Kia Motors continues to produce hit after hit, a trend that seems to have started way back in 2008 with the then all-new and ground-breaking Kia Soul.
This Korean manufacturer builds a variety of models, including the Forte sedan, Sportage crossover, and the Sedona minivan. In recent years, Kia has gone into new segments by delivering the luxurious K900 sedan, the performance Stinger hatchback, and now the big Telluride utility vehicle.
The Kia Telluride is this brand’s largest model ever, a three-row SUV with room for eight. It competes with the industry’s best, including the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Dodge Durango, Volkswagen Atlas, and the Honda Pilot. We’d be remiss if we left out the Subaru Ascent, Mazda CX-9, and the Buick Enclave.
One further note: the Telluride is similar to the all-new Hyundai Palisade. It also slots just above the current Kia Sorento.
2020 Kia Telluride Overview
Kia offers the 2020 Telluride in four trims: LX ($31,690), S ($33,990), EX ($37,090), and SX ($41,490). Add $1,095 for the destination charge. Choose all-wheel drive and you’ll pay an additional $2,000.
As for our test model, Kia supplied a 2020 Telluride SX V6 AWD edition. This one included the SX Premium Package ($2,000), which adds rain-sensing front wipers, a head-up display, a 110-volt inverter, upgraded leather, and heated/cooled second-row seats. This seven-passenger model has middle-row captain’s chairs. Some models offer a second-row bench seat, which increases overall passenger room to eight.
In all, our test model retailed for $46,860. Carpeted floor mats ($210) and a carpeted cargo mat ($115) were the accessory items added.
Kia Telluride Highlights
There is a lot to digest about the Telluride. We’ve saved our driving impressions for the section that comes next. Meanwhile, the following are the highlights of this model.
1. New design, familiar platform. The Telluride is a clean-sheet design, which means it offers a fresh look, not a derivative. Underneath its skin, this crossover has a modified version of the Sorento’s platform. There are approximately five additional inches between the wheels (six inches overall). Where the Sorento has a more flowing visage, the Telluride is decidedly boxy. It has a broad grille, wide hood, powerful shoulders, and a commanding presence.
2. Upscale with a purpose. We’ve already mentioned Kia’s mainstream competitors. But if you think Kia doesn’t have luxury shoppers in mind, you’d be mistaken. Especially as you move up the trim range. The available satin chrome exterior accents and handsome 20-inch alloy wheels could just as easily be found in a Mercedes-Benz or Lexus product. But that’s just the exterior embellishments.
3. Larger than any Kia ever. The K900 is Kia’s largest model by overall dimensions, but the Telluride offers the most interior room of any Kia: 178.1 cubic feet. Seating is excellent in the first two rows, but tight in the third row. The latter isn’t much of a surprise as that’s typical of most competing models (the VW Atlas is one noteworthy exception). Likewise, the storage space is quite good — 21 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 87 cubic feet behind the first row.
4. An interior that’s a cut above. Kia has been upping its game in recent years, delivering select models that punch above this brand’s weight. One of the earliest of its upscale models was the K900, followed by the Cadenza sedan and Stinger sportback. The Telluride aims high, delivering imitation leather on the lower trims and real leather elsewhere. The available Napa hides on the SX are pretty, luxurious, and comfortable — they’re quilted and supply extra padding. The simulated brushed metal and matte-finish wood trim impart elegance.
5. Let’s power up! All but the base trim offers a power driver’s seat. Besides full power accessories, the Telluride comes with power-adjustable side mirrors, which are also heated and include integrated LED turn signals. They fold (Ex and SX) when the vehicle is off and tilt down (SX) when operating the Telluride in reverse. Other power-controlled features include the liftgate (EX and SX) and the sunroof (S and EX). By the way, the SX has a dual sunroof.
6. Lots of standard safety tech. If you’re familiar with Kia, you probably know that it takes safety very seriously. In fact, the Telluride offers a generous level of standard and optional driver-assist safety features. You’ll find standard forward collision warning, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, blind-spot collision-avoidance, lane departure warning, lane following/keeping assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, and adaptive cruise control with full stop and go. Upgrades include highway driving assist (EX and SX), and on the SX model only you’ll discover high beam assist, a blind-spot view monitor, parking distance warning, and a surround-view monitor. We particularly enjoyed the blind-spot view monitor, which activates cameras on either side of the vehicle to expand the forward vision. Notably, the cameras turn on when the particular left or right turn signal is activated.
