Hyundai Palisade finds groove, challenges segment with Calligraphy trim

When a vehicle is first introduced there’s often growing periods or at least a waiting period from consumers. Then by the third year, that new nameplate has usually hit its groove. My tester this week falls into that categorization for sure.

The 2021 Hyundai Palisade has hit its groove. I could argue it hit the ground running and found its groove as this sleek, modern midsize SUV challenged the stalwarts of this segment the moment it debuted a couple years ago.

For the 2021 model year, there’s not much new or changed, except there is a new trim, with a cool name. And thankfully, I was able to drive the 2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy (the new trim) and see something new on this SUV, which still feels new and fresh as is.

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From a simply aesthetic nature, the Calligraphy trim looks brand new, and that’s because it has some exterior features that are unique and specific to this new trim. The Palisade Calligraphy has grille specific and exclusive to this trim along with special bumpers. It really adds a great deal of personality. The 20-inch wheels give it a strong posture on the road, but also makes this Palisade seem like a redesign. Kudos to Hyundai for adding something fresh and updated for a vehicle that really didn’t need much of an update.

In today’s automotive industry, you have to stay fresh and current and Hyundai achieves it with the Palisade Calligraphy.

From a performance standpoint, the Palisade has a stout, ample engine. The 3.8-liter V6 isn’t flashy, but performs well both off the line and at various speeds. The 291 horsepower feels just powerful enough. This won’t be an SUV that gives you goosebumps when you drive it, but it also won’t be poky either. The Calligraphy trim has all-wheel drive (AWD) standard. With the eight-speed automatic transmission, the Palisade is a good, steady performer.

Inside, the Calligraphy trim brings a few more features found only on this trim. Specifically, quilted leather door panels. This adds a nice, refined vibe to the Palisade. Hyundai’s luxury brand Genesis has been aggressive in their touchpoints and refinement, and that’s starting to seep down to the Hyundai line too. On this Calligraphy trim, the interior is better than most in this crowded segment.

The Palisade is available in seven and eight-passenger configurations. I prefer all SUVs to be good for seven passengers only as it allows for more shoulder room, and my tester did have the captains seats allowing for ample legroom, shoulder room and head room. The third row, as is the case with just about vehicle in this segment, is tight for any adult. If third comfort for older children or adults is a must, then consider a minivan or a full-size SUV.

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Overall all the touch points in the Palisade are better than most in the segment. The cargo area is also above average with 18 cubic feet behind the third row. Fold the third row down and expand the cargo area to 45.8 cubic feet, which is impressive. The total cargo area, with second row seats folded, is an impressive 86.4 cubic feet, showing just how versatile the Palisade is.

The Calligraphy trim is the fourth available trim now for the Palisade joining the SE, SEL and Limited. Base price of the top-of-the-line Calligraphy is $47,750, compared to the MSRP of the base SE trim which is just over $32,000. So the niceties and personality of this new trim comes at a heftier price tag. As tested, my Palisade Calligraphy had an MSRP of $49,070.

With AWD standard, fuel economy takes a very minor hit. As such, my tester had an EPA rating of 19 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway. This makes for an average of around 21 mpg, which is a little sub-standard for the segment.

Hyundai still deals with a reputation of being “cheap”, which is wholly false. In fact, Hyundai has been a disruptive force in the industry by challenging the tried and true manufacturers to up their product line by offering a long warranty along with high-quality interiors. For the 2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy, Hyundai continues to disrupt the segment and challenge its rivals.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $47,750/$49,070
  • Mileage.......................................... 19 mpg/city; 24 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 3.8-liter V6
  • Horsepower................................. 291 hp/262 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Ulsan, Korea

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