Tire sizes are 18 inches standard or 20 inches on the Calligraphy with a unique wheel pattern.
The tester’s 20-inch all-season tires, Hankook Ventus S1 Noble 2, are generously sized (245/50) and roll smoothly and without road harshness.
Four-wheel disc braking is confident with no grab from 13.9-inch ventilated front rotors and rear 12-inch solid rotors.
Highway Drive Assist
Hyundai’s Highway Drive Assist allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. The assist system uses a forward-facing radar unit and camera and GPS technology through the navigation system’s map database.
The suite of driver-assist technologies includes smart cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-following assist and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist.
The HDA steering calibrations are more refined than some systems I’ve tested. It seems the camera might look farther ahead to make less-jerky steering movements in cornering.
The driver-assist system is intended for use on a divided highway and it will not engage when not traveling on an approved road. The driver must keep both hands on the steering wheel, and Highway Driving Assist is available only at speeds under 95 mph.
In my experience, the system was mostly efficient at keeping the Palisade centered between the lines. Once or twice, however, the system allowed the SUV to drift wide in a sweeping corner and then fired off a sharp warning alert as if I were at fault.
The Calligraphy is a social lounge with a USB port for every seat and 16 cup holders.
Front headroom is tall at 39.3 inches with the dual-pane sunroof. And shoulder room is wide-body at 61.2 inches (and 60.8 inches in the second row.) The step-in height is low with no need for running boards, and the door skins extend below the sill to prevent dirt scuffs on legs and shoes.
The driver area is an accommodating command center with a multilevel environment of storage areas, including below the center console, with open space for wireless phone charging and a deep armrest box.
There is at-a-glance access to all controls, and the 10.25-inch infotainment screen is not prone to glare in sunlight.
The seats are full-bodied with eight-way power adjustment for the driver and front passenger. Sightlines are no problem, especially with the multiview camera that also gives front and overhead views.
It is a quiet Calligraphy cabin, helped by an acoustic laminated windshield and front side glass.
Unique in this segment is Hyundai’s Blind View Monitors. The side mirrors have rearward-aimed cameras that switch on when using the turn signal. The behind-view video appears in the gauge array, in the corresponding left or right dials. These electronic eyes are instrumental in town when navigating the randomly weaving electric scooters, bikes, and pedestrians.
A Driver Talk in-car intercom system allows communication with the second or third rows via a conversation mode in the audio system. A Rear Sleep Mode also cancels music from being transmitted to the second- and third-row speakers.
The second row has a maximum of 42.4 inches of legroom, adjustable by the sliding captain’s chairs, which also recline. There is a separate climate control system for heat and AC, fan speed and temp — and heated and cooled seats. The large glass roof panel (with sunshade) is a big-sky treatment. And ceiling air vents help to fend off motion sickness.
The back seats have a one-handed tilt-and-slide action for third-row entry. In addition, the third-row bench has more support than some competitors in this group, and the Palisade seats have a fold-flat power recline.
The cargo area is big-box square with a usable 18 cubic feet of space behind the third row, with functional basement storage. There are switches for the power-folding and raising of the third-row seats and power releases to fold the second row.
The lift-in height is tall at 30 inches, but there is about 7 feet of length with both rows folded. The entry is 48 inches wide by 32 inches tall.
The Palisade is a little like moving the family to a new two-story home in a master-planned suburban community. The cabin is roomy with a long list of advanced technologies, premium-quality materials, and many unexpected but appreciated amenities.
Opting for the Calligraphy model provides an elevated luxury experience. And its presentation is without the glare of glitzy technology overload, so common in the Tier 1 luxury segment. It is an enjoyable learning curve to explore Hyundai’s technologies, which is not always so with some luxury brands.
Moving to the three-row suburbs isn’t for every family, but for less than $50,000, a palatial-feeling Palisade is move-in ready.
Body style: large-midsize, 3-row 7- to 8-seat SUV in front- or all-wheel drive
Engine: 291-hp, Atkinson cycle, direct-injection 3.8-liter V-6 with idle stop-and-go; 262 lb.-ft. torque at 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with HTRAC AWD mode selector
Fuel economy: 19/26/22 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane
Tow capacity: 1,650 lbs. without trailer brakes; 5,000 lbs. with trailer brakes
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 18.8 gallons
Cargo space: 18-45.8 cu. ft.
Front head/leg room: 39.3*/41. in. *w/sunroof
2nd row head/leg room: 38.8*/42.4 in.
3rd row head/leg room: 37.2*/31.4 in.
Length/wheelbase: 196.1/114.2 in.
Width/height: 77.8/68.9 in.
Curb weight: 4,231 lbs.
Turning circle: 38.7 ft.
Standard Calligraphy equipment includes: smart-key locking with push-button ignition, Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery, microsuede headliner, surround-view monitor, electric parking brake, blind-view monitor (turn-signal activated), 7 USBs, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, wireless phone charger, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch infotainment and navigation touch screen with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, Harman Kardon audio system, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, auto-leveling rear suspension, trailering package, dual sunroofs with sunshades, high-beam assist, back seat quiet mode, power-folding third row with power recline, hands-free liftgate
Safety features include: 7 air bags, intelligent cruise control with stop-and-go, lane following assist and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist park-distance warning, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, highway drive assist, downhill brake control, rear occupant alert, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist
Base price: $47,385, including $1,185 freight charge; price as tested $47,600
Options on test vehicle: carpeted floor mats $160
Where assembled: Ulsan, Korea
Warranties: 5 years/60,000 miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; 3-years/36,000-miles free scheduled maintenance (of oil change and tire rotation); 10 years/100,000 miles powertrainRead more