These days, SUVs dominate the American new car market thanks to their mix of features and functionality. Yet, Hyundai was late to the party — until recently offering just two options for utility vehicle buyers, the familiar Tucson and Santa Fe models. Over the last few years, however, it has added a broad mix of new offerings, from the little Venue to the nearly full-size Palisade.
The latter model landed in showrooms for the 2020 model year and quickly carved out a niche for itself. And there’s a good chance it will gain even more momentum with the launch of the 2023 Hyundai Palisade. It’s a relatively modest freshening, at least as midcycle updates go, but adds just enough to an already winning formula to make it even more competitive in a crowded marketplace.
To get a sense for what the 2023 Palisade offers, I headed down to Asheville, North Carolina for a leisurely excursion that included both in-town and highway driving, as well as a bit of off-roading.
Hyundai scored with the debut of the Palisade for the 2020 model year. The crossover was attractive, reasonably powerful and loaded with a mix of features and technologies that played well to the family market, especially those buyers who needed a third row.
Automakers tend to limit the changes brought to market in a midcycle “refresh,” especially when it comes to a popular product like the Palisade. Coming out of nowhere, it now holds a 5% market share in a segment dominated by more familiar models like the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander. But the South Korean carmaker clearly wants to increase the big SUV’s appeal and is making just the sort of updates Palisade needs.
That starts with the addition of the new, mid-range XRT trim giving the SUV a more rugged appearance. All models get modest design tweaks, inside and out, including revised headlights and a new steering wheel. A more functional update is the introduction of new frequency sensing valves on the suspension. Though not electronically controlled, they’re able to better respond to changing road surfaces than conventional dampers.
The 2023 Palisade adds a number of other modest features, especially when it comes to the top-trim Calligraphy package, including the massaging “Ergo Seat.” There’s also the latest-generation Digital Key 2 system which allows a driver to leave the key fob at home and rely solely on a smartphone to both enter and run the big SUV.
During the past two decades, Hyundai has steadily evolved its design language and now offers some of the most compelling products in the mainstream market. That’s especially true when it comes to the Palisade. This is one model that won’t get lost in a crowded parking lot.
The changes for 2023 are relatively modest and require a close inspection to spot. To start with, the crossover’s overall length grows by 0.6 inches, to 197, while width and height remain the same, at 78 and 69 inches, respectively. Most of the added length is up front where there’s an additional 0.6 inches of overhang. The rear overhang shrinks a modest 0.1 inches.
While they left their vertical layout largely unchanged, the front lamps adopt a new look, framing a larger grille. An updated taillight design mirrors the layout up front. One of the more controversial revisions introduces a horizontal shield to the hood. Each trim package gets modest, unique details. The most notable is the XRT package with its blacked-out trim and grille.
The Palisade cabin retains its horizontal layout, the better to emphasize its width and overall roominess.
As before, the instrument panel is dominated by twin 12.3-inch digital displays, the center unit adding touchscreen controls for the Palisade’s generally impressive infotainment system. The one drawback is the need to access the touchscreen to operate seat heaters, a multi-step process. Officials hinted they hope to address that with a future update.
My Calligraphy model added a smaller touchscreen midcenter stack to control the SUV’s climate control system. And it also offered a large head-up display that added the ability to display directional guidance when the navigation system is operating.
The Calligraphy package is impressive — and not exceedingly expensive when you consider all the features included for a starting price of $48,900. That includes the aforementioned HUD system, upgrades to the leather seats and other surfaces and even heated seats for the second and third rows. There are also new, winged headrests for the second row.
One feature that should be of particular appeal to buyers with young children is the Enhanced Rear Occupant Alert. It uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect when a child might inadvertently have been left behind in the second or third rows. That’s a major breakthrough considering dozens of children die each year in hot cars. Hyundai claims the system is sensitive enough to detect the breathing of a newborn under a blanket.
There are no changes under the hood with the 2023 Hyundai Palisade. All versions share a 3.8-liter V-6 making 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with an 8-speed automatic that shifted seamlessly and rarely seemed to pick the wrong gear as I rolled through the Blue Ridge Mountain terrain.
As before, you get a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive. The latter option also comes with a rear, electronically locking differential, a nice feature to have when you’re facing a serious off-road situation where standard AWD might not be enough to deliver traction where it’s needed.
One nice addition is a new Tow Mode on AWD models. The engine is peppy enough to handle up to a 5,000-pound trailer, and the Palisade can be ordered with both a Class III hitch, as well as a self-leveling rear suspension that won’t leave its nose pointing skyward when hauling a heavy load.
Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 combined for the front-drive model, and 19/24/21 for the all-wheel drive package.
Safety and Technology
Hyundai has been a big fan of technology to give its products a leg up on competitors, and the 2023 model ups the game. There are now plenty of USB ports. The infotainment system is, for the most part, one of the easiest to operate, by my experience, and the voice recognition system is reasonably flexible when it comes to recognizing common language commands.
There are a variety of minor updates you might not even notice, such as the new auto-dim sideview mirrors. Hyundai said it wanted to address complaints from early Palisade owners bothered by glare at night.
Hyundai’s Smart Park system remains available, as well. And Qi wireless charging carries over, but is now a bit faster. An onboard WiFi package now is available, and the BlueLink remote app adds more features for 2023.
The list of safety technologies grew, especially in the advanced driver assistance category. There are the must-have features, such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot assist and rear cross-traffic alert. There are also features that should be particularly appealing to parents, including new second-row side-impact airbags and the Enhanced Rear Occupant Alert. Exterior sensors, meanwhile, will prevent a rear-seat occupant from inadvertently opening the door into oncoming traffic.
Then there’s the Digital Key 2 system which uses the various communications systems built into today’s smartphones, including Bluetooth and NFC — or Near-Field Communications. It allows you to leave your key fob at home and operate the vehicle from an Apple iPhone or Watch, as well as various Samsung devices. Surprisingly, it does not work with other Android devices. A smart key card is also included and can be used when handing the Palisade off to a valet.
The rolling hills around Asheville provide a good test for a new vehicle, placing plenty of demands on engine, brakes and suspension. My drive was further complicated by rain and then heavy fog that rolled in as I climbed to some of the highest points along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The 3.8-liter V-6 is more than adequate to do its job, delivering good acceleration, even at higher altitudes. The throttle is responsive without being twitchy, and the 8-speed gearbox is smooth and virtually seamless.
My route included an hour’s driving on backwoods trails surrounding the vast Biltmore Estate. It was a route a Jeep owner might have sneered at, but it still would challenge some other vehicles in the large SUV segment. To its credit, the 2023 Hyundai Palisade never lost its grip, never seemed to struggle, whether on gravel, sand or deeply rutted mud. And those frequency sensing dampers helped soak up the jarring bumps that would have been cause for a real headache in many competing vehicles.
2023 Hyundai Palisade Specifications
|Dimension||L: 196.7 inches/W: 77.8 inches/H: 68.9 inches/Wheelbase: 114.2 inches|
|Powertrain||3.8-liter V-6; 8-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/22 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $34,950; As tested: $50,800 including $1,295 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
From the moment I first drove the original 2020 version of the Palisade, I was impressed. And the 2023 update adds just enough to remain one of my favorites in this crowded segment. Even the base SE model is attractive and reasonably well-equipped. The new XRT adds plenty of features and equipment and some exterior styling touches that should make it the trim package of choice for most buyers. For those who want a near-luxury experience, the Calligraphy is the package to go with.
You’ll pay more for the 2023 Hyundai Palisade, which now starts at $34,950 — before adding in delivery fees. At its debut for 2020 it came in at a more modest $31,350. But that’s the way of the world, or at least the U.S. new vehicle market, these days. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average new vehicle rolled off dealer lots in June for more than $48,000 — about in line with the Palisade’s top-trim Calligraphy package.
Sure, there are some better-known offerings to choose from, including the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer. But with the updates to the 2023 model, expect to see the Hyundai Palisade gain even more momentum.
2023 Hyundai Palisade — Frequently Asked Questions
How much is the 2023 Hyundai Palisade?
The 2023 version of the Hyundai Palisade starts at $34,950 and runs up to $48,900 for the Calligraphy package before adding in delivery fees and options. The XRT trim is expected to be the most popular, at $40,250.
Can I order the 2023 Hyundai Palisade?
The 2023 Hyundai Palisade got an early jump on the new model year and is already available in dealer showrooms. That said, the ongoing semiconductor shortage may limit availability and require you to look around. You also can place an advance order if you’re willing to wait for delivery on a car built to your personal specs.
Is the 2023 Hyundai Palisade a good vehicle?
The Hyundai brand has risen sharply in terms of quality and reliability in recent years and is typically among the industry leaders. The Palisade has had some minor issues reported but generally is one of the most solidly built models in its segment – and among the most affordable, especially when considering its broad range of standard features.