The 2023 Hyundai Palisade Looks a Lot Better Now, and Is a Better Buy, Too
Hyundai’s popular three-row, mid-size SUV doesn’t see any powertrain updates, but gets improved tech and a sharper design.
When something is unveiled to praise, there’s always a concern that tampering with the formula (even just slightly) will spoil the magic. Fortunately, for those seeking champagne quality on a sparkling wine budget, the facelifted 2023 Hyundai Palisade is the same wonderful driver and passenger experience, just with a smattering of new features that keep the vehicle up-to-date with Hyundai’s other offerings.
Now with a few years under its belt, the Palisade is due for a mid-cycle refresh that adds a few features and tweaks the design a smidge. This small, overall once-over typically serves to give the car-buying public a little nudge to remind them that if they’re shopping for a family SUV, Hyundai has one of the best on the market.
The Palisade and its cousin (or maybe step-sibling), the Kia Telluride, were birthed into the world with much deserved critical acclaim. Nicely outfitted, they’re luxury, seven- to eight-passenger, three-row SUVs that, at just around $35,000, feel on par with offerings from established luxury brands. They made an impact on the market by moving the needle on what a mid-sized SUV could be but also what we could expect from the Hyundai Motor Group. With this refresh, Hyundai was smart not to break what wasn’t broken.
2023 Hyundai Palisade Review Specs
- Base price: $36,245
- Powertrain: 3.8-liter V6 | 8-speed automatic | front-wheel drive (standard; AWD optional
- Horsepower: 291 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
- Seating capacity: 7 to 8
- Cargo volume: 18 cubic feet behind third row | 45.8 cubic feet behind second row | 86.4 cubic feet with second row folded
- 7-person FWD: 4,376 pounds
- 7-person AWD: 4,506 pounds
- 8-person FWD: 4,226 pounds
- 8-person AWD: 4,356 pounds
EPA fuel economy
- FWD: 19 mpg city | 27 highway | 22 combined
- AWD: 19 mpg city | 25 highway | 21 combined
- Quick take: Hyundai’s outstanding Palisade acquires some new tech and a front facelift but keeps what made it great intact.
- Score: 8/10
A Little Bit Bigger, a Little Bit Meaner-Looking
To me, the front of the Palisade always slightly resembled a Lexus with the grille edges angled out instead of in. You’d be hard-pressed to make that comparison now. Over the past few years, Hyundai has made some incredibly bold design choices with its vehicles, the Ioniq 5 EV being the best example. The result is a stable of vehicles that look great but also help the automaker establish itself on the road in a world where small- and mid-sized SUVs sort of meld together.
The new grille is just meaner. The lattice design has been replaced with rigidly cascading blocks of diminishing size. The result is a vehicle that exudes a stronger, slightly more aggressive front end. It looks like someone at Hyundai got a new T-square and they immediately got to work by adding right angles to the front of the SUV.
The tweaked front light signature also becomes more distinct. The proud T-square owner dashed the slight curve of the lower light trim in favor of what looks like a thick leg with a tiny foot. Once you see it, you can't unsee it.
To complement the now leggy front end, Hyundai added a little extra real estate. The front overhang has been increased by 0.7 inches. The rear, though, lost 0.1 inches. The overall result is a vehicle that’s just a bit over a half-inch longer than its predecessor. The rear end gained an updated fascia and a new tow-hitch cover. The vehicle doesn’t tow any more weight than the previous version with the refresh, however; the same ability to drag 5,000 pounds down the road is still there. You just have a fancier way to hide the hitch now.
New to the lineup is the XRT trim level: a blacked-out color scheme that Hyundai hopes evokes a more rugged vehicle. Following the trend of Batman-influenced color schemes by other automakers, the XRT sits smack-dab in the middle of the trim lineup with dark, 20-inch wheels and a blackout grille. XRT Palisades don’t offer any mechanical improvements over other trim levels, and actually has fewer available options than the lower-priced SEL trim. But it is, hands down, the coolest looking Palisade in the lineup.
