Hyundai has made a habit of shocking the auto industry and raising the bar for features offered in their vehicles, often at cutthroat prices. When Hyundai sought to fill their line up with a new three row crossover, they did it again. They rocked the automotive industry with the release of the Palisade. It promised to blur the lines between luxury and economy brands. The anticipation was through the roof and the actual product did not fall short of expectation either. We set out to see if this 2021 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy is the best in its segment.
Now in its third year of production, it’s easier to take off the rose-tinted glasses that advertising puts on the public, and tell whether the goods are skin deep or if the Palisade has stood the test of time. Was it praised due to its shock value, or were there merits to the praise?
The design of the Palisade is best described as extravagant, bold and confident. The front end features a large grille with thick brushed aluminum frame and lower garnish. The headlights are a multi piece design with a vertical day time running LED light bar which flairs at the top for an aggressive design. The overall front end is reminiscent of a tribal warrior with face painting.
The bold fascia is carried to the side with a strong shoulder line. The boxy dimensions with a straight cut-off rear end is very similar to that of full-frame based SUVs, serving both design and practical purposes. The aggressive body stature a long with well-placed chrome accents matches well and gives off a luxurious vibe. The Palisade’s design is wilder than its sibling, the Kia Telluride, and that could work in either direction.
The interior of the Palisade is truly mind blowing and redefines the level of luxury for the segment. The seats are a show stopper, with quilted Nappa leather and contrast piping; they look as good as they feel. The driving position is excellent providing more of a comfortable car like seating. The beautiful quilted leather is not only found on the front seats, but across the second and third rows. The door inserts are finished in quilted leather now, as well.
The Harbor Grey interior with the cream leather and wood inserts is a lovely combination with a Scandinavian touch. The dashboard layout is clean and simple with buttons in the center that are incorporated into the design without break flow. The mix of organic materials in the interior adds to the luxuriousness of the spacious cabin.
It’s not only luxurious but it has all the tech you can wish for. The Palisade is equipped with a fully digital cluster and ups the game by embedding a live stream of the driver’s blind spot with a flick of the indictor stalk. A 10.25-inch touchscreen makes interfacing with multimedia very simple. More importantly, the large screen makes the use of surround-view technology much more effective with clear images of the vehicle’s surroundings. The high resolution cameras make maneuvering the Palisade much less intimidating.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is equipped for enhanced connectivity. The 12-speaker Harman/Kardon system with Quantum Logic surround is fantastic to most, with the exception of a few audiophile snobs picky about high-end note reproduction. The shiny speaker grates add another high-end touch to the cabin. Even though the Palisade does not come with on board entertainment, it makes up for it with the abundance of easily accessible USB charging ports, ensuring passengers’ personal devices can be kept charged on long trips.
The cabin is cavernous with excellent legroom even in the third row. Even adults can get comfortable back there, at least for short runs. The light leather tones and dual panel sunroofs make the cabin extra airy. The electronic push-button gear selector makes extra room for the center console both above and below the transmission tunnel. The clever cupholder setup gives plenty of room to swallow daily carry items.
Cargo capacity is one of the best in class with a total of 2,447-liters of capacity with both second and third rows folded. An electronically controlled third row makes configuring the rear space effortless. The seats fold completely flat for easy loading as well. Even with the seats up, space is excellent with 1,297-liters behind the second row and 509-liters behind the third. If this isn’t enough, the Palisade can carry up to 220 pounds on the roof and tow a maximum of 5,000 pounds.
To move all of this cargo, Hyundai has given the Palisade a potent 3.8-liter naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine with 291 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 262 lb ft. of torque at 5,200RPM. The engine is smooth and power deliver is buttery. The throttle tuning ruins the experience with a sluggish tip in and erratic down shifts. Throttle travel feels too short with the long tip in.
The eight-speed automatic gives abrupt downshifts when drivers unintentionally get too deep into the throttle. It’s easy to get used to after a couple of days, but the initial learning curve is somewhat significant. Moving the peak output lower into the rev range would definitely help rectify this and make the Palisade accessible for more buyers. With a weight of 4,400 pounds, the Palisade isn’t necessarily anywhere in a hurry.
Hyundai Canada gives the 2021 Palisade Calligraphy official ratings of 12.3L/100km in the city and 9.6L/100km on the highway, for a combined 11.1L/100km. Our test took place in mainly city settingsin cold weather on witner tires, so our observed 12.0L/100km wasn’t necessarily bad. The Palisade will accept regular 87-octane fuel without issue, like most of its competitors.
Handling is also very good considering the Palisade’s overall size and drivetrain. Steering is natural with good on-center behaviour, and body motions are very well controlled. The ride is one of the Palisade’s highlights. It glides through uneven roads and cruises along with no fuss, with its class leading active cruise and lane keep systems. The driver can relax on long road trips and enjoy the destination with no fatigue. I don’t believe there is a better cruiser in the segment without getting into the luxury price point.
Base models of the Palisade are available in front-drive guise, however anything more and all-wheel-drive is standard fare. With this system on board, drivers can have the confidene to go anywhere with the Palisade with confidence and absolute comfort. An added bonus is a full suite of safety features included with SmartSense such as collision avoidance, driver attention warning and blind spot collision avoidance, to name a few.
This top of the line Ultimate Calligraphy model comes priced at $54,699. It is a substantial amount, but an absolute bargain with the luxury and quality delivered. The entry price of the Palisade Essential is only $39,199. The Honda Pilot starts at $44,576 and tops out at $58,476 which makes the Palisade even more of a bargain. The interior of the Pilot cannot compare to the Palisade, but the Pilot does offer a better engine.
The 2021 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy is a package that is hard to beat. The price to feature and quality ratio is undoubtedly the best in class. To be fair, there are some obvious cost saving measures. The wood trim and textured aluminum looks like pixelated wallpaper upon close inspection. But to overlook the Palisade because of such minor details is a huge mistake. There is so much more to the package that any cost cutting can be forgiven. It continues to puzzle me every day why there is still hesitation towards the brand when Hyundai has been rocking the industry with incredible products like this.