It’s tough to build on something that’s already proven to be a sales winner, and that was certainly the case when Hyundai made the 2023 Hyundai Palisade. The hot-selling three-row SUV is a very popular choice with consumers. Still, while we were impressed with the interior and some of the design choices Hyundai made, it was balanced out by some odd omissions as well as a range-topping model that did little to tell you that you were at the top of the range. The Korean car giant set out to fix all that with the 2023 Palisade, but have they succeeded?
Palisade Exterior Changes Little
To find out, we were invited to take a trip down to the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, but before we embarked on our journey, we took a moment to ponder some of the styling updates that Hyundai made to the Palisade for the new model year. Buyers hoping for a revolutionary reboot will not find it here. Instead, Hyundai designers chose a more subtle approach; from a distance, it might not be very obvious that you are looking at the 2023 version.
Step closer, and you can see that the front grille has been revised, with the headlights and bumper also getting in on the act too. The grille follows the trend we have seen in other recent Hyundai offerings and blends some of the lighting elements into the grille itself. The front bumper has also been reworked and a new XRT trim adds blacked-out accents and some light exterior appointments to make it gravel road ready. Hyundai also added more length to the Palisade, but they did it via enhanced overhangs, and you will need to look very closely to see them. Oh, and we’re glad that range-topping Caligraphy models finally get the styling that makes them look the part versus relying on the fine details to do it, thanks to a model-exclusive front grille as well as new wheels and other light splashes of chrome.
As a whole, the Palisade does a better job of standing out in the crowd against rivals like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, and the Toyota Highlander. However, it appears that the Palisade also lost some of the inner sportiness that helped us fall in love with it the first time. Here’s hoping that the company eventually solves this with an N-Line model to help bring some of that spark back.
Elegant Interior Improves The Driving Experience For Passengers
Slip inside the 2023 Palisade, and some of the changes that Hyundai designers made become more evident. While our trek back to Michigan was done in the XRT, the bulk of our praise goes to the Caligraphy model we took down to Ohio. When we last experienced this trim in the older one, we lamented that the cabin didn’t do enough to drive home to the point that you were in a true luxury SUV.
Thankfully, Hyundai listened and delivered the goods when it came to fixing these woes. The dashboard has been reworked, with the center console rising to meet the dashboard. The massive 12.3-inch infotainment screen is reminiscent now of European luxury offerings, while a digital rearview mirror is now available but only on the Caligraphy. The screen itself continues to be a very flexible unit for owners to use, and it can now be split between various menus or even left entirely to one function. The Palisade also comes with a WiFi hotspot for 2023 that can support up to five devices, but they stopped short of what kind of speeds customers can see if the spot is catering to multiple devices at once. That also extends to the amount of charging ports that the Palisade has, with the SUV featuring four USB-C ports as well as a single USB-A port (upper trims get an extra set of C ports along with a wireless charging pad. Hyundai even put in a driver-operated intercom so that they can talk to the rear passengers via the speakers.
But move away from the screen, and you can see that Hyundai also expanded their efforts to address the finer details with Caligraphy models now featuring wood trim as well as new seats that have a new pattern and are more comfortable than before. The wood trim in question also extends to the door panels, which helps create an immersive effect. The second-row seats have a good amount of room for passengers of all sizes, but the third row is still best left for children and cargo when they are folded down. As the miles melted away on our trek to Ohio, we were impressed with how well the sound-deadening material resisted all road noise, the only exception being tire noise when going over certain road surfaces.
Palisade Continues To Embrace V6 Power
The outgoing Palisade embraced a V6-only layout, and this trend continues in the 2023 model, with the 3,8 liter carrying over mostly unchanged. It still makes 291 hp, and while Hyundai claimed that some changes were made to the software to improve low-end performance, buyers moving over from a 2022 model will not notice that much of a difference. The amount of power here is still adequate, and it proved to be more than enough for our slog through rural Ohio. An eight-speed automatic continues to be the lone transmission choice here, and it still does a good job delivering smooth shifts and delivers the goods with minimal fuss.
Part of Hyundai’s drive route took us to the Marblehead Lighthouse on the shores of Lake Erie (you also get a good view of Cedar Point) and we got a chance to see how the Palisade handled narrow roads. While the big SUV will never be mistaken for a corner carver by any stretch of the imagination, the steering did do a commendable job delivering information to the driver’s hands, and that’s despite a prominent dead spot that exists in the bottom half of the wheel when you go from lock to lock. Front or All-Wheel Drive is available and Hyundai claims that the big SUV can tow up to 5,000 lbs when equipped with a Class-3 towing package. An auto-leveling suspension is also available, and it’s a handy tool for hooking up the hitch to a trailer and helps ease the strain and stress involved when loading bulky cargo items into the Palisade.
Fuel economy for the Palisade is unchanged, with front-wheel drive models getting 19 mpg and 27 mpg in freeway driving. All-wheel drive models retain the 19 mpg city figure, but the highway figure falls slightly to 25 mpg. That’s on par with rivals, but we feel that Hyundai missed an opportunity to use the 2023 Palisade as the launching pad for green technology, especially when you consider that Hyundai has done so with smaller models like the Tucson and the Santa Fe and that the segment as a whole is embracing it thanks to the Ford Explorer as well as the Toyota Highlander.
Pricing for the 2023 Hyundai Palisade starts at $35,250, which will net you an SE model that comes with a strong list of standard equipment. The pricing ladder methodically goes up from here, with the SEL starting at $38,250 while the XRT and the Limited models cross the $40,000 mark at $40,550 and $46,800, respectively. As for the Calligraphy, this version of the Palisade may do a good cosplay impression of a German luxury SUV, but it won’t cost you big bucks either, with base versions starting at $49,200. Our pre-production example came fully loaded and only exceeded the $50,000 mark due to the destination fee and other charges.
That’s a good bargain for a luxury SUV and is certainly less expensive than the $52,375 Explorer Platinum and the $55,595 Chevrolet Traverse High Country when the all-wheel drive version is being created in the online configurator. The Toyota Highlander Platinum in all-wheel drive is slightly less expensive out the gate than the Hyundai, but the gap narrows when you add options.
While the 2023 Hyundai Palisade certainly improves the overall package in several key areas, it also feels like the proverbial glass half-full scenario in SUV form. We wish that Hyundai was willing to explore more angles this time, especially when it comes to adding hybrid technology and a new engine option to help it fall more in line with some of its rivals which offer four and six-cylinder powerplants. Perhaps that will be fixed in the next generation model but we suspect that most SUV buyers will not think of such things and will instead focus on setting the Ergo-Motion seats to just the right position and enjoy a good lakeside view on a nice sunny afternoon.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.