A confusing range to navigate. Although it’s closely related to Hyundai’s Palisade, Kia has taken a distinctly different approach with the marketing of their Telluride SUV. This range includes a bewildering array of guises, including two special packages – X-Line and X-Pro – which are available on the SX and SX Prestige trim levels. You can also have an EX X-Line but not an EX X-Pro, while LX and S (the two base trims) can’t be specified with either.

What does all that mean? Basically, an X designation means it’s intended for more robust off-road activities, though don’t get carried away because we’re not talking here about Land Rover heroics. The X-Line has an extra half-inch of ground clearance, different bumpers to improve departure/approach angles and bespoke 20-inch wheels. X-Pro vehicles also add ten percent onto the 5,000lb max towing capacity of standard models, alongside all-terrain tires. Both X models have standard all-wheel drive and a center locking differential capable of diverting up to half the engine’s power to the rear axle; front-drive is standard everywhere else.

Keeping trim. Off-road enhancements aside, the Telluride range encompasses five main trim levels. After a significant price rise for this model year, a base LX will now cost just over $37,000. For this, buyers get a 12.3-inch touchscreen, synthetic leather and LED exterior lighting. Safety is also excellent even at this price point, running to active lane control, blind-spot monitoring and top ratings from both America’s crash test agencies. We particularly like how the automatic emergency braking can now mitigate intersection collisions, though the revised LED headlights on 2023 models will require independent re-testing before their effectiveness is confirmed.

S trim introduces wireless device charging and eight-way power for the driver’s seat, while EX builds on this with a power tailgate and leather trim. If you want to go all-out, flagship SX Prestige models include heated and ventilated front/second-row seats clad in Nappa leather, with a large sunroof and Harman Kardon audio system among the other highlights. Like every model, it receives a five-year warranty that’s also good for 60,000 miles, depending on which comes first.

Built for comfort, not speed. There’s every chance those 60,000 miles will be spent in a rather leisurely fashion since the Telluride is by no means a fast or dynamically impressive vehicle from the driver’s seat. Weighing over 4,100 lb in its lightest guise (and the aforementioned X packages increase that weight considerably), the 3.8-liter V6 struggles to muster much enthusiasm for acceleration. It isn’t especially noisy, but you’ll notice the engine struggling when fully loaded or while tackling a hill. Don’t expect much of a return at the pumps, either – low twenties are the best you’ll achieve on the combined cycle.

Better news comes from the suspension, which provides a supple and comfortable ride at all speeds thanks in large measure to independent suspension. Add adaptive dampers and it becomes positively luxurious. We also appreciate all the sound deadening throughout the cabin while navigating a straight course along a windy freeway is no challenge at all. Meaty steering adds to this sense of reassurance, though nobody would ever grab the Telluride’s keys for a hell-of-it Sunday morning drive.

2022 Kia Telluride Interior

Transporting occupants in style. The Telluride may be dynamically limited, but as a people mover, it’s superb. Whether you choose a three-seater middle bench or twin captain’s chairs (and we’d always favor the latter unless eight seatbelts are essential), the cabin is spacious and comfortable. Third-row access is among the best on today’s market, thanks in part to those big rear doors, while you can quadruple cargo space from the standard 21 cubic feet by dropping the rear seats.

Even more impressive than the space on offer is the sheer quality invested into the Telluride’s cabin. The soft quilted leather and woodgrain trim of pricier models carry connotations of premium marques, not mainstream Korean manufacturers. The dash is dominated by a 12.3-inch touchscreen, below which a collection of buttons is reminiscent of the minimalist principles embraced so successfully in modern Mazda SUVs.

Final thoughts. There’s no disputing the fact that Kia has created a fine car here. Compared to its Hyundai Palisade sibling, the Telluride might look rather odd from some angles (the giant radiator grille resembles either sunglasses or a pig’s nostrils, depending on how charitable you’re being), but there’s lots to cherish here. The interior is a great place to sit and be driven, the dash is clean and contemporary, the standard equipment is generous and safety is top-drawer. Add in competitive pricing and a superb warranty, and the case is compelling.

Of course, nothing’s perfect. Prices have soared this year, and the Palisade does a better job of playing the luxury card once you’re looking at $50,000 models. The engine feels underpowered if you’re (a) towing, (b) carrying a full load of passengers or (c) going up a long hill, while the largely superfluous AWD packages further stifle performance. Fuel economy is weak in any setup, and the model range is confusing to navigate. Still, the Telluride gets so many things right that it remains a compelling competitor in the three-row SUV sector.

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