Telluride, the Colorado mountain town north of Durango, can now join the ranks of western locations that loan their names to hopeful automakers eager to sprinkle their products with some adventurous spirit. This time, it's the Koreans who are dipping into an atlas for their latest three-row SUV. As the first Kia designed and built specifically for the US market, as well as the largest Kia yet, the 2020 Kia Telluride looks to convince Americans that they can play in the big-SUV sandbox just as well as the competition.
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2020 Kia Telluride Overview
What's New for 2020
The Kia Telluride is an all-new vehicle.
Choosing Your Kia Telluride
Displacing 3.8 liters, the Telluride's naturally-aspirated V6 makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Paired up to this engine is an eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination is good for an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway, and 23 combined with front-wheel drive, or 19/24/21 mpg (city/highway/combined) with all-wheel drive. Exploiting the 5,000-pound towing capacity might put a dent into these numbers.
All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option across the range, though how much power runs to the rear wheels is dependent on which of the four drive modes has been selected. In Sport mode, up to 35 percent of power is sent to the rear wheels, while Comfort mode sends just 20 percent to the rear. Eco and Smart modes send 100 percent of power up front.
Spring for AWD and you'll also get a pair of additional traction settings that offer superior traction in particular situations. Snow mode offers the same power split as Comfort, while Lock mode allocates an even amount of power to all four wheels.
Advanced driver-assist safety features are more and more becoming the norm, and the Telluride does nothing to buck this trend. Even the base LX gets gee-whiz tech like driver attention warning, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and lane following assist. The top-spec SX adds a blind-spot view monitor, high-beam assist, forward parking distance warning, and a surround-view camera system.
Regardless of trim level, the Telluride has precious few options to pick from – if you want more features, Kia demands you step up a trim level. What options do exist are mostly particular to a single trim.
That said, the high level of standard content at every trim level lend all variants an enticing value proposition. The top two trims in particular include a number of standard features that would make certain luxury cars blush.
The Telluride is available in four trims:
The 2020 Kia Telluride EX does a convincing interpretation of a luxury SUV, and its 18-inch wheels, while not as flashy as the 20-inchers found on the S or SX, promise a better ride over rough roads. It would be our choice of the four.
2020 Kia Telluride Review
Unlike other websites and magazines, our ratings are not based solely on a singular road test, but rather a more encompassing batch of criteria: quality, safety, comfort, performance, fuel economy, reliability history and value. When comparing vehicles using our Rating System, it's important to note that the rating earned by each vehicle correlates only to the models within its class. For example, a compact car cannot be compared to a SUV—They are different vehicles altogether.
You can interpret our ratings in the following way:
5-Star: Outstanding vehicle. Only the most exceptional vehicles achieve this rating.
4-Star: Very Good vehicle. Very good and close to being the best vehicle in its class.
3-Star: Good vehicle. Decent, but not quite the best. Often affordable, but lacking key features found in vehicles of the same class.
2-Star: Below average vehicle. Not recommended, and lacking attributes a car buyer would come to expect for the price.
1-Star: Poor vehicle. Simply does not deserve to be on the road.
- Tons of tech for less than $40k
- Very spacious interior
- Decent towing capability
- "Just ok" fuel economy
- Lackluster transmission
Boxy but beguiling. The first thing most buyers will notice about the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride are the looks. Mid-size crossovers and SUVs are the darlings of the automotive market right now, but most of them opt for sleek and curvaceous styling.
The Telluride bucks this trend. With a squared-off hood, sheer sides, and rectangular motifs, the Telluride is more of a throwback to older SUV fashion. It wears the look well and compliments it with tasteful chrome and lighting accents.
The Telluride is on the large side for its class. With a length of 196.9 inches, it’s substantially longer than competitors like the Toyota Highlander.
Extra space for the price. With the size comes voluminous capacity for either cargo or passengers. Even with all three rows raised, the Telluride retains 21 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
That’s much better than rivals like the Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander, which only have around 13.5 cubic feet behind the seats. With all the seats dropped, the Telluride has an exceptional 87 cubic feet on tap. The only competitor that comes close is the Ford Explorer, which shares similar dimensions to the Telluride, but the Kia still pulls away on total cargo volume.
Passenger space is strong as well. Although the Telluride’s third row isn’t quite as spacious as those of the Pilot or Explorer, it comes close, and the second row enjoys more leg room than either one.
Middling performance. All Tellurides come with a 291-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 engine. It gets the job done, but it’s not exceptional.
The eight-speed automatic transmission does an adequate job putting power down around town, but it struggles with highway passing. The Telluride can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is good for the class.
Efficiency is in the middle as well. The Telluride achieves an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway, and 23 combined with front-wheel drive. That’s only slightly worse than the Pilot, but it’s a ways off the efficiency of rivals like the Mazda CX-9 or Subaru Ascent.
On the plus side, the Telluride has a composed and smooth ride that doesn’t tank the handling. Off-roading isn’t the Telluride’s forte, but the optional all-wheel-drive system is respectable in low-traction conditions.
Feature-laden value. The Telluride’s strongest argument may be its features. With a starting price over $32,000, it’s on par with competitors for price. Synthetic leather upholstery is standard, as are keyless ignition and smartphone infotainment compatibility. All Telluride models get infotainment touchscreens of at least 8 inches.
Those are strong features for a base model, and the value doesn’t diminish higher in the lineup. For less than $40,000, the Telluride can have heated and ventilated leather seats, wireless charging, and a sunroof.
Best of all, active safety tech is standard across the line. This includes automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. For family buyers, standard safety will no doubt be appreciated.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Kia Telluride distinguishes itself mainly on practicality and comfort. It offers excellent interior space and good value for the price.
In a class this competitive, that’s nothing to sneeze at. The titans of this class offer stiff competition and a little more polish in some areas, but the Telluride has proved that it deserves a place at the table.
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