The 2021 Hyundai Palisade might have been overshadowed by the ruggedly attractive Kia Telluride when the three-row crossover SUVs launched last year, but Hyundai didn’t let its sister company outshine it for long. For 2021, Hyundai introduced a new top trim called Calligraphy to make the top Palisade as expressive as its new namesake.
But is it worth the $2,625 upcharge over the Limited model, which wears a price tag that remained the same at $46,265? Is it better than digging through the Kia Telluride’s Prestige and Nightfall Edition packages on its top SX model? Or is the $48,890 charge for the Palisade Calligraphy model expensive enough to nudge shoppers into the Lincoln Aviator, Cadillac XT6, or Acura MDX?
What we know for certain is this: Before we even sat in the Calligraphy, the 2021 Palisade ranked pretty highly with a TCC Rating of 7.3 out of 10. It earned high marks for its quiet, comfy ride, its excellent standard safety features and crash-test rating, and its loaded feature set.
After a few days behind the wheel of this new luxury-leaning trim, I wished I had been on the outside to see how these mostly cosmetic changes look in action.
Hit: Standard all-wheel drive
Worried about snow or weather? The $1,700 upcharge for all-wheel drive on the Limited trim might be a deal maker for the Calligraphy. It comes standard, and includes hill descent control, in case you want to shush down the local sled hill. It comes with a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 with an 8-speed automatic with a ride that is soft, quiet, and totally capable. With standard AWD, the difference between the trims is only $925.
Miss: Are those exterior cosmetic flourishes “upgrades?”
The remaining $925 results in a modified lower bumper that extends the chrome all the way to the ends and has a lip that pretends to curl off a front skid plate. Curiously, there’s a little light square cut out in the part of the upper bumper between the headlight and fog light housing. The little window shows that the fanged daytime running light runs unbroken through both housings from top to bottom.
The third taillight expands more across the integrated rear roof spoiler. Both the Limited and Calligraphy have 20-inch wheels, but the Calligraphy takes the Limited’s twin five-spoke look and twists it into a wicked lattice wheel pie. It looks more futuristic.
Hit: The interior
The $925 adds a little mileage inside, too. To be sure, the Palisade shows off its best inside with wood and leather trim, ample but subtle storage compartments, and a wide, open dash crowned with a 10.3-inch touchscreen. Puddle lamps welcome Calligraphy owners as it would in a luxury vehicle. Calligraphy adds quilted leather door panels and a microfiber-suede headliner replaces the melange headliner. They’re both soft to the touch, but suede is softer, and the tactile upgrades continue to the perforated-leather steering wheel. Why not quilted seats? Evidently, the nappa leather on either Calligraphy or Limited was enough.
Hit: The warranty is better than luxury brands
All Palisades benefit from Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, and 3 years/36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance for oil changes and tire rotations.
The Calligraphy trim doesn’t add all that much aside from standard all-wheel drive, but it distinguishes itself for Palisade diehards. If you want Hyundai’s finest—and it is fine— and need all-wheel drive, the Calligraphy trim takes it to the limit. Otherwise the Limited is just fine.
2021 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy
Base price: $48,955
Price as tested: $49,105
Drivetrain: 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: 19/24/21 mpg
The hits: Standard AWD, lush interior, great warranty
The misses: Calligraphy’s odd exterior upgrades
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