2020 Kia Telluride

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Updated: July 24, 2020

2020 Kia Telluride

The 2020 Kia Telluride is a new three-row crossover with substance to go with its style. At 197 inches long and 78 inches wide, it’s the biggest Kia ever sold in North America; it’s a bit longer than the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, but smaller than the Toyota Sequoia and Chevy Tahoe. Built in Georgia, it shares its 114-inch wheelbase, platform and powertrain with the Hyundai Palisade.

That powertrain is a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that works well. Acceleration is good, but the Telluride’s best dynamic feature might be its supple suspension, which provides a nice ride even with the optional 20-inch wheels that fill the large wheel wells. 

Its squarish profile makes it look like a scaled-down Chevy Suburban. The upright grille is flanked by tall headlights and LED running lights.

The cabin is clean, with either an 8.0- or a 10.3-inch touchscreen rising from a low dashboard. The infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and all three rows have at least one USB port.

The airy interior has good room for up to eight passengers. A three-seat second-row bench is standard, but most trims are available with captain’s chairs that slide forward for easy access to the relatively spacious third row. With that row folded, there’s 46 cubic feet of cargo space, more than most rivals. 

However the Telluride offers no advantage over rivals in fuel mileage, being EPA-rated at 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined. Available all-wheel drive brings it down by 2 mpg, which is 2 mpg less than the Subaru Ascent and Mazda CX-9.

The Telluride hasn’t been crash tested yet, however it has much standard active safety equipment: automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors. Safety options include automatic high-beam headlamps and a blind-spot camera that displays in the instrument cluster. An available system that Kia calls Highway Driving Assist reads road signs and autonomously changes lanes. 

Model Lineup

The Telluride comes in LX, S, EX, and SX trim levels.

The LX costs about $32,700 and includes synthetic leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, five USB ports, Bluetooth, keyless ignition, halogen projector headlamps, and the active safety equipment. All-wheel drive costs $2,000 on all trims.

For about $35,000, the Telluride S adds 20-inch alloy wheels, dark gray exterior accents, second-row captain’s chairs, heated front seats, and power adjustment for the driver’s seat.

The Telluride EX costs about $38,200 and adds a 10.3-inch display, leather upholstery, cooled front seats, three-zone automatic climate control, a wireless charging pad, a sixth USB port, a power tailgate, and a sunroof.

The Telluride SX for $42,600 adds LED headlamps with automatic high beams, Harman Kardon audio, black 20-inch wheels, a surround-view camera system, and forward parking sensors. For $2,000, the Prestige package adds nappa leather, heated and cooled second-row seats, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, and a few other features.

The Telluride is covered by a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that’s longer than most rivals.

Exterior

The Telluride’s expressive exterior casts a chunky shadow with its blocky styling. It’s by no means voluptuous. It makes no attempt to copy the popular looks of its smaller sibling, the Sorento. Its wide grille and tall thin headlamps make it look wider and taller than it actually is. A chrome strip climbs the center roof pillar, a touch that works well. The SX looks hot with its big black wheels, although they do get a bit lost in the big dark wheel wells. 

Interior

If the exterior says SUV all the way, the interior says spacious sedan. It’s simple, and soothing. The low dashboard displays horizontal controls under a touchscreen on the center stack that’s either 8.0 inches on the LX and S, or 10.3 inches on the EX and SX.  

The standard synthetic leather in the base LX is sweet (however we’ve felt softer), but the standard manual front seat adjustment is surprising; other models have power. The front seats are supportive and the SX, with real leather, adds thigh support. Most of our seat time was in an SX with the Prestige Package that included nappa leather and a synthetic suede headliner. 

Depending on the model, the second row is either a three-person bench or two captain’s chairs with a narrow pass-through; they slide forward at the touch of a button to ease access to the third row. There’s good space for three kids or two adults back there, but the Telluride can’t rival the voluminous VW Atlas for third-row legroom. 

There’s 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, more than most rivals;  when it’s folded flat there is 46 cubic feet, again more than rivals; and when both rear rows are down there is a delivery-van-like 87 cubic feet. 

Driving Impressions

The 3.8-liter V-6 engine makes 291 horsepower and 262-pound-feet of torque, ample for this 4,500-pound vehicle. The 8-speed automatic transmission makes the most of that power; it shifts down effectively when needed on uphill runs as we hammered the throttle to keep up. 

The Telluride’s suspension is supple to the point of being soft, on the 20-inch wheels fitted to the top SX model. We like the handling, too. The steering is firm enough even in Comfort mode, and it gets tighter for good straight-line stability in Sport mode. The default mode is called Smart mode, and it’s pretty smart in the way it coordinates the Telluride’s throttle, transmission, and steering response.

Our SX had the available all-wheel drive, and when we hit some wet mountain roads we pushed it to see how the all-wheel drive handled the challenge. It felt secure. A button on the center console locks the center differential to split power 50/50 between the axles at speeds below 40 mph on muddy or snow-covered roads. It’s rated to tow 5,000 pounds with the $800 optional tow package. 

Final Word

The 2020 Kia Telluride is a compelling three-row family SUV for a good price. It has a beautiful cabin, great cargo and passenger space, solid infotainment, excellent active safety features, and a standout warranty.  

 

—by Sam Moses, with driving impressions from The Car Connection.