Kia has been on a roll.
Every vehicle we’ve tested lately, from the 2020 Kia Soul X-Line to the K900 has been a gem, and now we have the all-new Kia Telluride – a full-size, 3-row, 8-passenger SUV, and it may be the best Kia yet.
And that’s saying something.
The Bold and the Beautiful
The Telluride is the largest vehicle Kia offers, and it’s also the first Kia designed specifically for the U.S. Kia itself calls the Telly big, bold and boxy, but this is one handsome box, looking more like a cross between a Ranger Rover and a Ford Expedition that something your new refrigerator came in.
It has an especially handsome face, with a massive version of the Kia “Tiger Nose” grille, flanked on both sides by stacked headlamps, and with the letters spelling out the model name looking like something from a movie trailer – it belongs on the big screen.
There is an upright boxiness to the profile, but it looks purposeful and sculpted. Making the most of the full-figured look, our tester had the optional 20-inch, black-finished alloy wheels that make it look even more massive.
Around back, the design is again grand but tasteful with inverted “L” taillamps with LED stripes, with a rich-looking rear skid plate with an integrated pair of twin exhaust tips setting a powerful tone.
The Telluride’s big bones set a tone of presence, but our favorite finishing touch was the rich Dark Moss paint job, that would make any Range Rover jealous.
If the outside makes you smile, the interior will make your jaw drop. The big Kia’s interior is stunning. First of all, it is spacious. Ridiculously spacious. Our tester had the 2nd row captain’s chairs, but you can get a bench and have a room for 8 full-sized adults.
While it’s smaller sibling Sorento also has three rows of seats, that third row wouldn’t be a place for adults. In the Telluride, adults can fit anywhere.
Kia also went to the trouble to make the inside as nice as it is big. The materials used are wonderful, with plenty of soft touch materials, and on our tester, the optional SX Prestige Package is prestigious indeed, with wonderful Nappa leather seats, heated and ventilated 2nd row seats, and a premium cloth headliner.
We’d probably go for a darker shade of leather, just to hide the wear and tear, but the effect of the light gray leather is stunning. Whatever color you choose, you’ll find the driver’s 12-way power adjustable seat easy to get comfortable in.
Equally stunning is the design. There are handsome analog gauges, with a trick 7-inch TFT driver’s screen that gives you a camera image of whichever side you signal to turn. There’s a wide slab of faux wood that surprisingly looks quite handsome, tasty satin finish trim, and a monstrous 10.3 touchscreen display that’s so wide, it can break up info into three separate sections and still look spacious.
Typical of Kia, the UVO info-tainment system works beautifully with your compatible phone – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard. It will also project your navi apps – we love Waze – on the big display, making it easy to find your way.
A big interior needs big sounds, and our tester’s 10-speaker Harmon/Kardon sounds system provided excellent audio. And with six USB ports on board, power hungry families should have all their devices well charged.
Big Comfort – but no Barge
Under the hood is Kia/Hyundai’s familiar 3.8-liter V6, that pumps out an impressive 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. With a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic, this big all-wheel drive vehicle feels relaxed and capable on the road. But shifting the transmission into Sport Mode really wakes things up and feels powerful and capable. And with the giant grille looming in people’s rearview mirrors, they gladly move out of the way! Despite our enjoying the power, we averaged between 18-20 mpg – very good for such a big vehicle.
Another nice surprise was the ride quality. Kia is touting the Telluride’s off-road capabilities, and combined with the 20-inch wheels, we were bracing for a harsh ride. But it is well controlled, quiet, and comfortable. With the upright seating position and excellent seats, you can easily handle everything from the daily commute to an epic road trip.
Handling is noteworthy too. The all-wheel drive system can actively distribute torque between the front and rear axles, making it a capable machine in all sorts of terrain. And with a drive mode selector including Sport, Smart, Snow, Eco and Comfort – you can dial in the perfect setup for just about any drive. With a tow rating of 5,000 lbs., you can bring the toys along, too.
Back in the real world of day-to-day, we really loved the standard SurroundView monitor. The 360-degree bird’s eye view makes parking easy even in crowded malls or tight streets. We also really appreciated the rear cross traffic alert – it saved us more than one time.
The monitor is just the tip of the technical iceberg on the Telluride – it’s loaded. And for those who love alphabet soup….enjoy.
“Kia Drive Wise” Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS)
Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection (FCA), High Beam Assist (HBA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear (BCA-R), Blind Spot View Monitor (BVM), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA), Parking Distance Warning – Forward (available) and Reverse, Surround View Monitor (SVM) Highway Driving Assist (HDA): Uses radar to interpret lane markings so the vehicle can control steering, acceleration and braking to automatically adjust distance from the vehicle detected ahead. HDA is also designed to recognize speed limits on federal highways and adjust speed accordingly, Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist Rear (BCA-R): A camera is designed to track vehicle lane changes and if it detects an object in the blind spot the BCA-R system applies brake pressure to the front wheel of the opposite side to help maintain the previous course, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCCA): An extension of Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning (RCCW), RCCA may apply brakes if an impending impact is detected, Lane Following Assist (LFA): When Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go is activated, LFA is designed to monitor lane markings to help keep the Telluride centered in its lane, Safe Exist Assist (SEA): In certain situations, if the system detects an object approaching from the rear, SEA will override attempts to deactivate Electronic Child Safety Lock until the detected object has passed, Head-Up Display: Added information makes this system especially useful. Provides turn-by-turn navigation, speed, smart cruise control and blind-spot warnings (available), Driver Talk: Uses a microphone to enhance communication with second- and third-row passengers, Quiet Mode: Cuts audio output in second and third row so the audio choices of the front occupants are only heard in that row, Rear Occupant Alert: Uses ultrasonic sensors designed to detect child or pet movement in the second and third row after the car’s doors have been locked and then can issue audible alerts to the driver.
Like we said…loaded.
Do I have to rob a bank to live in Telluride?
Colorado, perhaps, but the Kia is also surprisingly affordable. You can get a big, handsome, V6 powered, two-wheel drive Telluride LX for just $31,690. Fancy a little more style and 20-inch rims? The Telluride S starts at $33,990. Leather and uprated info-tainment will place you into the Telluride EX with a starting price of $37,090. Figure about $2,000 for AWD.
Our top of the line SX V6 AWD tester started at $43,490. The SX Prestige Package added heads- up display, Nappa leather trim, heated and ventilated second row seats, and a few other goodies for a quite reasonable $2,000. Carpeted mats plus $1,045 for destination, and our tester rang the bell at $46,860. But it feels like money well spent.
Big, Bold, Beautiful – and a Bargain. The new Kia Telluride is best-in-class in large SUV’s.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.