Hyundai re-entered the mid-size SUV market last year with the Palisade and 2021 launches an upscale Calligraphy top-trim emphasizing elegance, just like calligraphy does in script.
2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD Review
The flagship Palisade is Hyundai’s biggest SUV and the seven-seater Calligraphy is the most expensive with our test-drive costing $49,150 with a single option – $215 for carpeted floor mats.
It is competitively priced against more established, similarly equipped SUVs like Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and vehicular cousin Kia Telluride, which shares the same 3.6-liter engine and other parts.
Standard in the Calligraphy are features sold as options in lower trims (base SE, SEL and Limited) including Smart Sense driver safety aids, cutting edge technology, and all-wheel-drive.
Outside, the exterior sports a massive cascading grille, side roof rails, muscular wheel arches, running boards, LED front/rear lights, a steady beltline, large windows, and 9.7 inches of ground clearance for mild off-roading.
A smooth ride on 20-inch wheels came courtesy of a wide front and rear suspension and best-in-class torsional rigidity, helping stability and reducing lean in turns.
Drivers can choose among five driving modes using either the 8-speed transmission or manual paddles (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart (the SUV selects the best drive mode) and Snow, excellent on slippery and ice-covered roads with AWD splitting power between front and rear.
Handling was responsive and Palisade earned a top safety rating in government crash tests.
Calligraphy showcases a luxury-laden cabin with quilted-Nappa leather door inserts, faux-suede headliner, and quality trim materials, like wood grain, seven USB ports, easy slide second-row seats, and power-folding and reclining third-row seats with room for adults.
A 10.25-inch infotainment screen is easily mined for features and there are ample storage spaces.
Features include a hands-free liftgate, heated 2nd-row seats, Harmon Kardon upscale audio, puddle lamps, 360-degree parking sensors, exit alert for oncoming traffic, and exiting alert to check back seat for occupants.
Via intercom drivers can talk to third-row occupants, pipe in audio or observe the third row with a conversation mirror.
With its rear sunshades, Palisades is excellent for transporting children.
Visors fully extend, there is a spare tire, towing muscle when equipped is 5,000 pounds, and Hyundai’s warranty is top tier with complimentary 3-year maintenance.
At a Glance
LIKES: Mileage, luxurious vibe, visibility, spacious cabin/cargo area, good voice recognition, standard features
DISLIKES: Tight 3rd row seating, some wind noise
BOTTOM LINE: Safety and luxury features will help Calligraphy sales in tough market; will be strong competitor with Kia Telluride top trim SX V6 AWD
Fact File: 2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy AWD
291-hp @ 6,000 rpm
262-lbs.-ft. @5,200 rpm
8-speed automatic w/manual paddles
19 mpg city/24 hwy
0-60 in just under 7 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.