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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


2021 Hyundai Palisade: In its sophomore year, three-row crossover adds luxury trim

Well, that didn’t take long.

Hyundai’s three-row Palisade crossover turned one not long ago and already Hyundai is gilding its latest lily.

The 2020 Palisade and its Kia cousin, the Telluride, landed with a bang in early 2019. Lauded for their roomy and well-appointed cabin and bold-but-not-polarizing sheet metal, both went straight to the top of many year-end Top 10 lists.

Now, for 2021, the Palisade gains a new top trim called Calligraphy, which brings a touch of luxury to the family tree. 

It dresses up the Palisade cabin with quilted leather upholstery (the latest luxury signifier), simulated suede headliner and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. 

Outside, there are unique lighting elements, a distinctive grille-finish and special-design 20-inch wheels. 

Calligraphy shares with its siblings its smooth and efficient six-cylinder engine and abundant technology, which includes a raft of safety and driver-assist features.

New standard features across the line include LED headlights and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. 

Well-equipped base model

Hyundai sells the midsize CUV in four trims: SE ($33,860); SEL ($36,510); Limited ($46,460); and Calligraphy ($47,385).

Palisade is built on a front-wheel-drive chassis, with available all-wheel drive. A second-row bench with seating for eight is standard on SE and optional on SEL. The SEL, Limited and Calligraphy come with second-row captain's chairs. 

The base SE is well-equipped right out of the box. Standard-gear highlights include the LED headlights, heated mirrors, power-folding second-row seats, an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, five USB ports (three up front and two in the second row) and a Rear Seat Quiet Mode that silences the second- and third-row speakers so the kids can tune out your music.

Wheels are 18-inch alloys.

Driver-assist features include forward collision mitigation with emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.

Tactical options packages

Filling the $10,000 gap between the SEL and the Limited are the Convenience and Premium packages that bring many of the most desirable features of the top trims. It’s a lengthy list that includes leather upholstery, a 10.3-inch infotainment screen with navigation, satellite radio, an in-car intercom, a semi-autonomous driving mode and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof.

All Palisades are powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 291 horsepower. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Other than some indecision when climbing hills, the gearbox makes smooth and decisive shifts. 

It doesn’t hesitate to shift down when the driver punches the throttle for instant acceleration. 

The Palisade runs the 0-60 sprint in a tick or two under 7 seconds.

It’s strong enough for comfortable freeway merging and passing on two-lane roads, but others in the class are quicker. 

All Palisades come standard with a transmission cooler and trailer pre-wiring and sway control. When equipped with the dealer-installed trailer hitch, Palisade can tow up to 5000 pounds. 

More comfort, less hustle

Palisade is all about carting occupants comfortably and safely, not corner-carving or hustling down two-lane country roads. Body roll is well-controlled, but suspension engineers focused on ride comfort at the expense of athleticism.

The steering system is nicely weighted and fairly responsive, but not particularly precise or communicative. Palisade tracks well at speed, though, and feels stable and well-planted on the road.

A bit of wind noise seeps in at highway speeds; otherwise, ambient cabin noise is subdued.

The LED headlights light up the roadway ahead in both low- and high-beam modes. Standard High Beam Assist automatically dims the headlights when it detects oncoming traffic.

The user-friendly infotainment system can be managed via touchscreen, conventional knobs and buttons and voice. It can be hard to make out many of the controls in broad daylight; more contrast between label and background would help.

Cabin storage options include a large rubberized shelf beneath the center console and a covered bin under the console-mounted center armrest. There are cupholders everywhere, of course.

What’s next for Palisade? Only Hyundai knows for sure but it’s clear they are comfortable moving decisively and quickly. Three-row competitors best stay on their toes. 

Questions or comments? Contact Don at

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy
Vehicle base price: $33,860
Trim level base price: $47,385
As tested: $49,500 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Hyper White paint, carpeted floor mats
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
EPA rating: 21 combined/19 city/24 highway

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.