2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy review: Mainstream luxury

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy

The Palisade Calligraphy is decorated with some unique items, including special wheels.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Hyundai has built its reputation by selling mass market vehicles at reasonable prices to value-conscious drivers around the world. But for 2021, it’s stepping up and offering a bona fide luxury SUV through the new Palisade calligraphy.

Like it

  • A quiet and comfortable cruiser
  • Richly finished interior
  • Lots of convenience

I do not like

  • You may still not love the style
  • Steering lackluster

Already a Roadshow favorite, the Palisade receives a few tweaks for 2021. Hyundai has tweaked some of the cut lines and added Driver Guidance package elements to certain variants, things like the 10.2-inch infotainment screen, SiriusXM radio and Highway Drive Assist. In addition to these changes, wireless connectivity for smartphones with support for Apple CarPlay is Android Auto, HD radio and the ability to connect multiple devices are now included in the entry-level SE model and other trims not equipped with integrated navigation. LED headlights are also standard and other minor changes have been made.

But the most significant improvement of 2021 is the addition of that new calligraphic overlay. This model sits at the top of the Palisade range and, damn it, looks like a premium product. For starters, the calligraphy rolls on unique 20-inch wheels that you may or may not love (I’m confused about the flashy design, myself). The Calligraphy’s grille has a new texture that really pops up, making the entire front a little less massive. The exterior door trim is fresh; and there’s a unique rear lighting signature with a top-mounted ultra-wide center stop lamp. If you’ve already considered Palisade’s slightly alien style, you’re sure to love Calligraphy’s visual enhancements.

Inside, however, there are more substantial changes. Starting with an already exceptional cabin, the designers have managed to push the Palisade into luxury car territory, to the point where it is knocking on its sister brand Genesis‘ door. Beautiful quilted leather embellishes the door and seat panels, the headliner and roof pillars are carefully covered in microfiber suede that looks as rich as it looks and the steering wheel is now wrapped in perforated cowhide. Hide the Hyundai logo on the airbag cover and most people would probably think this vehicle is a Audi oa Lexus. The thin, pinstripe trim of this example on the dashboard and doors looks like something of the four-ring branding, even if it’s just plastic.

Having recently experimented with the Palisade’s sister vehicle, the Kia Telluride, I am familiar with its comfort and versatility. The front anatomic chairs are supportive and the second row seats are very spacious for adult passengers. And by the way, all four of these seats are heated and ventilated. Even the third row in this Hyundai it’s livable, with a decent amount of knee and pumpkin room, so adults shouldn’t immediately rebel if you put them back there. Providing easy access to that rearmost bench seat, the second row seats fold and slide at the push of a button. Making it easy to switch from carrying people to cargo, the third row also folds electrically, leaving a flat loading surface for cargo.

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy

The interior of this Hyundai is super nice.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Supporting today’s always-connected passengers, the Palisade Calligraphy features seven USB ports plus a wireless charging pad. Almost everything except the kitchen sink is standard. Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Ultrasonic Parking Sensors, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and more are included and everything works fine.

As for amenities, the Calligraphy features an always-useful head-up display and an easy-to-read 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which is mounted in the same elongated housing as the 10.2-inch dashboard display. This Hyundai’s infotainment screen is easy to use and highly responsive, reacting to fingertip inputs without stuttering or lag. Aside from all that, you also have a delightful 360 degree camera system (Toyota, be careful how Hyundai does it) that provides a super clear and sharp bird’s eye view of the Palisade for docking this SUV in a crowded mall parking lot less of a chore.

Behind that sparkling new grille is a powertrain that we know well. But just because Palisade’s broadcast is familiar doesn’t mean it’s undesirable. Motivation is provided by a 3.8-liter V6 engine rated with an output of 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. A super-smart and ever-refined eight-speed automatic transmission conveys that twist to the tarmac through Calligraphy’s standard all-wheel drive system. This powerplant is smooth and punchy, delivering good acceleration with hardly any unwanted vibration or noise. As usual for naturally aspirated V6s, this one doesn’t have huge low-end torque, but turns fast thanks to that efficient gearbox, really catching its breath at around 4,000 rpm, where it drives vigorously.

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy

Only one engine is offered in the Palisade, a 3.8-liter V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Despite the luxurious finish, the fuel economy of this vehicle is not affected. Like other all-wheel drive Palisades, the Calligraphy pattern stickers at 19 miles per city gallon, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. In mixed driving, I averaged around 20.4mpg, a mustache less than Uncle Sam’s estimate, but still within range. Of course, the front-wheel drive variants are slightly cheaper, just 1 mpg better combined and 2 mpg more economical on the highway.

Matching its premium digging, this Palisade is quiet inside at high speed and runs smoothly without being sloppy. Its handling is safe when navigating corners, although the steering has no feel whatsoever, just giving you an approximation of where you are going, something that, sadly, is all too common with vehicles these days.

2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy

In many ways, the new Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy looks and feels like a luxury vehicle.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Avoiding all options, a basic level 2021 Hyundai Palisade SE starts at a completely reasonable $ 33,700, including $ 1,140 in destination taxes. This outlay gets you a practical, comfortable, and well-made three-row utility vehicle. But for drivers who want a little more, or, really, a lot more, the Calligraphy model seen here costs $ 49,070, not at all an unreasonable sum for what practically looks like a Lexus.

The 2021 Palisade Calligraphy is an unexpectedly premium SUV, essentially the icing on what is already a fundamentally excellent vehicle. Hyundai as a brand may be as mainstream as McDonald’s, but it has provided a luxury product that fancier automakers would be proud to have in their showrooms.