The most substantial update to the vehicle is tech-related. Gone are the eight- and 10.25-inch touchscreens. They’ve been replaced with a 12.3-inch display, standard across all trim levels. While Hyundai’s infotainment system has a few weird flourishes—like sounds of nature (you can drive while listening to ocean waves or, for some reason, a busy cafe) and the ability to talk to those in the back seat over the speakers—the feature set is pretty standard to the rest of the industry. Outside of the mostly barren home screen, the menu options are laid out like a tablet. The biggest disappointment is that, no matter how many Hyundai vehicles I’ve driven, I still manage to accidentally set a random map waypoint every time I touch the screen.
Fortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
More impressive is the tighter integration with Hyundai’s BlueLink system and apps. (BlueLink is the automaker's companion app and cloud-based service that features the ability to check on a Hyundai vehicle’s status, lock and unlock it, and start it right from a smartphone.) Driver profiles are now tied to BlueLink, and starting the vehicle from your phone also gives you the option to send your profile information for seating and media settings.
Furthermore, virtual “keys” can now be stored natively in Apple or Samsung Wallet and are sharable from your iPhone via iMessage. For example, after just a quick text, a friend or family member can receive an Apple Wallet card that can lock, unlock, start, and drive the vehicle. This can be done without that person needing to download the BlueLink app. So you’re away from home and someone needs to access or drive your Palisade, you can send them a digital key right from your phone. The NFC-based system worked flawlessly when I tapped my phone, outfitted with a shared key, to the driver’s-side handle. Once inside, I just dropped my phone in the wireless charging tray and started the Palisade right up.
The owner can revoke privileges at any time from the host phone. When that happens, the car will no longer accept the guest's phone as a key. It’s a good way to make sure that someone hasn’t taken their phone offline in the hopes that they can keep the key any longer than necessary.
Seeing as many people use the Palisade as a family hauler, there’s been an update for these buyers, too. New for 2023 and in addition to the alert to check your rear seats when you exit the vehicle so you don't leave your human or fur babies in the back, the vehicle uses ultrasonic sensors to detect movement in the second and third row after the vehicle has been exited and locked. If it detects what it believes are left-behind family members, the Palisade will honk and also send an alert to the BlueLink app.
No mechanical changes were made in the refresh, so the 2023 Palisades still sport the naturally aspirated V6, eight-speed automatic, and either front- or all-wheel drive.
Roads and Ruts
To show off its updated luxury SUV, Hyundai took us off-roading. The route was less Rubicon and more gravel driveway with some ruts, but it did highlight the vehicle’s ability to get to those glamping Airbnbs, music festival parking lots, and up the driveway of that friend who moved out of the city during the pandemic and now has a long dirt driveway.
While it was not the most demanding off-road course, the Palisade (even without a dedicated off-road mode) handled the gravel, mud, and dirt surprisingly well. The high sitting position offered an adequate view of the road, while the forward camera, when activated by nearby plants and rocks, offered just enough visual assistance to keep the vehicle out of some deep ruts. Steering is where the Palisade shines over the likes of the Jeep Wrangler. Without the steering-wheel play associated with the historically rugged Jeep, I was able to solidly place the Palisade onto a driving line that protected its underside. The suspension, while definitely not tuned for this type of long-term drive, was pleasant enough to reduce the annoyance of bumps and ruts at slow speeds.
Other than when I initiated sudden bursts of power, the locking differential removed nearly all wheelspin and the smooth acceleration curve kept the vehicle under control without any sudden jerks, even when we slowed to a snail-like 5 mph when we encountered the cutest puppy in North America standing for too close to the road along the route.
That’s really the ticket here. Light off-roading at slow speeds is completely fine for passengers as the vehicle swallows most of the smaller bumps along the trail.
On the road, the Palisade’s carry-over 3.8-liter V6 engine gets you to highway speeds in a satisfactory fashion with only a slight bit of bluster from the engine compartment. Sure it has a Sport mode (in addition to Comfort, Smart, Snow, and Eco) but the remapping of the 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque really only added a tad bit more of acceleration benefit at take-off and while overtaking. The trade-off of sticking around in lower gears for a longer amount of time is more of an annoyance than anything. The Palisade is happier and the experience behind the while is best served with Comfort or Smart.
