New Palisade assures driver is in control

John Gilbert

Last week, we evaluated some of the new gas and electric vehicles that have joined the marketplace this year, and featuring the new Toyota Corolla AWD Hybrid. There were more, of course, because after two days of test-driving some of the 80 new vehicles at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., there was still the climactic test-drive home in a 2024 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy.

After the seven-hour trek, zig-zagging across Wisconsin to get to Duluth, Minnesota, my wife, Joan, and I got to hang onto the Palisade for the following week to drive in our own home environment.

This vehicle is the pinnacle of all things Hyundai, emblematic of the incredible development technology that Hyundai has deployed over the last 25 years to climb from the bottom rungs of quality, comfort and performance and rising to the top echelon, while keeping its sticker prices in check for normal consumers.

The first exposure I had to the South Korean company’s ascent was when it introduced the 2011 Sonata midsize sedan, which was safe, sporty, well-balanced, amazingly economical and durable. Its introduction of a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and its own automatic transmission, which outclassed the aftermarket standards of the industry. After the Sonata won all sorts of accolades and awards in 2011, Hyundai took the technology it had developed for the 2.4 and the transmission, and used it to upgrade its larger V6 and smaller 4-cylinder engines, and the various cars and SUVs powered by them.

In examining only Hyundai’s SUVs, the choices are many, from the compact Kona to the midsize Tucson, and on up to the larger Santa Fe. From Hyundai’s standpoint, there was still something missing, and that was the way to satisfy the buyer tho was leaving Hyundai to goto a competitor because a growing family needed more space inside. With that, the Palisade was born.

For 2024, the compamnhy has had time to refine and polish the Palisade, and it now is powered by Hyundai’s updated 3.8-liter V6, with dual overhead camshafts with stop and go at idle, plus its house-built 7-speed automatic transmission, with steering wheel paddles to add to the driving control. Also, Hyundai’s “HTrac” all-wheel-drive system works smoothly and flawlessly, and you can control it with a rotating knob on the console.

Turn the switch all the way counter-clockwise and you gave “Smart,” then a notch to the right gets you into “Sport,” and the next one is “Comfort.” Next is “Eco,” and then an off-road designation that works on snow or sand. Turning the switch to Sport give you instantly firmer suspension and tighter steering, and the revs come up. It probably won’t help your fuel economy, but it does add control and driving enjoyment.

Speaking of fuel economy, the EPA estimates say 19 miles per gallon city and 24 highway, with a composite average of 21 mpg combined. We drove it mostly in Smart or Sport, ad we got over 23 mpg in all forms of our driving, including the steep hillsides of Duluth.

As you approach the test vehicle, you are pretty sure it’s black, until the sunlight hits it right — then you realize it is a rich, dark green. It is called “Robust Emerald.” Around the front, the grille is now covered with small silver rectangles in a pattern that is both flashy and distinctive.

inside, the bucket seats are covered in rich, Nappa leather, and they are contoured to your body even on the backrests, with every aspect power operated. All the instruments are laid out in an instinctively intuitive design, although it takes a bit of getting used to the push-button gearshift on the console. It works efficiently, with a “P” button for Park, and a vertical switch with the top spot for Reverse, the middle for Neutral  and the bottom one for Drive. Simple, right?

Except, when you stop in a normal automatic-transmission car, putting the lever up farthest puts you in Park. So you might instinctively push the top button, kill the engine, and start to jump out. However, you might be in Reverse, not Park, which will allow the vehicle to roll! If you own the Palisade you undoubtedly would become accustomed to it in short order. But beware.

Second row buckets fold flat, as does the third-row bench, which could give you enough room to convert the Palisade to a makeshift camper, or to haul a lot of long items. We did most of our driving with the second row upright and the third row folded down flat, thanks to the push-button electric switch.

The Palisade holds the road precisely and might actually surprise you with how smooth and silent it can be in highway driving.

I’m not sure what the “Calligraphy” nickname refers to; my impression was calligraphy refers to a style of elaborate handwriting. With an as-tested sticker price of $53,650, it might be to tempt visitors to any Hyundai showroom to bring along their best fountain pen and their checkbooks.