2023 Hyundai Palisade First Drive: Almost as good as a minivan

2023 Hyundai Palisade First Drive: Almost as good as a minivan

September 26, 2022 11:16 am


Those who have known me for a while – or have read the words I have spewed on this and other sites – know that I am a mini-trap. I’ve owned several (I’ve lost count) of these unrestrained vehicle symbols of virility and/or fertility, and have appreciated their presence in my driveway every time I run a dishwasher from the big-box store or shuttle home. had to bring a few stray kids into town. There is no vehicle type better suited to suburban families than a minibus.

But nobody wants them.

‘There goes Tonn preaching to the choir,’ I can already hear. Indeed, the typical TTAC reader and commentator goes beyond the typical car buyer. We certainly can’t afford reader focus groups or formal “fill out this survey card and we’ll send you this real touch-tone phone with our publication’s name on it” surveys in 6-8 weeks. But if we could and automakers took our readership seriously, the dealership forecourts in North America would look very different.

Either way, it seems that the best and brightest aren’t buying enough new vehicles to return to the true abundance of minivans we once had. Instead, we get countless variations on the three-row crossover theme – all with six to seven seats in something that looks like it could contemplate fording a stream. Some are soft and rounded as if they were styled in a Life Buoy rod in the shower, while some are more aggressive about their intentions.

It is in this arena that the redesigned Hyundai Palisade will make its debut in 2023. Since its debut for the 2020 model year, the Palisade has won the favor of many a buyer seeking the most interior space with the value expected from Hyundai. The exterior has been slightly modified front and rear, while the interior and driver assistance systems have undergone more significant upgrades. A new upholstery package winks and nods at an outdoor life. 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 largest state of Ohio. As one of two Buckeyes here at TTAC, I drove north to Lake Erie for an evening at a hotel with a few meals served. Yes, both perch and zander were consumed.


Yes, it is very slightly modified. Most notably, the new grille is more in keeping with the theme of rows of geometric shapes seen elsewhere in the lineup – particularly looking at the Tucson and its related Santa Cruz. The LEDs that make up the daytime running lights have been moved out a bit, giving the already large Palisade a bit more visual weight. New front and rear bumpers – giving a skosh of extra overall length – as well as a new alloy wheel design round out the exterior features, letting 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 offered with new materials, including a convincing H-Tex synthetic leather on many upholstery and premium Nappa leather on the upper Calligraphy upholstery. Acoustic glass in the rear doors on premium moldings helps reduce road and wind noise. Heated seats are even available in the third row on the top trim, 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 notably, the infotainment screen is a maximum of 12.3-inch. A Wi-Fi hotspot is available, as well as an improved – faster charging – wireless phone charger, because we all need to stay connected forever and ever. Hyundai has also added the up-to-date USB-C ports, while leaving a single USB-A data/charging port 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 in every trim. HDA is simply an adaptive cruise control that keeps the vehicle in the chosen lane while driving on the highway, steering through curves and the like. It also uses the navigation system to keep an eye on the expected road and the correct speed – and a speed limit is included if you drive through areas where the speed limit changes frequently.

Like Ohio.

The 3.8-liter V6 remains, with the same 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft as before, powered by an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard on all trim levels – AWD adds $1,900 to the price. The HTRAC all-wheel drive system adds a tow mode to the drive mode selector switch, which maintains gear ratios longer when towing on long slopes. Whether front or four-wheel drive, the Palisade is capable of towing 5,000 pounds.

New Palisade XRT

The Outbackification of the crossover world continues unabated. It doesn’t matter if you’re going down a dirt road in a park for a football game, a rugged look will make anyone feel like they could trek across the desert. For Hyundai, the new XRT package does that trick on the Palisade.

Based on the volume-selling SEL trim, the XRT package adds dark-finished 20-inch alloy wheels, lower trim all the way around the body to look like a skid plate, a dark grille and darkened roof rails. While the cynic inside may scoff at these features that do absolutely nothing to improve the Palisade’s off-road capabilities, I grudgingly admit that they actually look pretty good.

The driving

To honor the, ahem, frugal nature of TTAC readers, I chose to spend my time in the less expensive XRT trim versus the spark plug calligraphy. You know what? I have nothing noteworthy to report. It’s as comfortable and quiet as ever. Plush yet supportive seats make long journeys effortless. The cabin is airy with plenty of leg, head and shoulder room.

Like any three-row crossover/SUV smaller than the hulking body-on-frame Suburban and Expedition, cargo space behind the third row is tight. This is a place where a minivan comes in handy – luggage space for a road trip. If you have to transport six or seven of them to a mouse-infested Florida resort, you won’t have much room in the back. Even picking up a bunch of people from the airport will be a fraught adventure. A carrier on top of a roof rack is probably the only choice there.

It’s hard to go wrong with the 2023 Hyundai Palisade. It basically does everything this suburban dad needs in almost 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]