The V6 is a perfectly adequate engine, but I wish there were additional options. Hyundai might be killing it in the EV world with the Ioniq 5 and Kona Electric, but not having a hybrid option for the Palisade seems like a missed opportunity. Even a more efficient turbo four-cylinder would be a welcome sight in the Palisade for those looking for a bit more efficiency out of their mid-sized SUV.
For regular street steering, Hyundai found the balance between being too tight (or overly sensitive to movements) and a sloshy, detached experience. Hand movements are deftly transferred to the wheels in a natural fashion that, on switchback mountain roads, was pleasantly surprising. The steering contributed to the vehicle feeling smaller than its actual size around town. This was a welcome feature while navigating some of the tighter downtown sections of Asheville, North Carolina, where the media preview took place. Whipping the SUV around tight corners and performing the occasional U-turn was effortless.
Bringing all that vehicle to a stop is a solid set of brakes that inspired confidence in town and on the highway. This was especially helpful during the occasional rainstorms I experienced during my drive. Even while pushing the Palisade on back roads, brake fade never raised its ugly head as I punished the pads and rotors with the type of spirited driving that most Palisades will never encounter.
During all this driving, the seats were incredibly comfortable with a pillow-like plushness that was somehow also supportive enough to keep my spine from aching after a few hours behind the wheel. That’s a tough thing to pull off and Hyundai did it with the Palisade. The second row of seats were equally impressive. Any long-distance road trips should conclude with happy passengers.
The 2023 Palisade offers just the right amount of power and control with a smoothness along the asphalt that’s on par with far more expensive vehicles. In other words, it drives exactly the same as the 2022 model.
Driver’s Little Helper
The driver's assistance package also got a nice little upgrade. Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assistant 2—a version of which Kristen Lee tried out and liked in the Genesis G80 sedan—is standard on the higher Limited and Calligraphy trim levels and optional on the lower SEL trim. The two big updates are lane-change assistance and lane position adjustments for those times when the vehicle in the next lane over is riding the white lines.
Unfortunately, during my time in the Calligraphy trim, I never got the chance to drive it on the highway to test these features. What I was able to test was the standard driver assistance suite with adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistance on the new XRT trim level. Overall, Hyundai’s system has improved over time with smoother reactions to cut-ins and better lane-tracking. The radar and camera system was even capable of tracking vehicles when a biblical amount of rain was dumped onto the highway. I could only see brake lights, but the Palisade was already slowing down to match the lead vehicle’s speed.
When not concerned about the deluge of water falling from the sky disrupting my vision, I tried out the new rear-view mirror camera, also a new feature for the 2023 models. It’s a crisp, high-resolution display with no perceptible latency. These new rear-view cameras are either loved or hated. One of my biggest complaints is that older drivers that use glasses to read have difficulty focusing on the tiny monitor. A mirror gives you essentially an infinite focal area, a display not so much. So far, no one has added a way to adjust the focus like you do with a camera viewfinder.
Outside of its cousin (or half-sibling) the Kia Telluride, the Palisade stands above the competition with its $36,245 base price (including destination). The Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, and Toyota Highlander just can’t touch the Hyundai in value and quality. The SUV delivers a luxury-brand experience at a mid-level vehicle price point. Sure, it doesn’t have the offroading chops of the Subaru Ascent or Highlander, but it’ll do 95 percent of the offroading that most people will actually encounter in the real world.
It does that, too, with an interior that’s incredibly comfortable and at no point feels like something you could get for around $40,000. (The new, aforementioned XRT trim starts at $41,545 and the top-line Limited and Calligraphy trims start at $47,695 and $50,195, respectively.) The seats are plush and ready for long family road trips. And though an optional extra, the second row has ventilated seats in addition to being heated, which is a feature that also made its way to the third row. It’s no wonder that, according to Hyundai, the Palisade already has a 5.7 percent share of the mid-sized SUV market.
The 2023 Palisade refresh doesn’t mess with what already made the SUV beloved. Instead, with a few design tweaks and just enough useful added technology that hopefully more people will find helpful, the Palisade is a great SUV made better.
Roberto Baldwin is an automotive and tech journalist based in San Francisco, California. His work has been published in Wired, Car and Driver, and Engadget.
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