2020 Kia Telluride: First Drive Review

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceDesigned in America, for America
A new addition to the Kia lineup, the Telluride midsize crossover offers bold styling, a premium interior, a powerful engine and seating for up to eight occupants. Designed specifically for the U.S. market at Kia’s design center in California, Telluride is built at Kia’s manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia, alongside the Sorento SUV and Optima sedan. Telluride enters the Kia lineup next to the midsize Sorento and above the compact Sportage SUV.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceBigger and Bolder
The all-new Telluride is larger than the Kia Sorento, Kia’s 7-occupant, 3-row midsize SUV that was Kia’s top-selling vehicle in the U.S for 2018. At 196.9 inches long and 78.3 inches wide, Telluride is 7.9 inches longer and 3.9 inches wider than Sorento and rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase, which is 4.8 inch longer than Sorento. The additional interior room allows Telluride to offer a 3-passenger third row and additional storage room behind the third-row seat. Telluride is offered with a second-row 3-passenger bench seat for 8 occupants or second-row captain’s chairs for a 7-position configuration.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceExterior Design
The Telluride design is deliberately boxy to recall larger, rugged truck-based SUVs of the past, prior to the proliferation of more carlike unibody crossover vehicles. Key design elements such as the long hood, upright windshield and stacked headlights give Telluride a bold look more like larger SUVs of decades ago. The Tigershark grille is the largest of the Kia lineup, with a chrome finish across the top and bottom to make the grille more prominent. The stacked headlights are positioned back from the grille in the fenders with a distinctive rectangular shape; the top-line SX trim adds a ring of LEDs.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceExterior Design
At the rear, Telluride features inverted L taillights, a sculpted rear valance and dual exhaust tips. Both the hood and the liftgate feature an elongated Telluride badge to emphasize the bold styling. The profile is clean with a muscular shoulder line; the side windows flow back to a narrow rear pillar. The side windows are surround by a chrome or satin chrome finished depending on the trim level. Telluride rides on 18- or 20-inch alloy wheels, again depending on trim level.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The 2020 Kia Telluride is offered in four trim levels: LX, S, EX and SX. Starting MSRP for Telluride LX is $31,690, with Telluride S at $33,990, Telluride EX at $37,090 and Telluride SX at $41,490 — all excluding a destination charge of $1,045. Every trim level offers all-wheel drive at a cost of $2,000.

© Kia Motors AmericaStandard Equipment
Telluride LX standard equipment includes projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, a gray painted grille with chrome surround accent, heated power mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, an acoustic windshield, privacy rear windows, black wheel arches, black side sills, chrome lower door trim, chrome side window surround and a body-color rear spoiler. Inside, standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped tilt / telescope steering wheel, SOFINO seat trim, an 8-inch audio display, second-row one-touch slide / fold seat, a 60/40 split-bench seat and third-row 60 / 40 split-bench seat.

© Kia Motors AmericaTelluride S
Additional equipment for Telluride S includes 20-inch machine finish alloy wheels, body-color door handles with satin chrome trim, a silver-painted skidplate, a dark gray grille with satin chrome surround accents, satin chrome lower door trim, satin chrome side window surround, twin exhaust tips, silver roof rails and a power sunroof. Inside, Telluride S adds an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped shift knob and second-row captain’s chairs.

© Kia Motors AmericaTelluride EX
Telluride EX equipment includes 18-inch machine finish alloy wheels, LED rear lights, power folding mirrors, front door acoustic windows, leather seat trim, an 8-way power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, a second row 60/40 split-folding bench seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear automatic climate control, a 10.25-inch FTF touchscreen infotainment display, wood hydrographics trim, a wireless phone charger and a hands-free power liftgate.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceTelluride SX
The top-line Telluride SX is equipped with 20-inch alloy wheels with black finish, LED headlights, LED fog lights, satin chrome roof rails, dual sunroofs, a 10-way power adjustable driver’ seat, second-row captain’s chairs, a Harmon Kardon surround sounds audio system, blind-spot view monitor and surround view monitor. The available Prestige Package for SX with all-wheel drive includes Nappa leather seat trim, a premium headliner, premium trim, Head-up display, heated / ventilated second-row seats, rain-sensing wipers, special interior color package, a 110-volt inverter, Michelin tires and heated steering wheel. Cost of the Prestige Package is $2,000.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine producing 291 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 262 lb-ft of torque at 5200 rpm, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Standard configuration is front-wheel drive or an optional electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive system that uses real-time active driving force distribution to transfer torque between the wheels depending on driving conditions. U.S. EPA fuel-economy ratings for front-wheel drive are 20 mpg city / 26 mpg highway / 23 mpg combined, and with all-wheel drive estimates drop a bit to 19 mpg city / 24 mpg highway / 21 mpg combined.

