To this day, I’m still surprised by how quickly American automakers, once the custodians of the SUV, have seen their lead and expertise all but disappear in only the last decade. Brands that once would have never dared get in the ring with the likes of Ford and Chevrolet in this segment have not only entered the squared circle but demonstrated superior talents. The 2020 Kia Telluride is quite the talented and skilled newcomer.
In a way, brands like Dodge, Ford and GMC may have pioneered the large midsize three-row SUV segment but, overnight or so it seems, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia joined in alongside Toyota and Mazda to completely dominate. Styling and the list of features that make up the new Telluride put it in top contention with the competition, with little effort.
The flashy bits are powerful
Thing is that the 2020 Kia Telluride is nothing short than incredibly impressive in nearly all facets. Let’s start with value, an area once subjugated by Kia and Hyundai. The Telluride’s base EX trim starts at $44,995, then, there’s the SX at $49,995 and finally, the $53,995 SX Limited. There are simply no options to add, they come as is. This is a brilliant approach to “car buyers” as opposed to “car shoppers”, which are a dying breed.
All Telluride version are powered by a 3.8-litre V6 good for 291-horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque and include an 8-speed automatic transmission, AWD along with 18-inch wheels, LED lighting, a large 10.25-inch touchscreen display, wireless charger, heated seats and steering wheel, satellite radio, smart cruise control and loads more. There are seven available drive modes through the Drive Terrain Mode Select wheel. I’ll save you time: Leave it in Smart.
Comfortable seating for 8 is standard, as is an enormous boot. With the 3rd row in place, the Telluride delivers 601 litres of useable volume. With it stowed, the numbers grows to 1,304 litres. There’s superb easily accessible storage compartment below the floor that can hold fairly large objects.
SX is the sweet spot
My tester was an SX which involves 20-inch wheels, dual-pane sunroof, leather seats, power front seats with memory, a Harman Kardon audio – far too many words to say that, for $50k, the Kia Telluride delivers amenities that luxury SUVs cost 50% more typically offer in option packages. One incredibly pointless feature is Blind-View monitor, or what Honda calls Lane Watch. Within the instrument panel, cameras project what they see depending on turn-signal activation.
As for styling, Kia’s nailed the unique look that can be polarizing. I’ve come to embrace the unique fascia and rear treatment to the point where I think it might be one of the most attractive in the segment.
The cabin too is attractive, loaded with attention to detail, lovely materials and all is presented in a manner worthy of said $75,000. The seats are large and supportive, there’s plenty of storage here too – it’s a good place to move into with the family.
I did have one reoccurring issue that oddly popped up on the last few days of the loan. The system while displaying CarPlay, would fail to transition from Waze to Siri, for example, projecting confusing road map indications to a point where the iPhone needed to be disconnect to reset. The “bug” occurred over a two day period only to never reappear.
Lovely drive, expect pit stops
Taking the road in the 2020 Kia Telluride is to discover a vehicle that is extremely refined and smooth. The ride quality is above expectations with a comfortably chassis which, thanks to its multi-link rear suspension setup, still handles quite well. Steering and brakes are as they should be. The V6 generates sufficient power however, with up to 5,000lbs in tow, gear and humans, fuel consumption will be grave.
My real issues with the Telluride are real-world fuel economy which will rarely, if ever, dip below 12.5L/100km. Given the size, it could be acceptable although there are better alternatives on the road today.
Why so contemptuous?
The other final point I want to make in regard to the big Kia is durability, or quality. Upon initial contact, the initial impression of quality is overwhelming, so much so that it seems too good to be true. In the recent past, I’ve seen and heard too many stories involving late-model Kia and Hyundai quickly losing that sense of durability. My tester made me hopeful, if barely, given that it had already covered 17,000km at the hands of my colleagues and seemed relatively unscathed from the wear.
Now, I don’t mean to rain on Kia’s ongoing parade (who the Hell am I anyway?) but, although Motor Trend handed them SUV of the year, and Kelley Blue Book named it Best New Model and Best 3-Row Midsize SUV, I’m not entirely convinced that the Telluride will hold on to all this initial praise in a year or two.
In the segment, I do like the Toyota Highlander, the Mazda CX-9, Subaru Ascent and the Dodge Durango, my guilty pleasure. As for the Kia Telluride, and the Hyundai Palisade which I’ve not yet driven, I’d wait a year or so before putting it on the shopping list.