2023 Hyundai Palisade Highlander review (video)

Mark Davis

If large SUVs are not big enough for you, try super-sized with the 2023 Hyundai Palisade. First released at the end of 2020 in Australia, the 2023 update brings a mid-model refresh for the eight-seater mammoth.

There are only three other SUVs sold in Australia that accommodate for eight passengers; the Land Rover Defender 130, Nissan Pathfinder and the Nissan Patrol. So, the Palisade has a rather quiet market to compete in, even though in the eyes of VFACTS it falls into the busier ‘large SUV below $70k’ category that its smaller sibling, the Hyundai Santa Fe contests in as well.

We now have a change of two variants to choose from since its inauguration, with the Elite and the Highlander – the base model has been dropped. Both variants can be chosen with a front-wheel drive 3.8-litre petrol V6 that belts out 217kW and 355Nm, or a 4×4 on-demand 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that works with 147kW and 440Nm. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Today, we’re putting the Highlander diesel through an extended test with a typical Aussie road trip, from Sydney to Queensland. Prices commence at $65,900 for the Elite V6, and rise to $79,900 for our diesel Highlander flagship (excluding on-road costs).

2023 Hyundai Palisade Highlander – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Output: 147kW@3800rpm / 440Nm@1750-2750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 20×7.5, 245/50
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 2019kg
Power-to-weight: 13.73:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 7.3L/100km
Economy during test: 7.5L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type:
 71L/Diesel[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 20.13kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.26 seconds*
0-100km/h: 9.53 seconds*
60-110km/h: 6.90 seconds*
1/4 mile: 16.91 seconds at 133.0km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.631g
100-0km/h braking: 3.16 seconds at 40.16 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.245g
Decibel at idle: 45*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 75*
Priced from: $79,900[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2023 Hyundai Palisade Highlander – THE PACKAGE

Built on a stretched version of the platform the Santa Fe is based on, the Palisade stands a huge 4995mm long and 1975mm wide. That’s 210mm longer and 75mm wider than the Santa Fe. It was originally built for the American market, so the design language is less radical than other new Hyundai models.

At the front there is a bold cascading grille that exacerbates the tall front end and big bonnet. The Highlander adds a chrome parametric grille that embellishes a more superior look. There are separated out upper and lower headlight units, connected by a ribbon of elegant LED lighting. Silver lower skirting all around the bottom gives off a rugged feel, as it contrasts well with the body paint. The rear is dominated by narrower LED taillights that are mirrored by more silver. Squarish shapes plot out the lenses and the dual exhausts. Overall design is not overly eccentric, more a dominant and strong theme.

To give you an idea of how much room you get inside, the overall length of the Palisade is actually 15mm longer and only 5mm narrower than the new Toyota LandCruiser. In the front row the centre area is risen so controls are all at arm’s reach. Which then leaves a massive storage area under the centre console. You get huge door pockets, bottle holders, and lots of other crevices to stow items.

Leg, hip, shoulder, and head room are all at the front of the class no matter which row you sit in. Our cabin consisted of four adult passengers for the trip. The passengers in the second row were able to stretch their legs out straight without touching the back of the front seat. It’s enormous. You can opt for two captain-style seats in the second row to simmer it down to seven seats as well. Third rows are usually constricted and made for short trips for kids. Here, there is enough leg room for adults, but it’s a little narrow for three adults on long trips.

Even with all three rows in use, you can still use the Palisade’s boot. With 311 litres to play with, it is larger than a Toyota Corolla hatch’s boot. With the third row folded down, the boot fits a remarkable 1297 litres of luggage. Our road trip easily swallowed a large suitcase for each of the four passengers, and two additional carry-on sized suitcases. Amazing.

The Palisade is aimed to be more luxurious than the Santa Fe; and it shows. Comfort levels are outstanding and very considered, no matter which seat you’re in. The seats are large and widely customisable to all shapes and sizes. In the Highlander the driver enjoys 12-way power adjustments, and the front passenger gets 10-way adjustments. The second row gets tilt and slide adjustments, and the two outer seats have a wing-type headrest for anti-head roll sleeping. All rows get USB-C ports, cup holders (17 in total), armrests and air vents in the ceiling. The first and second rows also enjoy heated and ventilated seats, and climate controls.

In the way of interior presentation, it is now updated to the latest Hyundai philosophy. For example, you get a choice of black or dual navy and grey colour themes, blonde woodgrain-look panels, soft blue LED backlighting, quilted Nappa leather seats, door trims, steering wheel, and dash trims; alloy and metallic effect finishes, suede roof lining, and stainless-steel scuff plates.

Also adding to the luxury state of the cabin is the new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10-inch head-up display, and the 12.3-inch centre touch-screen. All look rich in clarity and are easy to read and navigate. The touch-screen allows you to connect to wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, sat-nav, Hyundai’s debut of Bluelink remote connectivity, and a brilliant Infinity 12-speaker sound system with six pre-set nature sounds.

