2020 Kia Telluride First Drive Review: How a Midsize SUV Should Be

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2020 Kia Telluride | Photo: Kia

The 2020 Kia Telluride made its debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show earlier this year. Last week we had the chance to drive it for the first time.

Back when SUVs were simply and humbly referred to as trucks, life was much simpler. There was no complicated scale and hierarchy of sizes and midsized, and crossovers, and platforms, etc. only cars and boxy 4X4s who were meant for people who’d rather lift the dirt in the trails instead of hanging out in the city.

As time went by, manufacturers rounded the edges, lightened the bodies, offered front-wheel drive, and called them SUVs.

Kia has been undergoing a fabulous branding revamp. For certain people, this Korean manufacturer is still a budget brand that focuses on value rather than style and performance. In our opinion, these people haven’t driven a recent Kia model.

The Telluride is the newest addition to Kia’s lineup, and from the minute it was unveiled in Detroit at the beginning of the year, it reminded us of what SUVs used to be.


Not your typical Kia

2020 Kia Telluride | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube

Anybody who doesn’t actively work in the auto industry will look at the Telluride and tell you: “that’s not a Kia”. And it is one of the Tellurides most impactful feature. It stands out of the usual boring design cues that SUVs all have in this day and age.

Climbing aboard the Telluride is also very telling. The textures and materials are ways away from what the general public thinks a Kia packs. Simulated wood, along with aluminium-like plastics might seem budget-oriented to the touch at first, but it definitely looks great. All the commands are positioned for functionality; the dashboard is overall very ergonomic. Kia didn’t fall for the “fully digital” way of doing things, it opted for a hybrid between analog and digital, perfect for someone who doesn’t want to use a screen to get things done.

Navigating from the audio to the navigation system is easy thanks to large buttons underneath the screen. But that’s also possible on the screen itself and on the multifunction steering wheel, which Kia designed to provide a great grip and feel.

In the back, space is ample length and height-wise for the passengers. The third row provides sufficient for average height passengers to sit comfortably. With enough space for a total of eight passengers, sitting in the middle seat in the third row could be a little taxing depending on your width.

The SX limited version trades the second-row bench for two chairs, giving everything more of a “minivan” configuration. And you want a cool minivan feature? Try Kia’s PA system, a device which amplifies your voice for rear passengers when they get out of order.

Price-wise, the Telluride starts off higher than the competition, at $44,995 for the base EX AWD, and can go up to $53,995 for the SX limited. The third and middle trim is SX AWD that rings the bell at just under 50K. The base variant, however, comes loaded with a battery of standard features like Trailer Stability Assist Drive, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Following Assist, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist Rear, LEDs for the headlights, fog Lamps and a sunroof.

Going up the trims brings more luxury, and real leather seating surfaces, but nothing mechanical except for the self-levelling rear suspension on the higher trim.


On the road

2020 Kia Telluride | Photo: Kia

The 2020 Kia Telluride gets its motivation from a naturally aspired, Atkinson Cycle 3.8-Liter V6 that dishes out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant is hooked up to an 8-speed automatic tranny. All-wheel drive comes standard on all Tellurides.

Despite a timid hesitation when slamming the accelerator pedal to the floor, the Telluride can handle itself pretty well, hustling its 4500 pounds of metal forward with sufficient enthusiasm. The Telluride looks tall and top heavy, but this impression doesn’t translate on the road as much as we expected, it can dig into turns with dexterity and very little body roll. The steering is borrowed from recent Kia products, and it is outstandingly precise.

Will everything be hunky-dory with 8 occupants on board and a 5000 lb trailer being dragged in the back up a hill? We assume so. But be mindful of weight distribution, as the Telluride’s tongue is maxed out at 351 lbs of weight.


Conclusion

2020 Kia Telluride | Photo: Kia

The 2020 Kia Telluride does bring us back to the roots of the SUV, but it integrates everything the modern vehicles needs to carry around and entertain 7 people you care about. Just like it did with the Stinger, Kia taps in a market where we never thought it would be if you had asked us the question ten years ago, and we believe it will be successful at doing it.


2020 Kia Telluride Photo Gallery

2020 Kia Telluride | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube
2020 Kia Telluride | Photo: Louis-Philippe Dube
2020 Kia Telluride | Photo: Kia

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