2021 Hyundai Palisade

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
March 4, 2021

Buying tip

Hyundai’s lighter interior themes turn the Palisade cabin into a luxury liner; we’d also opt into the wide-screen infotainment system.

features & specs

Calligraphy AWD
Calligraphy FWD
Limited AWD
19 city / 24 hwy
19 city / 26 hwy
19 city / 24 hwy

The 2021 Hyundai Palisade builds a bridge to luxury with three rows of seats, big touchscreens, and quilted leather.

The cramped battle wagons and cruddy minivans of the past have been passed. Enter plush crossovers like the 2021 Hyundai Palisade, with digital screens and wireless technology and quilted leather, all meant to cosset up to eight people in style.

With the Palisade, Hyundai has built one of its finest crossover SUVs yet, one that’s smart enough to play up interior quality over ground-pounding performance. It’s a 7.3 out of 10 on the TCC Rating scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Sold in SE, SEL,  Limited, and Calligraphy versions, the 2021 Palisade comes wrapped in one of the more alluring shapes seen from Hyundai yet. Its wide honeycomb grille and vertical LED headlights are reptilian, where the similar Kia Telluride is rectilinear. It’s softer inside, with more elegant interior surfaces, where it looks great in basic black—but is a knockout in white quilted leather. 

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The Palisade sports a 3.8-liter V-6 with 291 horsepower, teamed to an 8-speed automatic with front- or all-wheel drive, good for EPA combined fuel economy of 22 mpg. It takes a relaxed tack, though midrange passing is brisk and though it’s able to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Where it excels over rivals like the Highlander and Pilot is in ride quality: it’s quiet and well-cushioned, with distinct damping that sets it apart even from the Telluride, even when it’s shod with 20-inch wheels.

Big on the outside, the Palisade’s big on interior comfort, too. It sports shapely front seats wrapped in cloth—or draped in leather with heating and cooling, if you spend enough. Eight-passenger seating upgrades to seven seats when the middle sliding bench trades places with a pair of captain’s chairs. Adults can fit in row three thanks to power-assisted seats—and the Palisade can carry up to 86.4 cubic feet while it wears that fab white-leather interior. Need to ferry a lot of people from the Monterey airport to Carmel Valley in style? The Palisade’s a strong option.

Hyundai scores top safety ratings with the Palisade and fits each one with automatic emergency braking; a surround-view camera system, head-up display, and blind-spot monitors can be installed. All models have power features, at least an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and the option for all-wheel drive; the most expensive Calligraphy edition has second-row cooled seats, power second- and third-row assists, a 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, and wireless smartphone charging.


2021 Hyundai Palisade


The Palisade wears a dramatic new look, but it’s the cabin that wins kudos.

Hyundai ushered in a new design theme with the Palisade, one that’s imbued with luxury-grade details and edgy graphics. It’s handsome—and it has a stellar cabin—but the Palisade’s not quite as perfectly in tune as its Kia Telluride kin. It’s a 7 for style.

With its fanged LED running lights and bowed grille, the Palisade has a reptilian look that Hyundai designers equate with a crocodile’s eyes. It’s striking, but not quite beautiful. Amid the upright honeycomb grille and frames of silver-painted plastic, the signature look does make the Palisade look starkly different from its rivals.

The arresting front end gives in to tradition on the rest of the Palisade’s body. It’s a long SUV that wears nicely proportioned metal and glass, though its chrome trim dips down toward the rear wheels, which makes the roof pillars appear strong and large. It wears “Palisade” across its tailgate like a Juicy Couture stamp, and caps it with vertical taillights that echo its headlights.

The Palisade’s cabin experiments with form and finish, and succeeds wildly. It’s a beautiful workplace, especially in Limited trim. The push-button transmission selector helps the low dash look lower; wide bands of climate control switches accent its wide, suavely contoured dash. The stock 8.0-inch touchscreen can be swapped for a 10.3-inch unit that pairs with an available 12.3-inch digital gauge display to render the Palisade with bigger tech brush strokes; wrap all that in quilted leather and gray-toned wood in Limited or Calligraphy trim, and the Palisade pulls off a luxury look for about $50,000, or less.

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2021 Hyundai Palisade


Calm and cool, the 2021 Palisade performs just as you’d want in a seven- or eight-passenger vehicle.

Some great performance SUVs exist, but the Palisade isn’t one of them. Thank goodness.

The 2021 Palisade puts on no performance airs; it simply cushions the ride, filters out the world, and responds with care when it’s pressed. It’s a 6 for performance, with an extra point above average for its ride quality.

The Palisade taps Hyundai’s 3.8-liter V-6 for its energetic acceleration. With 291 hp doled out through an 8-speed automatic, it’s enough to make the front-drive version’s wheels scrabble for traction, or to smoothly pull away with all-wheel-drive versions. Midrange punch is its best look; the gearbox kicks down into its middle gears, and the Palisade ushers itself to the head of the pack, or through a pocket to pass.

