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To safely venture off-road, the minimum you’ll need is a vehicle with good ground clearance and all-wheel drive. It also helps if your car has skid plates, locking differentials, and other protective equipment to enhance its off-road performance. Most trucks have special off-roading trims or packages, but there are also a handful of adventurous SUVs.

We would have thought that either the Jeep Wrangler or the Ford Bronco would be anyone’s first choice for an off-roading SUV. So why did TrueCar choose one of the most conventional options instead?

A 2023 Hyundai Palisade SUV cruises through the desert in twilight.
2023 Hyundai Palisade | Hyundai

The Hyundai Palisade is apparently the best off-roading SUV

The 2023 Hyundai Palisade looks a little more intimidating with its squared-off stance, but we’d hardly describe its exterior as rugged. Even so, it managed to take first place in TrueCar’s off-road SUV rankings. The Ford Bronco comes in third place and the Jeep Wrangler wasn’t very far behind in fifth place.

Even though it’s a superb off-roader, the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen takes last place due to its hefty price tag. The Toyota 4Runner didn’t appear in this list at all, despite its reputation for satisfying adventures on the trail. TrueCar thought that the Kia Seltos was more deserving, slotting this unassuming SUV into second place.

Is the Hyundai Palisade ready for off-roading?

The 2023 Hyundai Palisade has a standard V6 capable of 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. You typically want a high-end torque output for heightened traction and easier rock-crawling. However, you only get the Palisade’s maximum torque response once you’ve hit 5,000 rpm.

Fortunately, every Palisade trim can be optioned with AWD. Combined with its easy handling and agreeable suspension, Palisade drivers could plausibly have a lot of confidence on trails. However, the Palisade is still lacking from a mechanical standpoint.

The Palisade only has approximately 7.9 in of ground clearance. While that’s more than some of its peers, the Ford Bronco offers a minimum of 8.8 in of ground clearance. Most of the Jeep Wrangler trims have over 9 in of clearance, while the Rubicon models offer nearly 13 in of lift.

Off-roading vehicles also need substantial approach and departure angles over 30 degrees. The Hyundai Palisade’s approach angle is just 18.5 degrees, while its departure angle is barely over 21 degrees. If these angles aren’t high enough, you’ll likely run into problems trying to maneuver your car over inclines and rocky terrain.

The Hyundai Palisade XRT, new for 2023, is probably the best model for off-roading. It rides on bigger 20-in wheels, plus includes an integrated front skid plate and black roof rails. The automaker’s HTRAC-AWD system also comes equipped with downhill driving assist. 

Every Palisade comes with a lot of safety features, including collision mitigation and automatic emergency braking. The 360-degree camera offered in higher trims helps you see more obstacles on the trail and blind-spot monitors are standard across the entire lineup. For this model year, Hyundai also reinforced the Palisade’s floor and B-pillar.

We’re having doubts about the Hyundai Palisade’s capabilities

In terms of hardcore off-road performance, the Hyundai Palisade probably isn’t better than a Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco. Besides a few notable enhancements and some extra rugged exterior accents on the XRT model, this SUV doesn’t offer any extra off-roading equipment.

Its subpar ground clearance and approach/departure angles could render it useless for anything besides mild dirt paths.

It’s likely that TrueCar ranked the Hyundai Palisade so highly because its overall appeal. While its fuel economy isn’t the greatest, the V6 is still more efficient than most of the Jeep Wrangler’s powertrain options. 

TrueCar reviews also highlight the Palisade’s upscale interior quality, while most of the Wrangler and Bronco cabins feature lots of hard plastic. However, most off-roading enthusiasts are willing to sacrifice some comfort for utility. The Palisade falls somewhat short in that regard, but it’s an excellent midsize SUV otherwise. 


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