We're guessing no one saw this coming. Sure, there was word out on the street that Kia was going to build a three-row crossover to helm the top of their all-wheel drive lineup, on top of the Sorento. It's just that no one expected the Telluride to be this good. We have yet to test drive it, but by all accounts, the Telluride is astoundingly good to the point that it makes other three-row crossovers seem a bit less than premium. And that's exactly where the brand wants to go... upmarket.
If the excellent Telluride isn't evidence enough, take a look at what the brand has been doing lately. The 2020 Soul looks better than ever with slicker styling that belies its awkward origins. The Stinger GT is one of the best sports sedans on the market with original styling and great performance. Even the affordable Rio and Forte are two of the best compact vehicles on the market. Soon, the Sorento and the Optima will be redesigned, and expectations are high to make these already great cars remarkable.
The Telluride has the stuff consumers are looking for in a premium crossover. Not only is it spacious with three rows for actual adults, the interior styling is some of the best in the business. Ergonomics are up there with the likes of Audi and BMW, and those big grab bars that flank the shift knob are Jaguar through-and-through.
And just like the premium brands, you can upgrade your Telluride with nappa leather, roomy heated and ventilated second-row captain's chairs, and faux-suede-covered surfaces that aren't even available on some of its competitors. The exterior boasts handsome styling in the form of a big mesh grille, LED lighting, and that Deep Moss paint that should really be the only color you should get. Oh, and those 20-inch gloss black wheels are something to covet.
It also has the tech good premium shoppers are looking for. The big 10.3" touchscreen infotainment screen on higher trims beautifully floats on the top of the dash just like BMW and Audi, and the graphics are as clear as any you'd find for more money. And as with all Kia UVO systems, the one in the Telluride is incredibly easy to use. You can also upgrade to a booming Harman Kardon premium sound system with 12-speakers, and there are six USB ports, Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The second and third rows are even slightly elevated for ideal visibility for passengers, the second-row slides and reclines, and the third row even reclines. The huge second-row doors open wide for easy ingress and egress, and there's pushbutton access for third-row passengers. And in terms of cargo space, the Telluride might not be as big as the VW Atlas with the seats folded flat (87 cubic feet vs. 96.8), but there's a capacious 21 cubic feet behind row three that eclipses even the massive Ford Expedition's.
All Tellurides get a great engine with plenty of power in the form of a 3.8-liter direct-inject V6 with 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque that tops out at 5200 rpm for ideal passing capability. The Telluride launches to 60 mph in the low 7-second range, which is plenty quick for a vehicle this size. That's as fast as the smaller turbocharged Mazda CX-9.
We've seen the new Telluride driving around the northern 'burbs of Chicago where plenty of Land Rovers, BMWs, and Audis roam around, so it's keeping good company. The Telluride looks so good inside and out that we're guessing many buyers who've held to more premium brands will start taking a serious look at the best offering Kia has right now, and it's a truly excellent one.