Photography by Ben Cheney
Kia never fails to surprise. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride crossover is a swing for the fences. Qualifying as midsized, it has more interior room than the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe. Seating seven, or eight depending on the cabin configuration, it provides at least five USB ports, including a minimum of one for each of its three rows. Standard equipment includes Wi-Fi hot spot, a reclining third-row seat, 18-in alloy wheels, a new transmission with four drive modes and an all-new 3.8-liter V6 engine. Its rear lift gate offers a 49-in wide opening. It has eight inches of ground clearance and can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It also offers a full suite of available safety/driver-assist technologies.
Kia’s California-based designers purposefully sketched its boxy shape, defining it as beefy and rugged. It sports the biggest Kia "tiger-nose" grille to date. Its inverted "L" taillights, along with its rear skid plate with dual exhaust (except base trim), establish a unique backend signature. As for the Telluride moniker, Kia had a wide choice of Colorado ski communities to name its new flagship crossover after. We’re not sure it picked the catchiest one, but Steamboat Springs doesn’t have quite the ring to it as Telluride.
All in all, the clean-sheet-of-paper Kia Telluride delivers exactly what we’ve come to expect from Kia: value.
What’s New for 2020?
Kia Telluride is an all-new midsize crossover. See the 2020 Kia Telluride models for sale near you
What We Like
- Roomy, upscale cabin
- Wide rear cargo opening
- Available self-leveling rear suspension
- Many safety/driver-assist systems standard on entry-level trim
- 4-wheel lock on all-wheel drive
What We Don’t
- Only one engine choice
Kia developed an all-new Atkinson Cycle 3.8-liter V6 to power the Telluride. Developing 291-horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, it transfers power to the front wheels via a Kia home-grown 8-speed automatic transmission. Offering more than adequate get-up-and-go, its output compares favorably with core competitors like the Chevy Traverse, the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer.
Front-wheel-drive versions offer four driving modes: Smart, Eco, Sport and Comfort. Adding Snow and all-wheel drive Lock to the driving modes, AWD is available on every grade of the 2020 Telluride. Government estimates put fuel-economy numbers for FWD models at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in combined driving. AWD scrubs off some mileage to 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
Kia offers Telluride in four grades: LX, S, EX and SX. AWD is a $2,000 option on all trim levels. All prices include the factory destination charge.
The LX ($32,735) comes standard with 18-in alloy wheels, hill-start assist, LED daytime running lights, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, a trip computer, an overhead console, push-button start, seating for eight, leatherette seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an acoustic windshield, air conditioning, rear temperature controls, Bluetooth connectivity, five USB charging ports, an 8-in touchscreen, a 6-speaker audio system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, seven airbags, downhill brake control, a rearview camera, trailer stability assist, rear cross traffic alert, driver attention warning, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane following assist, rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.
Beyond AWD, the LX has no factory options.
S ($35,035) has all of the LX’s standard equipment plus 20-in alloy wheels, heated front seats, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, seating for seven with second-row captain’s chairs and a leather-wrapped shift knob. Options for the S include second-row center armrest with cup holders and second-row split folding bench seat with seating for eight.
EX ($38,135) adds S standard features plus the second-row center armrest as standard, along with 18-in alloy wheels, LED tail lights, power-folding outboard mirrors, acoustic front side windows, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seating, an 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, seating for eight with a split folding second-row bench seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic defog system, a 10.25-in touchscreen, a navigation system, a wireless phone charger, six USB ports and a smart hands-free lift gate. Factory options for EX include self-leveling rear suspension and a heated steering wheel.
To the EX’s standard features, the SX ($42,535) adds 20-in black alloy wheels, LED projector-style headlights, LED fog lights, reverse tilt-down outboard mirrors, a dual sunroof with power front tilt/slide, a 7-in color gauge cluster, 64-color cabin mood lamp, stainless-steel pedals, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, memory for driver’s seat and outboard mirrors, an upgraded 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, blind spot monitoring, high-beam assist, front parking sensors and a 360-degree surround-view monitor. SX factory options include EX’s options plus rain-sensing wipers, a premium cloth headliner, premium Nappa leather seating, second-row heated seats, second-row ventilated seats, an 110-volt power outlet and a head-up display.
The 2020 Kia Telluride has the typical passive safety features like stability control and traction control, as well as vehicle stability management, hill-start assist and downhill brake control. It features seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag. A rear occupant alert sounds when the system senses the potential for a child or a pet left behind. Kia provides even the entry-level LX with a wide array of safety/driver-assist technologies like driver attention warning, forward-collision warning with emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.
No third-party agency has yet to crash test Telluride.
Behind the Wheel
The Telluride drives about the way it looks. It’s quiet and comfy. On the road, it cruises along without drama. It won’t dust key competitors like the Honda Pilot or the Chevy Traverse off the line, but it accelerates with a degree of enthusiasm. The 8-speed transmission gets a bit busy in downtown traffic, but settles down on the highway. Our experience with the Telluride was in an AWD SX grade clocking miles in Western Colorado. Mountains and curves were in ample supply. Even in the high, performance-robbing altitude, the V6 did its job. We even got a little time in the dirt. Although not really challenged, the AWD had no problem. We would have preferred the 18-in wheels off road, rather than the SX’s 20-in ones, but again, we were on dirt for maybe five miles.
Inside, the cabin is decidedly upscale. Even taller passengers won’t find life in the second-row challenging. Average-size adults should be able to handle short jaunts in the third row without complaint. The seats are supportive and comfortable. The Harman Kardon surround-sound system in the SX is fantastic. In designing and engineering the Telluride, Kia benchmarked the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer. In our judgment, the Telluride can go toe to toe with any of them.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Chevrolet Traverse — Lots of interior space for cargo or passengers, relatively roomy third-row seat and one of the best infotainment systems in the industry with Wi-Fi hot spot wrapped in a handsome package.
2019 Toyota Highlander — Despite being in the twilight of its life cycle, this crossover boasts solid fuel economy from its robust V6, smooth ride and loads of safety features.
2019 Ford Explorer — A new generation of the Explorer is due for 2020, but in the meantime, the current model offers two terrific engines, a comfy ride, and user-friendly tech features.
With the entry-level LX so well contented, it’s tough to make a case for opting for one of the more expensive upper trims. The LX is the big value here. We like the extra features in EX, but second-row captain’s chairs aren’t offered. Consequently, if your budget will bear it, The SX has it all. Find a Kia Telluride for sale