Hyundai Canada entrusted Auto123 with a 2023 Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy so that we could inspect it from every angle and report back to you. This is the second chapter our long-term review.
In the first chapter our three-part review, we explored the genealogy of the Hyundai Palisade. This time, let's take a look at its design.
Have you noticed Hyundai’s penchant for choosing nameplates that evoke hot climes with a western accent? There’s Tucson: the largest city in southern Arizona, and Santa Fe: the capital of New Mexico, and Veracruz (the ancestor of the Palisade): a major port on the Gulf of Mexico.
For the Palisade, Hyundai was inspired by a Los Angeles suburb called Pacific Palisades. The term "palisade" refers to a succession of promontories by the sea. Drive along Highway 1, aka the 1,055-km Pacific Coast Highway, and you'll have plenty of occasion to admire these palisades, interspersed between seaside paradises and accompanied by a good dose of Beach Boys on your satellite radio.
In California, ground zero is a 5-km stretch of coastline between Santa Monica and Malibu, dotted with villas owned by people as famous as the beaches that attract legions of windsurfers.
Personally, the name Palisade reminds me more of the wooden ramparts of a cavalry fort as seen in the Blueberry comics I leafed through in my youth. To each their own...
A name is one thing, but...
When the Hyundai Palisade first launched as a 2019 model, the name was not the main subject of attention. While opinion regarding the quality and relevance of the new offering was unanimously positive, reaction to its looks were more divided. The main focus of naysayers’ ire? The front grille.
For those who liked it, it was like a tribute to Lexus, a grille that, in its own way, echoed the angles of the giant hourglass. For those who didn’t, it was a bit of a mess, with huge chrome trims to contain the overflow of stuff.
But Korean automakers tend not to stand still. The mid-size SUV was barely three years old when Hyundai unveiled a revised Palisade at the 2022 New York Auto Show, sporting a new mid-cycle redesign. And, yes, it was mainly the grille that changed.
The zigzag chrome was dropped in favour of vertical and horizontal bars - still chrome, of course, but which suddenly gave body to the grille. An impression of chic robustness. An impression enhanced by the completely new and rather original grille, as shown in the images.
It looks like a cascade of blocks. By shrinking them as they approach the bumper and pushing them out of the grille, the pattern creates a 3D effect enlivened by the dancing reflections of light. Just as the original grille appeared cramped in the front, the 2023 grille (which will remain identical in 2024) expands, so much so that it sucks in the LED headlights, whose thin edge imitates the design of floating cubes. Add to this the reworked daytime running lights, straight as a picket fence, and you've got a classy snout that makes the Palisade instantly recognizable as it approaches.
The rear end wasn’t totally neglected, especially the lower section. The reflectors take up the clean lines of the grille to emphasize the generous width of the tailgate. The fairing, which extends under the vehicle like a shield, continues the horizontal theme and conceals the towing hitch. Even the dual exhaust tips have abandoned their asymmetrical shape for a clean square.
Talent to spare
Credit should go to designers Kim Jun-Ho, Seo Jin-Hwan and Kim Gil-Ho for their fine work. But you should also know that Luc was keeping a close eye on things...
That would be Luc Donckerwolke, voted World Car Person of the Year 2022, and a 58-year-old Peruvian-born Belgian whose hobbies include racing cars and mastering foreign languages. He speaks a dozen of them, including Mandarin, Japanese and Swahili. His flawless career has taken him from Skoda and Lamborghini to SEAT and Bentley.
It was Peter Schreyer, then chief designer at Hyundai and Kia, who lured him from Volkswagen to Hyundai. The duo oversaw the birth of the Genesis luxury division. Before too long, Luc replaced Peter. And then he went looking for Karim...
That would be Karim Antoine Habib, 53, a Canadian of Lebanese descent who shone at BMW and Infiniti before joining Kia in 2019. But he only speaks five languages...
All this to say that Hyundai and Kia aren't messing around when it comes to design. They know that first impressions count. Before asking what's going on under the hood or in the third row, consumers first decide if they like what they see.
The efforts of these talented stylists also serve to unify the products of the Hyundai model range. Just look at the Genesis lineup, or the electric Ioniq range; the vehicles therein sport contemporary lines designed to seduce. In fact, many observers point out that the changes made to the 2023 Palisade were designed to bring it closer to the styling of the Tucson and Santa Fe, as well as the Ioniq 5. When you compare the front ends, you know what they mean.