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The modern crossover can be whatever is demanded. For some, it’s about utility, and for others it’s the high seating position and the commanding view of the road. Beyond this, the breed is used to schlep, haul, and otherwise provide the space needed for a growing family. Some even offer a degree of off-road ability. It’s little wonder, then, why they’re popular and being produced faster than little bunnies.
New for 2021 is the Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy. It sits at the top of the range and arrives without options, other than paint colour. From a price standpoint, the Calligraphy is a near-luxury offering, but the level of standard content rivals some much higher-end luxury rides.
The upscale intention is found in the quilted Nappa leather upholstery and a suede-like headliner, along with heated and cooled front buckets and second row captain’s seats. The tech at play is equally heady; from the reconfigurable instrumentation and 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports the right apps, to the 630-watt Harman/Kardon sound system and a full-spectrum heads-up display, this Palisade has the lot.
Along with the usual collision avoidance systems come two pluses. While some will love the Blind View monitor, others may find it a distraction — at first, at least, as the side of the car whizzes by in insets in the instrument cluster. However, as you get used to it over time, it proves to be a valuable extension to the normal blind-spot monitor. Second, when parked, Safe Exit looks for a vehicle or bike that’s sneaking up behind the Palisade and warns of its presence should a passenger start to open a door.
For a young family, there are seven USB outlets, so one per rider means no more arguing. There’s also a rear seat quiet mode, which allows the front seat riders to listen to music without blasting it through the second- and third-row speakers. It also limits the volume of the front speakers so as not to wake any sleepy passengers out back. Finally, the Calligraphy includes the Driver Talk mode for those more rambunctious moments; when activated, it uses the in-car microphone above the driver and the rear speakers to broadcast a message: “Stop it, or I’m turning this car around!”
For the driver, the 14-way power seat, which includes seat base length adjustment, delivers above-average comfort and a solid driving position. Life for the rest of the riders is not too shabby, either. The middle row captain’s chairs are comfortable and the third row, at least when the middle seats are pulled forward, has ample space for kids.
Daily driving comes in many forms and getting the cabin up to temperature on a frosty morning is often overlooked. Along with a tri-zone climate control system, the Calligraphy employs a secondary electric heater that’s used until the engine gets up to temperature. This add-on dramatically cuts the wait time for warm air — during our test, the system was blowing warm-ish air within a few kilometres without having the Palisade idle needlessly in the driveway first.
The Palisade is also versatile. There are 509 litres of interior space with all rows in use and 1,297 with the third row powered down. Dropping the middle row opens up 2,447 litres. The problem is the gap in the load floor between the middle seats.
It goes without saying the Palisade is a good long-distance cruiser, but it also handles an urban commute just as well. The 2.9 turns of the steering wheel needed to get from lock-to-lock does take some effort for a three-point turn, but the good news is the 9.83-metre turning circle is on par with most competitors. It’s also smaller than the Nissan Pathfinder and BMW X5, at 11.8 and 12.8 metres, respectively.
One persistent comment about the Palisade’s style was the low mounting position of the front headlights — many asked if this could put them in a potentially vulnerable position, and it’s a fair question. When compared to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the top of the Palisade’s headlight sits in line with the bottom of the Grand Cherokee’s unit. This puts them in bumper range. Thankfully, the location does not hurt illumination — they’re bright and then some.
The Palisade arrives with a 3.8-litre V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The combination delivers scoot off the line and decent towing ability. It takes 7.6 seconds to get to 100 km/h and it will pull a 2,268-kilogram trailer. The posted average fuel economy, at 11.1 litres/100 kms, is so-so.
The Palisade’s AWD system does different things, according to the drive mode selected. Eco and Smart modes send most of the power goes to the front wheels to improve fuel economy. Comfort sends more kick rearward, which balances grip with economy, while Sport can send up to 50 per cent of the drive to the rear wheels. The over-arching strategy is to put the power where it can do the best work — the system looks at sensor input 100 times a second. The result is seamless operation and a distinct lack of wheel spin. There are also dedicated Snow, Mud, and Sand terrain modes, each of which tailors the system accordingly.
The ride quality is up there with anything in the segment. It is poised, refined and it makes light work of a rutted road. However, if you seek something sporty, look elsewhere. While the Palisade handles well for a big vehicle, it does feel large and heavy when pushed. The wish is to have the firmer steering setting found in Sport mode work with the city-oriented Comfort setting. This would sharpen things without dragging out the transmission’s shift points.
The Hyundai Palisade is one of the top picks in the segment. The value proposition is better than most, as is the level of standard equipment and overall refinement. In this regard, it’s worthy of the Genesis nameplate. However, it’s the little intangibles like the secondary heater and family-oriented technologies that really serve to set it apart.