Who can forget country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus’ twangy rendition of that line-dance favorite, “Achy Breaky Heart?”
After a 550-mile I-75 cruise from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale and back, followed the next day by a 450-mile rural Highway 70 to Palm Beach round trip, I should have been singing about my Achy Breaky back.
Amazingly, at the end of each jolly jaunt across State, I stepped out of my ride with not a twinge of achy-breakiness, nary a taut muscle, or concrete-addition to my constantly stiff neck. It was a revelation.
As for the source of all this lumbar-relieving magic: the super-luxe 2023 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy, with its quite-remarkable Ergo-Motion driver’s seat massaging system.
Cheesy name, I know. But its network of built-in air chambers inflates and deflates to stretch and gently pummel your pelvis, lower back, and butt. It’s like have Helga the Swedish masseuse giving you an in-seat deep-tissue massage.
What’s very cool is that even if you don’t activate the Ergo-Motion massager, after each hour of driving, the Palisade will feel your pain and automatically engage the system, flashing-up a message on the dash, saying “Posture Assist activated.”
And talking of cool, the seat is naturally ventilated, sending chilled air through the cushion and seat back. Perfect on a 90-degree Florida furnace day.
This could well be the most comfortable, most supportive, most relaxing road trip seat I’ve ever experienced. Including that Barcalounger bolted in the back of my buddy’s pickup truck in my youth.
Hyundai’s flagship Palisade has been around since 2020, but has just had a so-called mid-lifecycle freshening. Nothing too radical; just a smart nip, tuck, and jab of Botox here and there.
It’s still a big, tall-riding family hauler, with three rows of seats, acres of space, and a real focus on comfort and practicality.
The biggest change is at the front end where the already sizable shiny grille has been replaced by an absolute whopper of a maw filled with a multitude of oversized chrome Chiclets.
See this thing coming up fast behind and filling your rear-view and, trust me, you’re moving over for fear of being devoured.
Thankfully unchanged is the Palisade’s muscley, super-smooth 3.8-liter V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission. Both feel like they were dipped in Teflon and smothered with warm molasses.
The big V6 cranks out 291 horseys and 262 pound-feet of torque and is a masterpiece of silky smoothness and hushed refinement. There are electric motors more vocal than this. At 75mph on I-75, it’s like driving from the inside of a bank vault.
Yet the engine/transmission combo is so responsive, so intuitive, and so seamless that passing slower traffic, merging with traffic from a freeway on-ramp, or just zipping away from a stop light is just a prod of the throttle away.
And the sport-ute is packed with features to make any long-distance road trip a journey of joy. Like the heads-up display on the windshield that shows you how much over the speed limit you’re going. Yikes.
That and the new Palisade’s impressive cadre of driver-assistance features, that includes lane-keeping assist and smart cruise control that essentially will take you across Alligator Alley virtually hands-free.
Yet when the road turns curvy, or you need to thread your way through traffic, the big Hyundai has lovely, precise, well-weighted steering and impressively low body roll.
While 2023 Palisade line-up kicks off at a near bargain-basement $36,500 including destination, you’ll really want the luxury and opulence of the top-end Calligraphy model I’ve been driving.
At around $50,500, its cabin is wall-to-wall Nappa leather, twin 12.3-inch digital touchscreen displays, and rockin’ surround sound stereo. The quality and fit and finish is beyond impressive.
And of course, each Palisade comes with the official Wheel World “Road Trip Vehicle of the Year” accolade.