ROAD TEST: 2020 Kia Telluride SX Limited

By Shari Prymak

When it comes to making huge strides, few mainstream automakers have accomplished quite as much as Kia in such a short span of time. Bold designs, improvements to build quality, and a continued commitment to excellent value for money have helped make Kia a winner in recent years. The execution of its lineup is simply on point, and no model in the lineup is a better example of this than the Telluride.

The Telluride is Kia’s largest crossover, sitting well above the Sorento and Sportage in the brand’s crossover lineup. Compared to the Sorento, which shares a similar three-row configuration, the Telluride is bolder, boxier, and far more truck-like in appearance. Some may mistake it for a full-sized American SUV, such as a GMC Yukon, and rightfully so. The Telluride is just plain massive with a far more demanding presence than the smoother, softer-looking Sorento. It is quite distinctive-looking for a crossover as well with a few unique design touches such as the halo amber-LED headlight design.

On the inside, the Telluride impresses with a borderline luxury SUV feel complete with available Nappa leather upholstery, a micro-suede headliner, and real-looking matte wood and aluminum trim. It is also incredibly practical with loads of room in all three rows, seating for up to eight, and plenty of available goodies including heated and ventilated second row seats, window shades, climate controls, plus several cup holders and USB ports. Access to the third row is as simple as it gets and the cargo area offers plenty of room for a weekend getaway. Naturally, the second and third rows easily fold flat to create massive cargo space.

Like its close relatives Hyundai and Genesis, Kia is a master of making technology easy to use and accessible for everyday people. The wide 10.25 inch touchscreen has a clear menu structure that’s also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Below the screen are straightforward controls for common audio and climate features that will take next to no time to get comfortable with. The backup camera includes a surround view monitor that helps make parking a breeze. Active safety technology includes one of the best lane-keep assist systems in the market as well as a blind-spot monitor with a live video feed displayed in the instrument cluster when the turn signal is activated. 

Owners will find little to complain about when it comes to the driving experience. Higher level Tellurides comes equipped with a self-leveling rear air suspension which helps offer stability combined with smooth ride quality. The 3.8L naturally-aspirated V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission manage to do their job just fine with adequate power and refinement. Fuel economy is quite reasonable as well for a large three-row crossover with up to 9.0L/100km easily doable on a long highway run. Figure more like 13.0L/100km during normal stop and go driving, which is still perfectly respectable. The Telluride has a towing capacity of up to 5,000 lbs which is quite impressive as well.

In typical Kia fashion, the Telluride offers excellent value across the lineup. The entry-level EX carries an MSRP of $44,995 and includes features such as the wide-screen display with navigation, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive cruise control, rear blind spot and cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, and seating for up to eight. I wouldn’t hesitate, however, to splurge on the top of the line SX Limited model for $53,995, which includes goodies like dual sunroof panels, head-up display, 12-speaker Harmon Kardon audio, second-row captain’s chairs, plus all the previously mentioned luxury touches.

The Telluride competes in a crowded space with rivals that include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas, Subaru Ascent, and Hyundai Pallisade. Even so, the Telluride stands out for its amazing practicality, luxurious, yet user-friendly, interior, and attractive value for money. Those who do not require the most amount of space and can manage with tight occasional use third-row seats will still find better value in the lower-priced Sorento. If size and space can’t be compromised, however, the Telluride is the most accomplished Kia model to date and an excellent option in the three-row crossover segment.