The 2021 Hyundai Palisade is Hyundai’s emphatic answer to long-time three-row crossover favorites like the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. It’s a properly large vehicle that is loaded up with family-friendly features, luxurious technology and made elegant through outstanding design and styling.
It’s such a strong contender for a first-try effort that after driving it a couple of times, we feel comfortable calling it a segment leader. Combined with its Kia Telluride platform mate, the duo make up a formidable one-two punch from Korea. Hyundai’s Palisade is the more luxurious of the two, and could arguably compete with entry-level luxury SUVs like the Volvo XC90 or Cadillac XT6 in its most decadent trims.
The Palisade’s sales success — 81,905 sold in 2020 — is already proof that Hyundai is finding traction in this crossover-hungry market. Considering the popularity, we decided it was time to see how it stands up in the long-haul. Read on to learn more about why we picked the Palisade and what exactly (trim, options, colors) will be sitting in our driveways over the next 12 months.
Why we got it
We’ve driven the Palisade, as well as its cousin the Kia Telluride, before, and thought it was an excellent crossover at an incredible value, considering the space and content you get for the price. We wanted to see what it would be like to live with for a long time, and explore some of the finer details and easy-to-overlook features. We feel like Hyundai (along with related brands Kia and Genesis) are doing whatever they can to punch above their weight, and we want to see if that near-luxury personality maintains its sheen over a year of driving.
Also, as we’ve mentioned before on The Autoblog Podcast, the Palisade is actually a vehicle this author’s spouse is considering as a replacement to her smaller crossover. How well can it accommodate a family of four, their pets and a week-and-a-half’s worth of luggage on a 1,700-mile road trip? (That will be our first long-term update, coming soon.) What’s the real-world fuel economy? Which of those nifty features will we continue to find useful months down the road, and what failings will show themselves over thousands of miles? Will our white leather seats truly be free from the mystery stink that plagued earlier builds?
The Palisade is only in its second model year, so there’s still much to learn about what has already proven to be a popular crossover. We’ll be sure to get multiple updates covering the nitty-gritty details from numerous Autoblog editors over the coming months.
What we got
As is usually the case with a Hyundai, you don’t have to spend a lot to get something completely loaded with content. Our Palisade is no exception, as it’s the new-for-2021 Calligraphy trim, which leapfrogs over the Limited as the range-topping trim. As we detail in our 2021 Hyundai Palisade review, the Calligraphy adds a unique grille and taillights, elaborate 20-inch wheels, puddle lights, wider top brake light, quilted leather doors and seatbacks, a microfiber headliner and a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel. Ours comes in the Moonlight Cloud exterior paint with the Light Beige interior.
Like all the other Palisades, it’s powered by a 3.8-liter V6 providing 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel drive system complete with a Snow mode. It’s rated at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 24 mpg highway and 21 combined.
The Calligraphy also enjoys a number of standard features that make life easier, safer and more comfortable. It has a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless phone charger, digital instrument cluster, head-up display, Harman Kardon audio system, heated and ventilated seats for the first two rows, manual window shades for the rear rows. It has adaptive cruise control with lane following assistance. It also features the slick blind-spot warning system that shows live camera feeds of your blind spot on the instrument cluster when you use the turn signal.
The Palisade Calligraphy AWD starts at $48,925, including $1,175 in destination fees. Our tester adds carpeted floor mats ($180) and a rear cargo tray ($150) for a total sticker price of $49,255.