Consumers continue to flock to crossovers and automakers have responded by introducing a slew of new models. One of the latest comes from Kia and it has a winning combination of style, comfort and spaciousness.
Named after a ski-centric town in Colorado, the 2020 Telluride is the brand’s range-topping crossover and it’s designed to compete with models such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. Those are some pretty established competitors, but the Telluride has a lot going for it.
Boxy By Design
Crafting an attractive crossover is a difficult challenge and a number of them end up looking pretty anonymous. Designers obviously wanted to avoid this, so they’ve eschewed the sleeker styling of the competition and went for a boxy design.
Styling is always subjective, but we think the model looks pretty good as it has a noticeable presence and an upscale flair. We’re not necessarily sold on all the styling details, but the Telluride has a distinct identity and that’s notable in a rather tame segment.
Each trim level has unique styling features and even the base Telluride has 18-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and oodles of chrome trim. Other highlights include an acoustic front windshield, rugged body cladding and mirrors with integrated LED turn signals.
A Luxury Crossover Disguised As A Kia
While the exterior looks pretty good, the interior is fantastic. There are no visible hints of cost cutting as nearly all materials are stylish and high quality.
Kia really pulled out all the stops and there’s elegant chrome detailing throughout the cabin. Even the faux wood trim looks surprisingly realistic. These high-end details are more visible in the range-topping SX variant with the Prestige Package which adds Nappa leather seats, a heated steering wheel and a premium headliner that feels ultra plush.
The front seats are extremely comfortable and offer a wide range of adjustment in the top of the line trim. Most controls are logically laid out and the large infotainment system is initiative once you get the hang of it.
The amenities extend to the second row, but third row occupants don’t get much more than cup holders and a USB charging port. Speaking of the third row, it’s relatively easy to get into as the second row seats slide forward to improve entry and egress.
There’s an acceptable amount of space in the back as Kia notes the third row has 31.4 inches (798 mm) of legroom and 37.8 inches (960 mm) of headroom. These dimensions make the rear seats adult friendly, providing you only put two of them back there.
The situation is much better in the second row as there’s plenty of head and legroom. The second row is also raised up off the floor and this provides improved visibility and a greater sense of airiness. The latter is further enhanced by dual sunroofs.
More interestingly, the Telluride SX with the Prestige Package has captain chairs which recline and feature heating and ventilation – a rarity for the segment. Even without opting for the luxury-oriented model, second row passengers will find a 12 volt outlet and conveniently located USB charging ports in the back of the front of seats.
In terms of space, the Telluride can haul up to 21 cubic feet (595 liters) of cargo behind the third row. Folding the rear seats down is relatively easy and this increases the luggage capacity to 46 cubic feet (1,303 liters). Drivers looking for even more room can fold down the second row and get 87 cubic feet (2,464 liters) of space.
While the Telluride’s interior is impressive, not everything is perfect. Some of the central controls are hard to read, thanks to their silver on silver design, and it’s a bit odd not having a digital instrument cluster even as an option. The controls for the heated and ventilated seats are also a bit counter-intuitive and the infotainment system’s metallic surround creates a reflection on the windscreen. That being said, these are minor complaints and most owners will likely get used to these quirks.
Four Well Equipped Trim Levels
We’ve already covered the Telluride’s pricing and trim levels, but here’s a quick recap. The entry-level LX starts at $31,690 and comes equipped with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a tilt / telescopic steering column and an eight seat interior with leatherette upholstery. Buyers will also find air conditioning, a six-speaker audio system and a push button ignition. Other highlights include a 3.5-inch LCD display in the instrument cluster, synthetic leather armrests and an 8-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
The Telluride comes standard with an assortment of driver assistance systems including rear blind spot collision avoidance assist, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection and forward collision warning. Other features include lane departure warning, lane following assist, lane keeping assist and rear park distance warning. Rounding out the safety features are rear cross traffic alert, a rear view monitor with dynamic guidelines and a smart cruise control system with stop and go.
The mid-range S and EX are “volume models” and they feature additional equipment. The Telluride S begins at $33,900 and includes a power sunroof, LED interior lights and an 8-way power driver’s seat. Other goodies include heated front seats, second row captain chairs and a leather-wrapped shifter.
