Driving around in Hyundai’s latest Palisade three-row, big-as-a-bus SUV is a bit like watching a re-run of Friends.
As with Friends, there’s nothing too cutting-edge, or fresh, or edgy about this voluminous and versatile family hauler.
It’s all about satisfying familiarity, easy-going predictability, and fuzzy comfort. Think of it as a warm bath on wheels.
Pop the hood and you won’t find the latest technology. There’s no hybrid version, or even a turbocharged four-cylinder that’s currently all the rage. Want a hybrid Palisade? Maybe 2025.
Instead, the Palisade sticks firmly with its big, naturally aspired 3.8-liter V6 that it came with when the load-lugger was launched back in 2018. It’s the only engine on offer.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to criticize this muscley V6. It’s a truly lovely engine that’s smoother than hot molasses flowing from a jar and quieter than a library at midnight. And packing 291 turbine-smooth horseys and 262 pound-foot of torque, it doesn’t lack performance.
No, where the Palisade continues to have huge appeal is in its hard-to-beat combo of proper three-row seating, versatile load-carrying space, laid-back driving manners, and proven reliability.
It’s a terrific value, too. Hard to believe but pricing kicks off with the base SE at a bargain basement $36,400. Check every option box with the new, blacked-out Calligraphy Night flagship and you’d be pressed to spend more than $55,000.
I’ve just spent a sublime week with the almost-flagship Palisade Calligraphy model, with its impressively advanced safety tech, diamond-quilted Nappa leather, and an ear-bleeding Harman Kardon stereo, all for $53,650. They even throw in a free tank of gas.
Yes, there’s no shortage of fresh-faced competition out there. Rivals include Toyota’s new Grand Highlander and Mazda’s redesigned CX-90, both with the option of hybrid power. Add to those, the Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas, and the Palisade’s handsome sibling, the Kia Telluride.
The Palisade itself got a nip, tuck, and jab of Botox for 2023 that included the addition of that massive front grille. Love it or hate it, it has the head-spinning visual drama of a Mack truck. Very cool LED headlights, though.
Climb aboard and the entire cabin is a 10, with its classy design and impressive array of upscale materials. I love the two-tone steering wheel, the broad center console with its plentiful storage, the stitched leather, and open-pore wood veneer.
Terrific front seats, too. Love the perforated Nappa leather, the contrast piping, and clever “Ergo-motion” automatic massaging that activates when it thinks you need a back and butt rub during a long drive.
And, just like a high-end Mercedes, when you select “sport” mode, the driver’s seat side bolsters tighten inwards to give you support on twisty roads.
The middle-row captain’s chairs are just as comfy and move fore and aft by as much as 40 inches to offer true stretch-out legroom. Back in the third row, there’s enough legroom for adults not to feel cramped.
Luggage-wise, with the third row in place, there’s around 18 cubic feet on offer. That expands to 46 with the third row folded, and a truly cavernous 86 cubic feet with second and third rows flat. There are Mayflower moving trucks that offer less.
On the road, the Palisade is big on refinement not only through its silky-smooth V6, but also from an eight-speed automatic that shifts with the smoothness of crushed velvet.
Don’t expect razor-sharp handling. That said, the big Hyundai steers nicely and keeps body roll under control.
Big 20-inch tires at each corner provide plenty of grip while sophisticated suspension smoothes lumps and bumps. All-wheel drive is a $2-grand option, but worth it for the added traction and go-anywhere peace of mind.
As a luxury family hauler, this latest Palisade, especially the leather-lined Calligraphy, is hard to beat for the price. And it’s still backed by one of the best warranties out there.
That’s worth writing home about.