The transmission has paddle shifters for more direct driver control, and the Palisade sports drive modes (Comfort, Eco, Sport, Snow, and Smart) that remap the engine and transmission and traction systems to handle the circumstances under foot—er, tire.

Hyundai’s all-wheel-drive system isn’t meant to push the Palisade to the edge of its namesake cliffs. It’s a traction system that can send up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels, and lock that ratio at speeds of up to 40 mph.

Where the Palisade rises above its amiable but average power delivery is in ride. With a distinct set of wheels and dampers from its cousin, the Kia Telluride, the Palisade has a slightly softer ride, one that grants it more lean in corners and a more insulated feel. It’s forgiving and composed on its standard 18-inch wheels and tires, but doesn’t lose much in ride damping with the available 20-inchers.

Hyundai rates the Palisade to tow up to 5,000 pounds, and fits it with a load-leveling rear suspension.

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2021 Hyundai Palisade

Comfort & Quality

Widely comfortable and wildly plush in top trims, the Hyundai Palisade’s nearly perfect for comfort and quality.

Hyundai outfits all Palisades with seven or eight seats, and extracts great space and comfort from its cabin. In the most expensive versions, it passes for a luxury SUV with ease. We give it a 9—and Limited and Calligraphy versions would be a 10.

The Palisade checks in at 114.2 inches in wheelbase, 196.1 inches long overall, and 77.8 inches wide. It’s big, and it shows inside, where the front passengers have excellent seats with a wide range of adjustment; standard cloth upholstery gets an upgrade to leather with heating and cooling in most versions above base. A wide center console and big storage bins hold everything from smartphones to tablet devices to Powerade bottles.

The second-row bench seat can be traded for captain’s chairs on some versions, and heating and cooling also are available. They slide on a track that can max out leg room to more than 40 inches, so nearly any passenger can find a comfortable seating position.

Third-row passengers get easy access to the back via a power-operated second-row slide-away function. Once in the back, knee room even for tall adults is fine, though head room can be snug for above-average builds. 

Behind the third row the Palisade can carry 18 cubic feet of cargo. Behind row two, it’s roomy enough to contain 45.8 cubes. Behind the first row, it offers up 86.4 cubic feet of space.

Hyundai has stitched and snapped together the Palisade’s interior to near-luxury trim, even in base versions. Step into the Limited and the Palisade wears dressy soft leather, a sueded headliner, wood trim, and soft-touch plastics. It’s beautiful.

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2021 Hyundai Palisade


The Palisade has earned great crash-test scores.

With top scores from both the NHTSA and the IIHS, the 2021 Palisade earns a near-perfect safety score of 9.

The IIHS awards it a Top Safety Pick+. The NHTSA measured five-star safety in front- and side-impact collisions, and gave the Palisade five stars overall.

Every Palisade has automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and rear parking sensors. On versions above base, the Palisade can gain blind-spot monitors, a head-up display, a surround-view camera system, front parking sensors, and blind-spot cameras that feed their video to the instrument cluster.

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2021 Hyundai Palisade


The 2021 Palisade outscores other three-row SUVs with coverage, conveniences, and connectivity.

The Palisade may not offer many options—packages are the way to gain features, take them all or leave them—but it runs the table on features. For its warranty, value, infotainment, and standard gear, we give it a 9.

Whether it’s a Palisade SE, SEL, Limited, or Calligraphy, Hyundai’s largest crossover comes with active safety features, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 18-inch wheels, eight-passenger seating, cloth upholstery, and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive costs less than $2,000 extra. LED headlights now are standard in 2021, as is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Drivers can project their voices through the speakers to third-row kids—or shut off speakers to the rear seats for quiet time.

Our pick, the Palisade SEL, gets keyless start, second-row captain’s chairs, and blind-spot monitors. Option bundles pack on 20-inch wheels, parking sensors, a power tailgate, wireless smartphone charging, leather upholstery, a dual-pane sunroof, power-fold second- and third-row seats, and a 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation.

The Palisade Limited costs more than $45,000 and adds to that heated and cooled first- and second-row seats, nappa leather, a surround-view camera system, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a head-up display. Beyond that, a Calligraphy edition gains all-wheel drive, 20-inch wheels, quilted leather seats, and a sueded headliner for $48,890 all-in with standard all-wheel drive.

All Palisades are covered by Hyundai’s 5-year/60,000-mile comprehensive warranty, which is generous among competitors, and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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2021 Hyundai Palisade

Fuel Economy

The Palisade’s gas mileage is strictly average.

Hyundai has designed one of its best SUVs in the Palisade, but one area that could be improved is fuel economy. With its EPA combined numbers in the low 20s, it’s a 4 on our scale.

The EPA pegs the front-drive Palisade at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined. With available all-wheel drive, it sags to 19/24/21 mpg. Pilots and Ascents hit 23 mpg combined, while Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid soars to 36 mpg combined.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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MSRP based on SE FWD
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 9
Features 9
Fuel Economy 4
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