The $37,090 Telluride EX goes even further as it boasts leather seats, woodgrain trim and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The model also has heated / ventilated front seats, an 8-way power front passenger seat and a 10.25-inch infotainment system. Other niceties include a dual-zone automatic climate control system, rear automatic climate controls, a wireless smartphone charger and a Level 2 semi-autonomous driving system. Rounding out the additions are second row sunshades, a hands-free power liftgate and an extra USB charging port.
The range-topping Telluride SX starts at $41,490 and comes nicely equipped with a 10-way power driver’s seat, stainless steel pedals and a 7-inch LCD display in the instrument cluster. Other features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and an interior mood lighting system with 64 colors. On the safety front, there are several extras including a blind-spot view monitor, high beam assist, forward park distance warning and a surround view monitor.
A Competitive And Smooth Powertrain
Behind the widest grille ever fitted to a Kia is a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 291 hp (217 kW / 295 PS) and 262 lb-ft (355 Nm) of torque. It is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission which can be paired to an optional active all-wheel drive system for an additional $2,000. This setup enables front-wheel drive models to return 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive variants are a bit thirstier as the fuel economy rating drops to 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The powertrain is a good match for the Telluride as the engine has plenty of power and can easily manage the crossover’s 4,482 lbs (2,033 kg) curb weight in SX trim. While drivers should keep their expectations in check, the engine feels pretty competitive for its class and the numbers bear this out. For comparison, the Honda Pilot’s 3.5-liter V6 develops 280 hp (209 kW / 284 PS) and 262 lb-ft (355 Nm) of torque, while the Toyota Highlander’s optional 3.5-liter V6 has 295 hp (220 kW / 299 PS) and 263 lb-ft (356 Nm) of torque.
The engine is backed up by an eight-speed automatic transmission and it’s a smooth operator in comfort mode. The gearbox also has a manual mode, but few drivers will likely use it.
Speaking of performance, the Telluride is available with an active all-wheel drive system. It distributes torque between the front and rear wheels depending on road conditions and vehicle settings. Eco and Comfort modes are primarily front biased, but Sport, Smart and Snow modes can send up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels. The model also has an AWD Lock mode which evenly distributes power to all four wheels.
The system seems to work pretty well as the Telluride easily dealt with light rain and a snow storm on a trip between Gateway and the Colorado town that bears its name. Of course, owners shouldn’t expect to do any hardcore off-roading as the crossover has approach and departure angles of 17 and 20.9 degrees, respectively.
Drives Smaller Than It Is
The Telluride’s focus on comfort extends beyond the interior as the range-topping SX has a smooth and refined ride which can be helped by an optional self-leveling rear suspension. The crossover’s 20-inch wheels didn’t seem to affect the ride quality either, although most of our trip took place on well maintained Colorado roads.
Driving a large crossover is rarely exciting and that’s also true of the Telluride. The steering feels a bit heavy, but it’s precise nonetheless. The crossover is also pretty nimble for its size and it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a massive family hauler.
The brakes also bring the Telluride to a safe and predictable halt. We didn’t push them to the extremes, but the 13.4- (front) and 12.0-inch (rear) discs seem more than capable for the job at hand.
A Crossover To Get Excited About
Kia executives are pretty proud of the Telluride and openly admit they haven’t felt this excited about a vehicle since the Stinger. It’s easy to see why as the Telluride offers an impressive combination of comfort, style, spaciousness and luxury.
The good news doesn’t stop there as the crossover has competitive pricing and well equipped mid-range models. This means buyers can get a luxurious Telluride EX for a tad over $40,000 – including destination costs.
While the Telluride isn’t very exciting to drive, that’s pretty common for the segment. However, the vehicle drives smaller than it is and ride quality is top notch.
The 2020 Kia Telluride is currently on sale and anyone in the market for a seven or eight seat crossover should definitely consider it. We think the Telluride one of the most exciting mainstream crossovers in years and that’s already bearing out in terms of strong initial sales and high interest from potential buyers.