A host of welcome changes. It’s always reassuring when a manufacturer invests in upgrading its models from one year to the next, and Hyundai has gone to great effort to improve the largest vehicle in its current range. The 2023 Palisade has a wealth of enhancements compared to last year, starting with improvements to its exterior design which replace the rather reptilian appearance of old with a cleaner aesthetic. Okay, in some colors it resembles an LED-lit cheesegrater, but it’s still handsome enough for an (up to) eight-seater – another feature introduced this year.

The big news is the introduction of an off-road-themed XRT model, but we’re not convinced buyers will necessarily warm to fake skid plates or black alloy wheels. We’re more taken with the redesigned dash and steering wheel, with a 12-inch touchscreen taking center stage. A new towing mode helps the Palisade to pull as much as 5,000 lb on models fitted with load-leveling rear suspension.

Winning the space race. If you expect your family size to grow or have an unusually large circle of friends, a standard two-row vehicle isn’t going to cut it. Your choice is either a minivan or a product from the burgeoning ranks of three-row SUVs. The Palisade represents an impressive example of the latter. Although the new three-seater second-row bench offers an extra seatbelt, we’d still favor the comfortable captain’s chairs, which fold down at the touch of a button to simplify rear access. They also slide, to provide as much as 40 inches of legroom.

Speaking of access, the tailgate may not be pretty, but it opens to reveal a cargo space measuring 18 cubic feet. With all rear seats dropped down, cargo capacity extends to 86.4 cubes, which ought to be more than sufficient. You can also rest assured that your passengers will be safe – the Palisade has a top safety rating from both America’s crash test agencies, while higher trims include a more advanced automatic emergency braking system that can prevent collisions at intersections.

2023 Hyundai Palisade Interior

Priced to impress. You can park a Palisade on your drive for as little as $36,245 if you’re willing to accept base trim. That’s no hardship since it still offers satellite radio controlled through a 12.3-inch touchscreen that additionally offers smartphone mirroring. Every Palisade benefits from adaptive cruise with lane control and automatic emergency braking, while AWD can be added to any model for $1,900. Mid-range SEL models can reprise their synthetic leather seat trim across the dash, while also bringing a heated power-adjustable driver’s seat and automatic climate. Another $3,000 will secure you a Limited model, encompassing a sunroof, head-up display and heated third-row seating.

By the time you’ve reached the $52,095 Calligraphy model, you’re looking at specifications more commonly associated with Range Rovers – a massaging perforated Nappa leather driver’s seat, power-folding third-row seats and ambient cabin lighting below a suede headliner. In a Tesla-esque move, the car can even travel forwards and backward independently using the key fob – a fringe benefit you’ll appreciate greatly if someone parks right beside you in a car lot.

Adequate performance. Hyundai has wisely refrained from adding sporting pretensions to the Palisade, which makes the off-road pretensions of the XRT model all the more baffling. Accept this is not a desert-buster and instead appreciate the comfortable ride quality and smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. The 3.8-liter V6 gas engine is sufficient rather than impressive, and its snarling soundtrack seems somewhat out of place when it struggles with lengthy inclines. At least the paddle shifters justify their presence, helping you coax more power out of the engine for overtaking stints. As you’d expect, fuel economy is poor – 21 MPG combined in AWD models, rising to just 22 in FWD guise.

Final thoughts. Hyundai’s engineers have worked hard to polish an already sophisticated SUV, and their results have seen the Palisade moving toward the top of its class. If you opt for middle-row captain’s chairs, this is an extremely comfortable vehicle, with loads of space and a genuinely nice interior. Calligraphy models pile on the luxury without feeling pretentious, and the standard specifications range from fine (lower trims) to extremely generous (higher trims). There’s a reassuring sense of quality to many of the buttons and surfaces, and it’s impossible to argue with a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty that encompasses three years of free maintenance.

At this point, we’d usually list some drawbacks, but they’re few and far between. The Palisade’s size can be daunting, but the car’s ability to move forwards and backward under key fob control provides reassurance if you ever get stuck in a car park space. Fuel economy is poor, but this is still a three-row SUV with a 3.8-liter V6. Calligraphy models are expensive compared to lesser trims, but they’re outstanding value compared to similarly-appointed European rivals. What we have here, then, is a car that you may not love (too bulky and blocky, too slow and cumbersome), but you’ll respect it immensely. Crucially, so will your passengers.

Check prices for the 2023 Hyundai Palisade