All Palisade variants are equipped with a long list of features. Some key ones are remote services with smart remote start key, driver’s voice communication through the rear speakers, a wireless charging pad, sunroof, variable speed power windows, extendable front sun visors, a smart powered tailgate, tyre pressure sensors, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view monitor with top-down view, distance-controlled cruise control with stop and go function, safe exit alert, forward and reverse collision mitigation with pedestrian avoidance, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, and a full-sized spare alloy wheel.

All these safety features now earn the Palisade diesel a five-star ANCAP safety rating. Diesel variants prior to this facelift built before May 2022 only scored a four-star safety rating.

Then the Highlander adds even more. Some notable features not previously mentioned are a digital rear-view mirror, auto defog air-conditioning, that 10-inch head-up display, forward and reverse remote park assist, a dual sunroof with powered sunshade, rear door window shades, rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated first and second row seats and steering wheel, a reverse light guide, second row wing-out headrests, Nappa leather and suede headlining, rear parking collision assist, a 3D surround view monitor with remote livestream, and remote start ability.

2023 Hyundai Palisade Highlander – THE DRIVE

We reviewed the pre-facelifted 3.8-litre petrol V6 here. Even though it has more power than this diesel engine, the diesel feels more capable thanks to more torque. 147kW is not a huge output, but having 440Nm of torque seems to be the most noticeable figure when you’re hauling around two tonnes. The diesel engine does not need to build revs to get the job done. It calmly glides up to speed without the need to push it. You’ll be especially glad with the diesel when going up hills and your cargo area is loaded up. flat out, we clocked 0-100km/h in a respectable 9.53 seconds.

On our 2000km journey, we were able to provide a chauffeur-like ride to our passengers thanks to the vast interior and smooth powertrain, including the eight-speed auto. It is intuitive and unperturbed with its impeccable ability to line up the right gear without interruption, even under heavy acceleration. Usually, smooth gear shifts result in delays in acceleration. Not at all.

Another big reason to opt for the diesel engine is for the kinder fuel consumption. Based on the ADR 81/02 measuring standard, the official average consumption is 7.3L/100km. During our long highway stretches, our average fell to 7.1L/100km. And with a mix of city and highway driving, we scored 7.5L/100km. A commendable score for a huge eight-seater SUV with a boot full of luggage.

If you’re strictly in the car market for an SUV with a strong towing capacity, there are better choices out there. At 2200kg, it trails behind the 3500kg maximum seen in heavier duty rivals such as the Isuzu MU-X, Ford Everest, and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (3100kg). That is also because the Palisade is not intended for heavy off-road quests. By all means, it will take you on dirt roads and bumpy camping trips with ease. And with the diesel being an all-wheel drive means extra traction will help on those dirt roads or slippery bends. The petrol V6 is only front-wheel drive.

One of the stand-outs for the Palisade is its impeccable balance of stiffness and composure during cornering, and its ability to absorb bumps smoothly. For a large SUV to offer such a comfortable ride as well as good body control, it is quite remarkable. There is none of that sloppiness you used to get from big crossovers of the past.

Its track is also notably stable and planted when hit by bigger bumps in the road. Local suspension testing from Hyundai certainly pays off, as it is a brilliant SUV for long holiday drives. All our passengers stated how comfortable they were after many hours in the cabin.


Thanks to balanced steering, minimal lean, and many cameras to provide great surround vision, the Palisade does not feel as big as it is on paper. And for those who like that high-above-the-road feeling behind the wheel, you definitely get that with the Palisade.

A small pitfall we found with the 2023 update is the new speed warning feature. Every time you go over the speed limit just a bit, such as when overtaking and when the speed limit changes, an annoying and overbearing safety warning beeps. The worst thing about it is it needs to be turned off on each start-up – you cannot permanently turn it off. A lot of safety systems are becoming impracticably intrusive these days.

2023 Hyundai Palisade Highlander – THE VIDEO

2023 Hyundai Palisade Highlander – THE VERDICT

The new 2023 Hyundai Palisade is the perfect SUV for families where size matters. It is huge. It also has all of the latest tech and comfort-related features. And the Highlander adds a solid dose of luxury and quality finishes. For big trips like our long-distance roundtrip from Sydney to Brisbane, we can’t recommend the Palisade enough. We have no doubt you will feel the same too.

The diesel engine is the one to pick. It provides decent fuel averages over the petrol V6, with very little sacrifice in performance, especially real-world performance. It feels more capable and usable than the V6 thanks to more torque that’s available low in the revs. Though, a hybrid would slot quite fittingly in the range as well.

Hyundai offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and one year of complimentary road-side assistance. Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months. You can also pre-purchase servicing plans. Current prices from the Hyundai website suggest $2445 for five services up to 75,000km or five years.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Huge interior, loads of legroom, boot space and eight seats
– Very smooth 2.2D and eight-speed auto
– Doesn’t feel big to drive
– Composed dynamics and ride for long hauls on our Aussie roads
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Overbearing new safety warnings and beeps; need to be turned off on each start-up
– External design not as ground-breaking as other Hyundai models[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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