SAN FRANCISCO — From an auto editor’s perspective, it has been nothing short of remarkable to see how KIA has evolved over the last decade. Going from a brand known for cheap, unreliable vehicles to a far more premium brand has been a slow but steady road for KIA. Not since the release of the Stinger, has there been so much buzz surrounding the company as there is with its latest SUV, the Telluride.
Named after a rather famous Rocky Mountain town in southwest Colorado, the 7-passenger Telluride showed off a newer side of KIA when it announced over a year ago. A side of them that not only wanted to make a great SUV but one that’s not simply a pavement princess. Sure, most of them will likely never leave the pavement, however, it does have some decent off-road abilities.
Under the hood:
Our SX all-wheel-drive model features a somewhat potent 3.8 liter, naturally aspirated V6 engine that’s good for 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that does a darn good job of managing the gears. KIA’s all-wheel-drive option does a brilliant job of pushing power where it needs to go. It can do a 65/35 split (in sport mode) or push all the power to the front wheels. There is also a differential lock available, which forces a 50/50 power split between the front and rear wheels.
Fuel economy isn’t one of the strengths here, as the EPA gave it a rating of 19 around town and up to 24 on the highway or a combined average of 21 miles per gallon. During the week with our test vehicle, we were averaging close to 20mpg combined. Even though the Telluride has some advantages of its competition, this rating does set it back a bit behind several of them.
From a design perspective, the Telluride has hit the nail on the head. Forget those curves found on many of today’s SUVs, KIA doubled down on straight lines and it simply works. The squared-off appearance looks masculine, sturdy and yet completely refined at the same time. In fact, I personally like the way it looks better than its cousin, the Hyundai Palisade.
A stellar interior:
KIA has been ever-evolving the build quality of its interiors as well. We could now be seeing the zenith of those efforts. Not only does the inside look, clean and elegant, it easily rivals some of its competition, costing far more. Inside feels very upscale. There’s limited use of hard plastics and most everything is soft to the touch. Toss in the Nappa leather seating surfaces as well as the wood-like inserts, and you’d think you were a premium brand from Germany..
Its infotainment system is top-notch as well. Even though the mapping system looks a tad dated, everything works well. The Harmon / Kardon sound system provides exceptional audio playback and is one of the better-sounding solutions available today. The 10.3-inch touchscreen is very responsive with no noticeable lag. Smartphone users will appreciate that it comes with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, standard.
Front seat comfort is absolutely excellent from its multi-adjustable seats. The 2nd-row captain chairs are also very comfortable, however, they lack the same adjustments upfront. Its 3rd row has rather limited legroom but should serve families out well who have smaller children.
As far as driver aids and safety go, this SX model has most everything. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, parking assist, heated and vented seats, automatic emergency braking and even sensors that detect if you’ve left kids in the back.
On the road:
On the road, you’ll find the Telluride to handle itself very well. Body roll is minimal, off-the-line performance is solid with 0-60 times in the low 7-second range. If you do want to go off-road, you’ll have 8-inches of clearance to help out with modest 4-wheeling action.
There’s not a lot to find fault with the 2020 Telluride. Sure we’d love to see better fuel economy and a bit more power but this is a great SUV that is a serious contender in the marketplace. KIA has a home run on its hands and we have no reservations in recommending it to anyone.