2021 Kia Telluride

By December 2, 2020

The 2021 Kia Telluride can do a lot: It can carry eight passengers in luxury and safety, with available all-wheel drive. It can fit a budget, since even the base model has synthetic leather upholstery and a full complement of active safety equipment. It can roll on for miles without a worry, since Kia offers the best warranty in the business.

The Telluride has a chunky and chic look, with ideal proportions and a smart, sporty stance. The airy and comfortable interior features well-chosen textures that are at the least above average in quality, and quite lush in the higher trims. For 2021 there’s a new Nightfall edition with black trim, including black 20-inch wheels.

A 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 provides ample but not blazing power, and its 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The ride is smooth and composed, and the Telluride does a good job of towing 5,000 pounds.

The Telluride scores average fuel-economy ratings. Front-drive Tellurides earn EPA figures of 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined. With all-wheel drive, the numbers dip to 19/24/21 mpg.

The safety scores are stronger. The IIHS gives the Telluride SX and EX models its Top Safety Pick award–those have the LED headlights. Other models still score top “Good” scores in all IIHS tests, and its automatic emergency braking gets a “Superior” rating.

The NHTSA gives the Telluride five stars overall, with four stars for front- and side-impact crash protection.

All Tellurides come standard with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control.

Model Lineup

The Telluride comes in LX, S, EX, and SX trims.

The $33,160 Telluride LX comes with all the active safety features, synthetic leather upholstery, seating for eight, keyless start, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. All-wheel drive costs $2,000.
The $35,560 Telluride S gains 20-inch wheels, heated front seats, power driver seat adjustment, and second-row captain’s chairs.

The $38,560 Telluride EX adds leather upholstery, wireless smartphone charging, a power tailgate, cooled front seats, a 10.3-inch touchscreen, and a sunroof.

The Telluride SX adds front parking sensors, automatic high-beam headlights, a surround-view camera system, and Harman Kardon audio. A $2,000 package adds heated and cooled second-row seats, nappa leather, a heated steering wheel, and a head-up display. Also available are a sunroof and a blind-spot camera that feeds video to the instrument cluster.

All Telluride crossovers get an excellent 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Exterior

The 2021 Kia Telluride wears all the right angles. It looks like a scaled-down GMC Yukon, carrying the styling themes of a Mercedes GLS with some Volvo cues to state its family-wagon mission. Its designers have taken the basic two-box design and nicely blended in upticks and slight curves, then added a wide electric-razor grille and vertical C-shaped headlights and taillights, to define its personality.

It’s about 197 inches long, with a 114.2-inch wheelbase—about the same as the related Hyundai Palisade. It throws off a hefty and purposeful vibe, without pretending to be more rugged than it is. It looks great on 20-inch wheels, although the black wheels of the SX will be a bit much for some.

Interior

The carlike interior features fine materials and follows the same boxy theme, with the Telluride SX getting extra wood and chrome. Add that $2,000 package to the SX for a truly lavish feel with nappa leather and a suede headliner.

The controls sit on a low dash with a billboard-style touchscreen for infotainment—LX and S models get an 8.0-inch screen while the EX and SX get a 10.3-inch screen.

The space and driving position are excellent in front, and there’s ample small-item storage for smartphones and keys. The synthetic leather front seats on the LX are manually adjusted, while S gets an eight-way power driver seat; the EX and SX get real leather with a power passenger seat.

Being long and wide, the Telluride can seat eight adults comfortably, and that’s pretty rare. The standard three-person bench in the middle row can be replaced with a pair of captain’s chairs, which slide forward for easy access to the third-row bench.

The Telluride can carry 21 cubic feet of cargo behind the third row, and 46 cubic feet behind the second row. With both rows folded, there’s a massive 87 cubic feet of space.

Driving Impressions

Kia suits up the Telluride SUV with a V-6 engine, automatic transmission, independent suspension and an option for all-wheel drive; it’s a convention of conventional hardware. But what it does with those ordinary bits rises above the clutter.

The 291-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 is mated to an 8-speed automatic, with front- or all-wheel drive. The Telluride isn’t light, at 4,500 pounds, but there’s enough power to make acceleration good enough, with 0-60 mph sprints in the mid-seven-second range. Deft transmission programming gets the most out of that power, for passing on two-lanes.

The all-wheel-drive system delivers good traction on wet, snowy, or icy roads. The system is front-wheel biased, but it can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels at speeds of up to 40 mph. The Telluride also can tow 5,000 pounds.

But where the Telluride excels is in its softly damped ride, even with the 20-inch wheels on S and SX models. The standard 18-inch wheels and tires might be better, but unfortunately we haven’t had the opportunity to test-drive the base Telluride.
It’s hard to steal any composure from Telluride’s handling. The steering has Kia’s usual heft without feedback, and it grows stiffer when in the Smart driving mode. But the ride remains unruffled, pleasant, and unperturbed by potholes.

Final Word

The Telluride has earned multiple “best car” awards, and it’s hard to disagree. If an 8-passenger crossover is what you need, you’ll get all you want in the Telluride, with no downsides, and that’s hard to find.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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