2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD Review

All the luxury and tech you'll ever need

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: The best standard 3-row SUV package on the planet, solid power from the turbo V6 engine, opulent and spacious interior, fancy suede headliner is sumptuous, great infotainment technology, the best SUV under $50K.
Negatives: Styling of the grille could be less ostenatious, third row is tight for tall adults.
Bottom Line: Hyundai won't say that it builds a luxury SUV, but they'd be wrong. The Calligraphy edition packs in more standard features than any other mainstream three-row SUV. It also happens to be good to drive, tremendously comfortable, and actually surprisingly premium. You won't find a more complete three-row SUV for the money.
Now that Hyundai has solidified sales with its incredible Palisade, it's time for the brand to swim slightly upstream with a 2021 top trim version that takes all of the optional equipment and crams it into a premium 3-row SUV. The Calligraphy comes standard with all-wheel drive, a $1,700 upcharge even on the next highest level, the Limited. It also adds packages into the standard equipment that would otherwise cost extra. It even adds luxurious features like an Alcantara suede headliner that's as nice as the premium brands and heated and ventilated seats in the first two rows. We drove it for a week to see how good the most-expensive vehicle in Hyundai's lineup actually is. Read on for our detailed review.

Driving Experience



The Palisade isn't as engaging as the Mazda CX-9, but it is capable at both low and high speeds. Its focus is on a comfortable ride, but there's also a solid amount of power and handling to make it more engaging than some competitors.

Ride Quality: The Palisade has a plush ride that does a fine job at absorbing bumps. It's smooth over most surfaces and doesn't get upended over gaps.

Acceleration: The 3.5-liter V6 mated to the 8-speed transmission. Accleration is good with a 0-60 of 7.2 seconds, and throttle response is good. There's only minor turbo lag.

Steering: The steering is responsive and accurate, but it lacks feedback of most electronically assisted systems. It also does well on highways with good centeredness.

Handling: The Palisade is tall, and there is some body roll, but it's manageable as long as you don't put it into a turn to quickly.




There's a lot to love about the tech in the Calligraphy edition. Hyundai continues to improve its infotainment system, and it's a big payoff in a vehicle at this level. It makes Jaguar, Lexus, and Alfa Romeo's systems look like a joke. There are also quite a few tech features that are optional on more expensive vehicles or just not available, at all.

Infotainment System: The large 10.25-inch touchscreen is attractive, easy to read, and well-laid out. It's a much more sophisticated system than the ones in Hyundais from 2019. It even has Nature Sounds to calm you. Unnecessary but a truly unique you might look for in a Mercedes.

Controls: We're not fans of pushbutton transmissions, but it's clear this was done to save space, and the rest of the controls, from the drive mode selector to the clean row of infotainment buttons are very well-executed.




The Calligraphy edition doesn't look much different from the Limited trim, but it still looks handsome. Our only chagrin is the rather over-styled cascade grille. The interior is one of the best we've seen in any vehicle at this price.

Front: The huge grille is a lot to take, but at least at this trim level, the mesh pattern is quite nice. There's a lot to look at on the front fascia, but at least it's not vanilla.

Rear: The back end is similarly like the front, but it's not without its merits. The taillights are strong and mimic the pattern of the headlights and driving lights. The tailgate is smooth, and the rear glass is nice and wide. We just don't like the misshapen exhaust tips.

Profile: The profile is its best angle with good proportions and a modicum of chrome. The creases and contours aren't overdone, and the body is clean.

Cabin: You'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer interior for the price. Only the Mazda CX-9 comes close, but the Calligraphy goes one up by adding rich Alcantara in the headliner and gorgeous quilted stitching in the seats and door panels. The materials also look and feel top notch, perhaps with the exception of the grey plastic buttons for climate controls.




There's ample room in the two front rows and practical space in row three. The Nappa leather is sublime, and the metallic finishes in the cabin are superb.

Front Seats: These are big, well-cushioned, and supportive. There's plenty of width in the seatbacks and a solid amount of length in the cushion for taller drivers.

Rear Seats: The second-row Captain's chairs in our tester were almost as good as the front seats. The third row could be tight for those over six-feet, and the cushion is a bit on the flat side.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): There's some wind noise at high speeds, but the Palisade is well made and solid with no creaks or rattles.

Visibility: The big windows, manageable pillar size, and the good seating position provide good visibility. The camera displays in the instrument cluster when changing lanes or turning.

Climate: The climate control system works well, and we love the standard heated and ventilated seats in the first two rows. Some premium automakers don't even offer this.




The Palisade just nailed the top score in crash tests, so buyers can take comfort that they're being transported in a truly safe vehicle. It also comes with a great array of safety technology that rivals pricier models.

IIHS Rating: The Palisade earned the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, with "good" in all crash tests, "good" headlights in some trims, and "superior" accident avoidance tech. It only scores "marginal" with lower tier headlights and "acceptable" LATCH ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: The 2020 Palisade earned five stars from the federal government. The 2021 has not been tested yet, but the Palisade is unchanged.

Standard Tech: The Palisade gets a ton of safety features including a Rearview Camera, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist w/ Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver LED headlights/taillights/DRLs, Attention Warning, Rear Occupant Alert, Rear Parking Distance Warning, Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, and a Safe Exit Assist system that warns you and your passengers if they try to open a door and traffic is approaching from the rear.

Optional Tech: None. The Calligraphy edition comes packed with all of the model's safety features as standard equipment.




There's a lot to love about the small item storage, as well as the rear cargo area. It feels like it's not lacking much at all when it comes to gear and luggage capacity.

Storage Space: The center compartment has a sliding door that holds drinks (the drink holders slide out of the way for even more room), and the center armrest is also large. On top of that is a big undertray storage below the center stack that can hold a huge handbag and other large gear.

Cargo Room: There's 18 cubic feet behind the third row, 45 cubes with the third row folded flat, or over 86 cubes all the seats folded, and they fold totally flat, as well. The fact that the third row is power-folding (unlike the Telluride). An underfloor storage compartment adds another level of convenience.

Fuel Economy



Fuel economy is pretty good but not remarkable. Under more conservative driving, owners should be able to attain the 19/24/21 mpg for AWD models. We drove in Sport mode exclusively, so our numbers were lower.

Observed: 17.6 mpg

Distance Driven: 93 miles




The Calligraphy comes standard with the 12-speaker 630-watt Harman Kardon premium that fills the cabin with rich sound. Ample bass, great clarity, and a fullness that cascades throughout the interior is one of the best systems in a vehicle at this price.

Final Thoughts

The Palisade is a hit, and its new top trim Calligraphy is even better. It adds another level of luxury that we didn't think was necessary, but it is welcomed. It's nicer inside than the top-trim Kia Telluride, and we found that it has better features and ergonomics. We're guessing this new trim option will draw customers away from the likes of BMW, Lexus, Audi, and even Land Rover for its value, space, luxury, and tech. To get this much for under $50,000 is nothing short of remarkable.
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