Surprising is the best way to describe Kia’s latest new models. The all-new Stinger made such a splash that it earned our car of the year award, and we were left wondering what’s next to come from the Korean automaker. The answer is the Kia Telluride, a three-row crossover that is a bit late to the game but can one-up almost every rival in the segment.
Engine: 3.8-liter V6
Output: 291 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (MPG): AWD: 19 City, 24 highway, 21 Combined
Fuel Economy (l/100kms): N/A
As Tested Price USD: $47,725
It certainly makes a strong impression right out of the gates, with bold imposing styling that’s almost a caricature of ruggedness. With its boxy flanks and lettering that spans the hood and tailgate, it channels its inner Range Rover. Designed in Irvine, California, this is the first Kia specifically designed for a US audience, but what does that mean? It means when you’re driving behind another motorist, they’ll glance up to see that their rear view mirror has been filled by this large intimidating vehicle. And when they move over, giving way for a pass, they’ll gawk at the size of the big Telluride that can command such attention on the roads.
See Also: 2019 Kia Stinger vs Dodge Charger
The Telluride has a harsh size that’s hard to miss, but that’s beneficial when it comes to the interior. The Kia three-row has plenty of space for cargo and passengers making it the perfect family road-trip partner. Our tester featured a cabin that’s flush with premium touches, from the seats to the headliner, it feels far more special and unique than you’d expect.
Beyond the spacious, premium interior, you’ll find lots of high-tech goodies and features in the Telluride. It’s like Kia saw each of its competitors’ special feature, and put a special spin on it to make it their own. For example, the Telluride has a special microphone that projects the driver’s voice to the rear speakers so people in the third row can hear the pilot clearly. Alternatively, there’s a quiet mode which is perfect for parents, that mutes all the speakers except for the set by the driver and front passenger, so they can enjoy media while the folks in the back can get some peace and quiet. There’s a rear seat reminder as well as a safe exit warning system, so no one opens a door into dangerous traffic.
Additionally, you’ll find the 10.25-inch screen pairs nicely with the included Android Auto and Apple Car Play support. There is also a wireless phone charger and several USB ports for charging everyone’s devices.
While there’s a place for everyone and their toys in the Telluride, the driver is greeted with a lot of handy equipment to make driving the large crossover less of a headache. A color head-up display is offered, which provides useful blind-spot information as well as a speedometer and navigation instructions. The mirrors also have blind-spot indicators, but the Telluride also features a Kia approach to Honda’s Lane Watch system. Whenever a lane change is indicated, the gauge cluster will display a camera feed of the area beside the vehicle. While this could be useful in a large city where you have to look out for pedestrians or cyclist, it’s perhaps a bad habit to stop physically checking your mirrors and windows when changing lanes.
Regardless of your take on that side-view camera, it’s interesting to see so much assistance available to the driver. There’s a great 360-degree top-down camera view that helps with parking, and you can single out a perspective for better maneuverability of the car. There are adaptive cruise control and a lane keeping assist that actually centers the car in the lane, rather than a system that bounces the vehicle left and right between the lane markings. This is a fully featured luxury car with a Kia badge. It’s ok to be surprised at this point.
The ride and performance of the Telluride are where it fumbles a bit. It doesn’t bring the whole experience to a halt, but when Kia delivers not just a top-notch interior, but excellent tech features and stand-out design, the ho-hum performance is a noticeable drop-off. Under the hood is a 3.8-liter V6 engine that makes a 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and can be equipped with front- or all-wheel-drive. While the powerplant is enough to get the hefty Telluride up to speed and initiate passes, it never feels extremely urgent off the line. It’s enough to tow 5,000 lbs and with a self-leveling rear suspension, there’s a chance the Kia won’t be bullied by a trailer with a ski-doo or motorbike.
The ride is soft, and can sometimes be a bit too floaty. A few times, the ride just wouldn’t settle quickly enough, leaving a boat-on-waves motion. Fortunately, no one complained of sea-sickness.
There are a few different drive modes that adjust various elements of the Telluride. Using a knob on the center console, the car can switch between comfort, eco and sport modes. These change the way the steering effort as well as how the all-wheel-drive system splits its power between the front and rear axle. Additionally, the Telluride has a few off-road drive modes that impact how the car reacts to various surfaces. It should adapt well to cottage trips or the “road less travelled.”
Putting all this into perspective is the fact that you can get a fully-loaded Telluride with all-wheel-drive for less than $50,000. That’s a bargain when you consider the space, features, technology and safety afforded by the big Kia. If it wasn’t for the relatively average powertrain, this car can feel like a legitimate luxury car.
The Verdict: 2020 Kia Telluride
Ultimately, Kia has now gone two-for-two with its newest models, surprising us with both the Stinger and the Telluride. How many more successful new vehicles will it take before we consider this the expectation? The Telluride may be late to the party, but it delivers in every important way.