© Kia Motors AmericaDrive Mode
Standard Drive Mode Select includes Smart, Sport, Comfort and Eco. Each mode offers a different setting for drivetrain and steering, and when equipped with all-wheel drive adds Snow mode and AWD Lock to lock the center differential. Telluride can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with the optional self-leveling rear suspension.

© Kia Motors AmericaInner Space
Kia’s largest crossover, the Telluride interior is designed to feel spacious and take advantage of the available room. The dash line is low and the center console is low and wide to create space between the driver and the front-seat passenger. A sporty touch: grab handles integrated with each side of the console. With the second-row captain’s chairs there is space between for access to the third row, and with either seating option the second row slides forward and folds with the touch of a button.

© Kia Motors AmericaUpscale Materials
With Telluride, Kia focuses on creating an upscale user experience with quality materials, particularly within the top-line Telluride SX with Prestige Package, which includes upscale double-stitched Napa leather ventilated seats, a premium headliner, head-up display and dual-panel sunroof that creates an open, airy feeling. Available features include a 10.25-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth wireless that allows two phones to connect simultaneously, wireless charging and USB charging ports in every row.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Capacity
With the third-row seats in position there is still 21 cubic feet of cargo room in Telluride, which increases to 46 cubic feet with the third-row folded, and 87 cubic feet when both the second- and third-row seats are flopped. To access the cargo area, the rear opening is 49 inches wide with a low load height.

© Kia Motors AmericaDriver Assist Technology
Standard Kia Drivewise technology includes forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist and smart cruise control with stop and go. Additional available features include head-up display, highway driving assist, blind-spot view monitor, surround view monitor, lane departure warning, high-beam assist, driver attention warning, rear cross-traffic alert, collision-avoidance assist, parking distance warning and lane following assist. New features include Driver Talk, which helps the driver to communicate with passengers in the second and third rows, Quiet Mode, which cuts the audio in the rear seats, safe exit assist and rear occupant alert.

© Kia Motors AmericaHigh-Strength Steel
The Kia Telluride monocoque structure is made of 60 percent high-strength steel with hot stampings to reinforce the chassis and create a strong body structure with high torsional rigidity. The rigid platform contributes to improved safety; reduced noise, vibration and harshness; and a quieter cabin. Telluride features a McPherson strut front suspension, multi-link rear suspension, high-performance dampers and column-mounted motor-driven power steering.

© Kia Motors AmericaOn the Road
The first thing we noticed when driving the Telluride for the first time at a press event in — of course — Telluride, Colorado, is that the interior is very quiet on the road, isolating both road noise and engine sound from the cabin. The acoustic windshield is standard for all trim levels. And since it was a sponsored press event, attending journalists were driving the Telluride SX AWD with Prestige Package, which also includes acoustic front-door windows.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperiencePowertrain
Overall the Telluride drives well; the 3.8-liter V6 provides ample power for accelerating from a stop or passing at highway speeds — it doesn’t have too much power — it simply feels like the right level of power to be competitive in the segment. Transmission shifts are very smooth and drivers can shift manually with the gearshift lever, but there are no paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, even on the top trim levels. During the drive we switched back and forth between Sport and Comfort mode because we prefer the throttle response in Sport, but the transmission shifts down or holds lower gears longer which will impact mileage.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceDriving Dynamics
The chassis and suspension tuning are impressive with a firm, controlled ride that is not too rough or harsh. The steering has a nice feel to it and the Telluride turns in well to corners without much body roll and tracks consistently through corners, even on rough surfaces. The Telluride is a big crossover, not a sports car, but it was great to drive on the twisty canyon roads between Gateway, Colorado and the old mining town turned ski town of Telluride.

© Kia Motors AmericaAll-Wheel Drive
During our test drive we encountered a brief Colorado blizzard that created heavy slush conditions on the road, and the Telluride all-wheel drive did a good job of splitting the torque between the front and rear axles to adjust to the changing conditions. We also had a short drive on a dirt road that had been changed to slick mud by a heavy rain storm. We locked the all-wheel drive for a 50/50 torque split, but the Michelin all-season tires are not designed for heavy mud conditions and it was a bit treacherous. The Telluride handled it well, but for those conditions the right tires are really needed for optimum grip.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
In today’s market, SUVs are the family vehicle of choice and the three-row versions are a very competitive segment. The three-row Sorento is already Kia’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. market, but now adds the larger Telluride with bold styling, more interior room, upscale interior options, a more useable third row and great driving dynamics. If you’re looking for a crossover and those attributes are appealing, the Kia Telluride could be the ride for you.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 8.5
Pros: Bold exterior styling; impressive driving dynamics; available luxury options, useable third row.
Cons: No shift paddles even for top trim level; Infotainment screen not integrated into dash.
Bottom Line: Kia’s largest crossover offers bold styling, great driving dynamics and an upscale interior.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2020 Kia Telluride

© Kia Motors America2020 Kia Telluride

© Kia Motors America2020 Kia Telluride

© Kia Motors America2020 Kia Telluride

© Kia Motors America2020 Kia Telluride

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