2023 Hyundai Palisade First Drive: Almost As Good As A Minivan
Those who have known me for a while - or have been reading the words I’ve been spewing on this and other sites - know that I’m a minivangelist. I’ve owned several (I’ve lost count) of these unrestrained vehicular symbols of virility and/or fertility, and have appreciated their presence in my driveway every time I had to bring home a dishwasher from the big-box store, or shuttle a few stray children about town. There is no vehicle type better suited for suburban families than a minivan.
But nobody wants ‘em.
“There goes Tonn preaching to the choir,” I can hear already. Indeed, the typical TTAC reader and commenter is beyond the typical automotive buyer. We certainly can’t afford to do reader focus groups or formal “fill out this survey card and in 6-8 weeks we will send you this genuine touch-tone telephone with the name of our publication emblazoned upon it” surveys. But if we could and automakers took our readership seriously, the dealership forecourts of North America would look mighty different.
Anyhow, it seems that the Best and Brightest don’t buy enough new vehicles to return to the veritable cornucopia of minivans we once had. Instead, we get uncountable variations on the three-row crossover theme - all packing six to seven seats into something that looks like it might potentially think about considering fording a stream. Some are soft and rounded as if styled in a bar of Life Buoy in the shower, while some are more aggro about their intentions.
Into this arena steps the refreshed 2023 Hyundai Palisade. Since debuting for the 2020 model year, the Palisade has won the favor of many a buyer looking for the most interior space with the value expected from Hyundai. The exterior is lightly changed front and rear, while the interior and driver assist systems find more significant upgrades. A new trim package winks and nods at an outdoor lifestyle. The old Palisade was one of the best of these biggest crossovers - are these changes enough to keep up with the competition?
Full Disclosure: Hyundai invited journalists to test the Palisade at an event in the Greatest State of Ohio. As one of two Buckeyes here at TTAC, I drove north to Lake Erie for an evening in a hotel with a couple of meals served. Yes, both perch and walleye were consumed.
Yeah, it’s very slightly tweaked. Most notably, the new grille is more in keeping with the rows of geometric shapes theme seen elsewhere across the lineup - specifically looking at the Tucson and related Santa Cruz. The LEDs making up the daytime running lamps have been moved outboard a bit, giving a bit more visual heft to the already-big Palisade. New bumpers front and rear - giving a skosh of additional overall length - as well as a new alloy wheel design round out the exterior cues helping the neighbors know you’ve got something new.
Here we see a few more changes with a new dashboard and a new steering wheel. The seats are being offered with new materials - including a convincing H-Tex synthetic leather on many trims, and premium Nappa leather on the top Calligraphy trim. Acoustic rear door glass on premium trims helps to cut down on road and wind noise. Heated seats are available even in the third row on upper trims, so the kids will have to find something else to complain about on cold mornings.
Don’t worry, the kids will find something else to complain about. It’s what they do.
Most noticeably, the infotainment screen is up to 12.3-inches. A Wi-Fi hotspot is available, as is an improved - faster-charging - wireless phone charger, because we all must remain connected always and forever. Hyundai has also added the up-to-date USB-C ports, while a single USB-A data/charge port remains for those of us who still have old but functional cords.
Safety, Performance, and Convenience
The biggest news for the Palisade is that Highway Driving Assist is now standard across every trim. HDA is simply an adaptive cruise control that will work to keep the vehicle in the chosen lane while on the interstate, applying steering for curves and the like. It uses the navigation system as well to monitor the anticipated road ahead as well as the appropriate speed - and a speed limit assist is included should you drive through areas with frequent speed limit changes.
The 3.8-liter V6 remains, producing the same 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft as before, driving through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard across all trims - AWD adds $1,900 to the price. The HTRAC all-wheel drive system adds a tow mode to the driving mode selector, which will hold gear ratios longer when towing up long grades. Whether front or all-wheel drive, the Palisade is rated for towing 5,000 pounds.
New Palisade XRT
The Outbackification of the crossover world continues unabated. No matter whether one will actually venture beyond a gravel parkway at a park for a soccer game, a rugged appearance package will let anyone feel as if they can set out across the desert. For Hyundai, the new XRT package does that trick on the Palisade.
The XRT package is built upon the volume-selling SEL trim and adds dark-finished 20-inch alloy wheels, lower trim all the way around the body to appear like a skid plate, a dark grille, and blacked-out roof rails. While the cynic within wants to scoff at these features which do absolutely nothing to enhance the off-road ability of the Palisade, I’ll grudgingly admit that they actually look pretty good.
To honor the, ahem, frugal nature of TTAC readers, I chose to spend my time in the less-expensive XRT trim versus the bougie Calligraphy. You know what? I have nothing remarkable to report. It’s as comfortable and quiet as ever. Plush but supportive seats make long drives effortless. The cabin is airy with plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room.
Like basically every three-row crossover/SUV short of the behemoth body-on-frame Suburban and Expedition, cargo space behind the third row is tight. This is one place where a minivan comes in handy - luggage space for a road trip. Should you need to haul six or seven to a mouse-infested resort in Florida, you won’t have a great deal of space in the back. Even picking up a bunch of people from the airport will be a fraught adventure. A carrier atop a roof rack is probably the only choice there.
It’s hard to go wrong with the 2023 Hyundai Palisade. It does basically everything this suburban dad needs in nearly all normal driving situations, without looking like a minivan. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.
[Exterior Images: © 2022 Chris Tonn, Interior Images courtesy Hyundai]
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