The first great SUV of the year just arrived at your Kia dealership.
Elegant, advanced and costing thousands less than comparably equipped competitors, the 2020 Kia Telluride seven- or eight-seat SUV leaves three-row competitors like the Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder in its dust.
Luxury SUVs like the Lexus RXL, Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60 better watch out, too.
Room for people, things
The Telluride is the biggest vehicle Kia’s ever sold. Driving through the Colorado Rockies toward the former mining town the SUV is named for, headroom seemed as high as the surrounding mountains. Shoulder and knee room are equally accommodating, thanks to a design that maximizes interior space. The second row offers a bench or captain’s chairs that slide to adjust third-row space. There’s 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, more than the Pilot and Pathfinder.
The Telluride looks like a luxury vehicle, and not just because its styling reminds some of Range Rover. Classy exterior touches like amber running lights surrounding big rectangular dual-bulb projector headlights — LED on the SX model I drove — combine with a long hood, wide grille and subtle chrome trim for a look vehicles costing thousands more will envy. Interior options include perforated Nappa leather and a velvety, luxurious headliner.
Long but nimble, quiet on bumpy roads
At 196.9 inches long, the Telluride is longer than the Highlander, Pilot and Pathfinder, but it drives like a smaller vehicle.
The steering is responsive and direct. The ride was smooth over pothole ridden mountain roads and rough surfaces. The interior is exceptionally quiet, even at highway speeds.
The Telluride’s 3.8L engine produces 291 hp, roughly in the middle of the pack. Acceleration and power are fine for slicing through traffic and long uphill stretches. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly.
The Telluride can tow 5,000 pounds with a $795 towing package.
Wide range of prices, features
Telluride prices start at $31,690 for a front-wheel drive model. Add $2,000 for full-time all-wheel drive with modes for different terrain and a locking differential. A smooth eight-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment.
I tested a top-of-the-line AWD Telluride SX with the prestige package. Features included Nappa leather seat trim, navigation, 10.25-inch touch screen, head-up display that included speed limit and navigation instructions, 630-watt 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio, a velvety headliner, heated and ventilated second-row seats, memory for driver settings, dual sunroofs, 20-inch black wheels and much more. It stickered at $45,815, excluding destination charges.
Smartest, safest back seat on wheels
The Telluride has an exceptional number of standard safety and driver assistance features including:
— Front collision alert
— Pedestrian detection
— Automatic front braking
— Adaptive cruise control
— Blind spot alert with automatic evasive steering and braking if you’re about to merge into another vehicle
— Automatic braking if you’re about to back into a crossing vehicle
The blind spot sensors don’t stop working when the Telluride stops moving. They’ll warn back-seat passengers if they’re about to open a door into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
That’s not the back seat’s only trick. If you lock the vehicle and walk away with a child or pet in the back seat, motion sensors will beep the horn to remind you that you forgot somebody.
You can also mute the second- and third-row audio speakers, if somebody’s napping, or the kids keep making fun of your taste in music.
I only noticed two oversights: The mechanism to fold the rear seats for more cargo space is a little difficult to operate with one hand, and there’s no rear-seat video system. Kia dealers will offer them, but it’ll be at least a model year before there’s a factory installed system.
2020 Kia Telluride at a glance
Model tested: 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD
Engine: 3.8L V-6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 291 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 262 pound-feet of torque @ 5,200 rpm
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds with optional towing package
EPA fuel economy rating: 19 mpg city/24 highway/21 combined. (FWD: 20/26/23) Regular gasoline.
Assembly location: West Point, Ga.
Price as tested: $45,815 (excluding destination charges)