I’m betting when you think of a luxury three-row crossover, models from Audi, Cadillac, Lincoln, Jeep, and Mercedes-Benz are front of mind. So, you may be surprised to find one of the most comfortable and stylish crossovers comes from Korea – more specifically Hyundai and its 2023 Palisade Calligraphy.
Calligraphy is the top trim in the Palisade hierarchy, which means it has the flashiest styling and biggest wheels. Its wide face is dominated by an arrangement of faceted silver pieces and what seem like thinline headlamps, but look closer and you notice the LED headlamps are contained in pods beside the grille. The thick bodysides are visually diminished by silver lower inserts and formal chrome window surrounds. Around back, angled taillamps give an upscale appearance. Place it all over 20” alloys for that flash luxury look.
The Palisade’s interior is an art gallery that just happens to carry seven people in absolute comfort. The swaths of light woodgrain, contrasting light and dark gray heated steering wheel, and perforated ribbed leatherette on the doors are all very Zen, soothing minds like a Japanese rock garden. Aluminum finishes on the console and doors add an industrial vibe. Rub hands over sueded headliner. Nappa leather seats – heated and ventilated up front, heated in all rows behind – are as beautiful as they are comfortable.
Glassy twin infotainment screens provide easy access to gauges and devices connected to the Harman Kardon audio system through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Rear USBs and front console wireless charging provide convenience. It would take a separate guide to fully explain all of the safety systems, but include a head-up display, adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, and rear cross traffic alert with braking. Lane following steering, blind spot warning, and lane keep assist add capability while ultrasonic rear occupant alert and safe exit assist add protections.
There’s not an abundance of power, but there’s enough. Behind the glittering grille is a 3.8-liter V6 engine delivering 291 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. It sends all of that power to the all-wheel-drive system through a crisp 8-speed automatic transmission. With two to four people aboard, the big wagon feels peppy, but fully loaded with seven plus their luggage, it will be pressed. Add on the maximum 5,000 lbs. of trailer and you’ll want a couple of turbos. On the plus side, fuel economy rates 19/25-MPG city/highway – pretty frugal for a large non-hybrid crossover.
Some of the luxury pretentions disappear when you hit the road. There’s no air suspension and the big wheels can thunk over bumps, but the tight steering and four-wheel independent suspension provide a balance of everyday comfort and backroad fun. You’ll always remember you’re driving a large vehicle, but there’s nothing sloppy about the handling either. Hyundai got it mostly right.
Hyundai may not be the first name in luxury crossovers, but the Palisade Calligraphy makes a strong case for itself. It’s beautiful inside and out, has a full array of safety gear, and spoils passengers rotten with everything you expect in a $100,000 automobile. But, this luxury crossover doesn’t carry a six-figure sticker. Instead, it’s about half that. The Palisade starts at $35,550, but came to $52,310 as-tested. Competitors include the Buick Enclave, Acura MDX, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, and similar Kia Telluride.
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