We drove the Hyundai Palisade when it first came out and enjoyed its upscale styling, car-like handling, and plentiful technology package. For 2023, the Palisade has a spiffy new XRT model, which offers sporty black trim and everything you need for family adventures. We spent a week behind the wheel of this handsome and versatile SUV.
The XRT model gets exclusive 20" black wheels, along with a faceted gloss black grille, black lower bumpers, unique trim along the bottom of the door, and black roof rails. Chrome and silver elements have been all but banished - their only appearance around the windows. The overall look is crisp and pleasing to the eye, erring more on the side of urban stealth than a rugged off-roader.
The 3.8-liter, naturally-aspirated V6 engine under the hood provides a satisfying amount of grunt - 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and predictably and can be controlled by paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Overall ride quality is excellent for a seven-passenger vehicle, thanks to MacPherson struts up front and an independent multi-link suspension in the rear. Our test vehicle came equipped with all-wheel drive, which helped provide extra traction on the loose dirt and gravel roads we drove it on around the Oklahoma countryside. We didn't get to test the Palisade in winter conditions, but the drivetrain does offer a drive mode optimized for Snow. Like other Palisades, the XRT can tow up to 5000 pounds, though this requires an optional Trailering package.
Hyundai did a great job with the exterior design of the Palisade, rounding out the corners of what would be an otherwise very boxy SUV. It's rare to have a vehicle that looks equally good from the front, side, and back, but the Palisade is one of those. And the black trim elements of the XRT model are our favorite look out of the lineup, which includes body color and silver trim variants.
The interior of the 2023 Palisade is largely unchanged from prior model years, and that's a good thing. The space is clean, purposeful, and easy on the eyes. It's quiet and comfortable, appointed tastefully with a smooth, simulated leather called "H-Tex" on the comfy bucket seats. Fit and finish are excellent, without the slightest squeak, rattle, or rough edge to be found. Controls are well placed, and there's a good balance of tactile buttons and knobs to accompany the 12" widescreen touchscreen display that sits upright on the dash but doesn't obstruct visibility. The pushbutton shift-by-wire system means the center console floats, providing ample space underneath for storage. Heat comes standard on the front seats. One disappointment is that the ventilated front row and heated second- and third-row seats aren't even available as an option on the XRT trim.
One of the stranger design choices is the default layout for the Palisade's digital information display. It wins points for being clean and easy to read. But the faux 7-segment digits seem out of place in such a modern display, and the tachometer display that displays 1/1000th of the current RPM is downright odd. Here's where you can keep track of the Palisade's excellent adaptive cruise and lane centering status, which work in concert to provide a very smooth and confidence-instilling Highway Drive Assist feature.
As you move into the rear of the Palisade, there's good legroom and headroom for both the second and third rows. The second row features an electric sliding function which improves access to the back row, though you still have to contort yourself a little to get around the C-pillar to get back there. But once you're back there, there's a surprising amount of space, even for taller passengers. The third row is a bit on the narrow side to accommodate armrests and drink holders, so it's better suited to two people than three. Second-row passengers get USB and USB-C ports for charging devices, but you'll have to go for the Palisade Limited or Calligraphy if you want third-row charging ports.
There's plenty of space for cargo in the back of the Palisade. With all rows in use, there are 18.0 cubic feet, which includes a deep tray under the deck floor that's great for carrying grocery bags, backpacks, and other loose items. Drop the third row, and that jumps to 45.8 cubic feet, maxing out at an impressive 86.4 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded flat.
Overall, the Hyundai Palisade is one of the best three-row family SUVs you can buy. It's got an excellent drivetrain, a comfortable interior, tons of modern technology, and a best-in-the-industry factory warranty. Other than a new grille, the refinements to its design for the 2023 model year are relatively subtle, but Hyundai got a whole lot right out of the gates. Among the five trim levels available for the Palisade, the XRT wins our vote for most visually appealing. There are fancier models available, but we love the stealthy looks of the XRT. The 2023 Palisade XRT starts at $40,550 for the FWD model and $42,450 for the AWD model we drove. Freight and handling add $1,295 to those prices.