Thursday, November 14, 2019

The New SUV Leader with Rugged Luxury and Big Style

When Kia introduced the Telluride at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show, the company knew it had a hit on its hands. Designed in California and built in Georgia specifically for the U.S. market, the 2020 Kia Telluride is perfectly balanced to compete in the three-row crossover market. It can seat up to eight and has plenty of power from a 291-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic and available on-demand all-wheel drive.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD
The biggest Kia is coming to town

Big is an Understatement

The Telluride is big both inside and out, with an aggressive yet stylish look. During our testing, the Telluride got admiring looks everywhere we went. The headlights and grille stand out as unique, and the long, well-proportioned side view is smooth and makes the Telluride look like it would cost much more than it does. That look follows around to the rear of the sweeping taillights that accentuate its rear haunches. The only things in the front and back that are a bit over the top are the huge “TELLURIDE” badging. With badges that large, you don’t need glasses to see exactly what kind of vehicle this is. At 196 inches long, 78 inches wide and 70 inches tall, the Telluride is much larger than all of its competition like the , , and Chevy Traverse. Despite its size, it drives like a much smaller crossover with crisp handling and driver aids to help maneuver in tight spaces.

A Luxury Interior at a Reasonable Price

The interior design is drop-dead gorgeous with a stylish dashboard with aluminum and faux wood highlights and excellent fit and finish. The Telluride’s center dash has a large and easy-to-understand digital display, and the driver’s information center also has a large easy-to-read digital display.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD
A touch of luxury in front

Our top-of-the-line SX model test vehicle included Nappa leather trim on the seats, a premium headliner and a panoramic glass roof. Heated and cooled front and middle row seats are standard as are power adjustments, with power-folding controls in the rear hatch for the middle seats. The third-row seats are tolerable for small adults and kids and fold completely flat with the tug from a strap in the rear cargo area. For most situations, the third-row seats will most likely be down, increasing the already huge rear cargo area. If more seating is required, the middle captain chairs can be swapped out for bench seating for up to eight.

Interior electronics are extensive, with the infotainment duties handled by Kia’s Uvo system. Luckily both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and are far and away a better option for infotainment duties. Out test vehicle had an upscale Harman/Kardon 10-speaker surround audio system with subwoofer. The base system makes do with only six speakers. Bluetooth, Sirius/XM, voice control, and integrated rearview camera are standard. A unique feature of the Telluride, “Driver Talk,” is essentially is a PA system for the driver to get the attention of unruly passengers in the rear. It gets your attention because it has a bit of reverb in its sound that makes you stop whatever you are doing. Another fantastic and handy feature is Telluride’s approach to blind-spot monitoring. Whenever the turn signal is on, the camera on that side of the SUV shows up in a high-def screen in the center of the instrument cluster right in the driver’s line of sight.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD
Captain’s chairs or bench are the middle seat options

HVAC controls for both the front and rear seating have both digital displays as well as old-school knobs and buttons, but if you just want to set the desired temperature, the Telluride will manage everything for you. Depending on the trim level selected, the screen is either an 8.0-inch one or an upgraded extra-wide 10.3-inch unit.

Kia realized that portable devices are essential today, and for that, there are USB ports at every seat with wireless charging and a 110-volt outlet in the rear seat area. Flanking the center console are transmission, traction control and front-seat comfort controls as well as grab handles and enough cup holders and storage bins for any situation.

The Telluride shines in its interior volume with 178.1 cubic feet of space, larger than any other midsize SUV/crossover on the market today. The Telluride has 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat, which jumps to 46 cubic feet with the third seat down and a monstrous 87 cubic feet with both the second- and third-row seats down.

Drives like a Luxury Car

The ride and power of the Telluride are impressive. Usually, with an SUV the size of the Telluride, it drives like a truck, or it is sprung soft for a minivan ride. The Telluride has a firm, smooth ride with excellent body control despite its 5,000-pound curb weight, with linear steering with exceptional feel. It is an extremely quiet vehicle, too, with no wind noise because of its rock-solid unibody construction. In our sound tests at 70 mph, the interior sound noise was only 56 dB, which is right up there with the most premium luxury vehicles available.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD
The big V6 pumps out almost 300 horsepower

The acceleration is decent with a 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds. City/highway/combined mpg is 20/26/23 for the front-drive model and 19/24/21 for all-wheel drive. In our highway tests, we returned a solid 24 mpg in highway and mountain road driving. The eight-speed automatic has imperceptible shifts most of the time, but in hilly conditions, it hunts for just the right gear for performance and power.

As is expected today, the Telluride sports a full suite of adaptive safety systems. These include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, front collision avoidance with pedestrian detection and advanced cruise control that can handle stop-and-go driving, and even adjust its speed based on the posted speed limit. It has seven airbags and all sorts of safety systems standard. It also has ultrasonic sensors to let the driver know that someone is sitting in the rear seats when they exit the vehicle so as not to lock them in.

There is a Telluride for every Pocketbook and Need

In the crowded midsize SUV market, the Telluride stands out with a fresh, bold look and has enough features and driving quality to boot. The interior has features and quality rivaling more expensive crossovers and SUVs.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD
We put the Telluride to the test in the mountains and it delivered all the goods

Pricing starts at $32,735 for the FWD Telluride LX base with freight and handling and can get up to almost $48,000 for the AWD Telluride SX with the Prestige package and special paint. Whichever model you choose, it will look cool, with high-quality top-notch components inside and out.

Kia has set a high bar for itself. Its first three-row SUV/crossover is a knockout, and we can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

Gary Lieber is a Road Test & Technology editor at Smarticd. Gary is a Silicon Valley technology veteran, having spent more than 20 years as an executive at Apple and Microsoft. He is a life-long technologist, club racer and gearhead. He has written about cars for the last 10 years, focusing on battery electric cars, autonomous vehicles and the technologies behind them. He is an organizer of Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel, founder of the San Francisco Bay Leaf Owners Association, former Concours Chairman for the Porsche Club of America and currently serves as Vice President of Communications for the Western Automotive Journalists.

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