2023 Hyundai Palisade First Drive: Almost As Good As A Minivan

Sep 26, 2022 11:16 am

Those who have known me for a while – or have read the words I have spat on this and other sites – know that I am a minivangelist. I’ve owned several (I’ve lost count) of these uninhibited vehicle symbols of masculinity and/or fertility and appreciated their presence in my driveway every time I had to bring a dishwasher home from the big store or shuttle a few stray kids in the City. There is no type of vehicle better suited to suburban families than a minivan.

But nobody wants them.

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

Somehow it seems that the best and brightest aren’t buying enough new vehicles to return to the veritable cornucopia of minivans we once had. Instead, we get myriad variations on the three-row crossover theme – all packing six to seven seats into something that looks like it could possibly be contemplating a torrent. Some are soft and rounded, as if styled in a life preserver in the shower, while others are more aggressive about their intentions.

It is into this arena that the refreshed 2023 Hyundai Palisade enters. Since its debut for the 2020 model year, the Palisade has won the favor of many buyers looking for the most interior space with the value expected from Hyundai. The exterior has been slightly changed front and rear, while the interior and driver assistance systems receive more significant upgrades. A new equipment package winks and nods to the outdoor lifestyle. The old Palisade was one of the best of these biggest crossovers – are these changes enough to keep up with the competition?

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Full Disclosure: Hyundai invited journalists to test drive 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 a night at a hotel where I was served a few meals. Yes, both perch and zander were eaten.


Yes, it is very easily customized. Most importantly, the new grille fits better with the rows of geometric shapes seen elsewhere in the lineup — particularly when looking at the Tucson and related Santa Cruz. The LEDs that make up the daytime running lights have been moved outwards a bit, adding a bit more visual weight to the already large palisade. New front and rear bumpers – adding overall length – along with a new alloy wheel design round out the exterior cues and help neighbors know you’ve got something new.

Here we see a few more changes with a new dashboard and steering wheel. The seats are offered with new materials – including a compelling H-Tex synthetic leather for many trims and premium Nappa leather for the Calligraphy upper trim. Acoustic tailgate glass on premium trim levels helps reduce road and wind noise. Heated seats are available even in the third row in the top panels, so the kids will have to find something else to complain about on cold mornings.

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Don’t worry, the kids will find something else to complain about. They do.

The most striking is the infotainment screen, which can measure up to 12.3 inches. A Wi-Fi hotspot is available, as is an improved – faster-charging – wireless phone charger, because we all need to stay connected always and forever. Hyundai has also added the current USB-C ports, while leaving a single USB-A data/charge port for those of us who still have old but working cables.

Safety, performance and comfort

The biggest news for the Palisade is that Highway Driving Assist is now standard on all trim levels. HDA is simply adaptive cruise control, keeping the vehicle in the chosen lane on the freeway and applying the steering for corners and the like. It also uses the navigation system to monitor the likely road ahead, as well as the appropriate speed – and a speed limit assistant is included for when driving through areas with frequent speed changes.

Like Ohio.

The 3.8-liter V6 remains, producing the same 291 hp and 262 lb-ft as before and driving through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard on all trims—AWD adds $1,900 to the price. The HTRAC all-wheel drive system adds a tow mode to the drive mode selector that keeps gear ratios longer when towing long climbs. Whether it’s front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the Palisade is rated to tow 5,000 pounds.

New Palisade XRT

The outbackification of the crossover world continues unabated. Whether you’re actually venturing down a gravel path in a park for a soccer game, a sturdy appearance pack will have everyone feeling like they’re about to head off across the desert. For Hyundai, the new XRT package does that trick on the palisade.

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The XRT package builds on the high-volume SEL trim and adds dark-painted 20-inch alloy wheels, a lower trim around the body that looks like a skid plate, a dark-colored grille, and blacked-out roof rails. While the cynic inside might scoff at these features, which do absolutely nothing to improve the Palisade’s off-road capability, I grudgingly admit that they actually look pretty good.


To honor the, ahem, frugal nature of TTAC readers, I’ve chosen 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 journeys effortless. The cabin is airy with plenty of leg, head and shoulder room.

Like basically every body-on-frame three-row crossover/SUV short before the behemoth 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. When you have to haul six or seven to a mouse-infested Florida resort, you don’t have much room in the back. Even picking up a group of people from the airport will be an exciting adventure. A carrier on 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 good or bad is up to you.

[Exterior Images: © 2022 Chris Tonn, Interior Images courtesy Hyundai]