7. Audio and practical tech galore. You’ll find upwards of six USB charging ports in the Telluride. Where Kia located four of them is what’s intriguing — one each is on the back side of the front seats. Two more are on the outer walls of the third row. Thus, there isn’t a bad tech seat in the house! Other features include a six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, an 8-inch color display, Bluetooth, and smartphone compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The EX and SX trims gain navigation and a 10.3-inch display, while a 10-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system is included with the SX.
Quite easily, Kia takes on the competition with a strong model. It pushes the envelope with some of its luxury, tech, and safety features. Its quiet interior is a bonus.
Behind the Wheel
All Tellurides come with a 3.8-liter V6 engine, which shuttles power to the front wheels or all four wheels. This engine makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque and works with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The power numbers are very close to the 3.3-liter V6 motivating the Sorento. Indeed, the smaller V6 is one of Kia’s most power-dense engines, as it produces 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque in the Sorento. The Telluride’s engine choice did not surprise us, although its lower-than-expected output did.
Nearly every competing V6 engine in this segment produces more power and typically displaces 3.5 or 3.6 liters. But the Telluride’s V6 does offer an important towing advantage with its standard 5,000-pound rating. In comparison, the Sorento’s V6 is limited to 3,500 pounds.
The Telluride’s engine delivers a quick and smooth response at most times. But on occasion, we noticed some hesitation — similar to turbo lag — that held back power for a moment. It is an odd feeling for a naturally aspirated engine, an experience typically felt under hard acceleration. But once the engine kicked in, it moved the big crossover forward with authority. Equally, the transmission complied, delivering silky smooth shifts at all times.
Our test all-wheel-drive Telluride does its best to mimic a true four-wheel-drive SUV. The key to all this is the drive-mode selector knob, which includes comfort, sport, smart, eco, and snow modes. It also has a “lock” feature centered on the dial, which locks the center differential. By doing this, torque is evenly distributed between the front and rear axles.
If you’re tempted to take your all-wheel-drive Telluride off-road, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
First, consider the terrain. Well worn paths, modest hills, and beginner trails are the way to go. The Telluride doesn’t have the same “4-Lo” setting as a four-wheel-drive vehicle, which is necessary for freeing your vehicle from ruts.
Second, ground clearance measures just 8.0 inches, which is nearly an inch lower than most Subaru models and two inches below certain Land Rover SUVs. Further, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has a 10.8-inch ground clearance. The Telluride has a 17-degree approach angle and a 20.9-degree departure angle, which is less than half that of some Wrangler models. Kia doesn’t publish the all-important breakover angle figure, however.
Where the Telluride has modest off-road capabilities, its shines on the road. This crossover delivers a very comfortable ride, weighted steering, and competent handling. We’ve driven far more expensive models from luxury manufacturers, including the BMW X7, and find that Kia offers a solid and cost-effective option. The self-leveling rear suspension included with the Towing Package ($795) is a welcome feature.
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Choose the Telluride EX and you’ll gain dual-zone climate control, second-row window sunshades, leather trim, ventilated front seats, and woodgrain accents. This model also has a wireless phone charger, a UVO app suite, and the previously mentioned tech and safety upgrades. Your cost is still below $40,000, with only the optional trailer package and all-wheel drive pushing your final cost higher.
If there is one improvement we’d like to see it is with the powertrain. A quicker response and improved fuel efficiency (low 20s, at best) are two things that would make the Kia difficult to resist. In any case, the 2020 Kia Telluride is a strong entry in a highly competitive segment, blending value and luxury almost perfectly.
2020 Kia Telluride Specifications
|Base Sticker Price||$32,785 (including a $1,095 destination charge)|
|Price as tested (estimated)||$46,860|
|Horsepower||291 @ 6,000 RPMs|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||262 @ 5,200 RPMs|
|Seating||7 or 8|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||4,112 to 4,482|
|Headroom (f,m,r…inches)||40.9, 40.2, 38.1|
|Legroom (f,m,r…inches)||41.4, 42.4, 31.4|
|Shoulder room (f,m,r…inches)||61.6, 61.2, 55.3|
|Hip room (f,m,r…inches)||58.9, 58.0, 43.7|
|Storage (cubic feet)||21.0, 46.0, 87.0|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||NR|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||18.8|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway)||20/26/23 (FWD); 19/24/21 (AWD) city/highway/combined|
|Manufacturing Plant||West Point, Georgia|
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2020 Kia Telluride photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.