There's quite a bit of elbowing going on in the midsize three-row crossover/SUV segment these days, and competition is getting stiff. The Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, Hyundai Palisade, Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Chevy Traverse, and the Dodge Durango are just a handful that truly stand out. Not only do the best mainstream (meaning non-premium) three-row midsize SUVs have to provide space but also AWD, great interior appointments, and true utility. As great as the aforementioned SUVs are, there's one new member of the pack that rises to the top.
The biggest surprise in the segment for 2019 is the Kia Telluride. It's the brand's first attempt at a near-premium three-row SUV, and just about every single automotive critic out there loves it, including us. The Telluride is one of those vehicles that looks far pricier than it actually is. Not only is it handsomely styled (and looks like no other SUV out there), it hits all the right notes and does it at a surprisingly affordable price.
The base price is just over $31,000, and if you go up the ladder, even in the top trim SX V6 with all the available options, the MSRP doesn't even crest $50,000. That's about the same price as the much smaller, less attractive Lexus RX 350L. You don't find many vehicles out there that look and feel like they're worth more than you paid. The Telluride just happens to be one of them.
The design of the Telluride stayed remarkably close to the concept vehicle, adhering more to a boxy shape than more streamlined SUVs like the Mazda CX-9 or the Chevy Traverse. The Telluride looks both unique and attractive, drawing a more premium look both inside and out than many of its competitors.
But the Telluride is way more than just eye candy. It's stuffed with the goods so well that it's hard to believe. Space galore means adults can occupy all rows in comfort, and there's great visibility all around, not something most of its competitors can brag about. What's more, the litany of features isn't just reserved for the top trim version. The list of standard features on the $31K base Telluride is longer than your arm. Here are just some of the best ones:
- 8-Passenger Seating with SOFINO leatherette trim, One-Touch Sliding & Folding 2nd-Row Seats, Dual-Level Cargo Floor
- LED Positioning Lights, Heated Outside Mirrors w/ LED Turn Signal Indicators
- 18-inch Alloy Wheels, rear spoiler, sharkfin antenna, Smart Key w/ Push-Button Start and Immobilizer, Torque Vectoring Cornering Control
- 8-inch color touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth Hands-Free Connectivity, 3.5-inch Trip Computer, 6-Speaker Audio System, 5 USB charging ports and 1 USB input port
- Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear, Forward Collision-Avoidance with Pedestrian Detection
Forward Collision Warning, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Park Distance Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Safe Exit Assist, Rollover Sensor, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist,
Rear Occupant Alert, Rear View Monitor w/ Dynamic Parking Guidance
The Telluride also drives better than many of its competitors. Though it's not as sharp as the Mazda CX-9, it steers, accelerates, and handles incredibly well given its size. 291 horsepower in the optional V6 engine is powerful and smooth thanks to the great 8-speed automatic transmission. Its controlled body roll, great brakes, and composed manners make it easy to helm, and the ride is the right balance of compliant and firm.
- Engine: 3.8-liter V6
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 291 / Torque: 262 lb-ft
- Fuel Economy: 19 city / 24 highway / 21 combined
Step inside the cabin of the Telluride, and you're welcomed by sophisticated design elements like a wide swath of faux matte wood dash trim that looks like the real deal. The available Nappa leather seat trim comes in a sporty pattern, and the seats are big, supportive, and well-bolstered. The UVO infotainment system is one of the best in the business because its controls and visuals make driving easier. HVAC and infotainment knobs and buttons are laid out in a clean, linear fashion so you don't have to hunt. We really like that about Kia products. The safety features might just be the most comprehensive we've ever seen at this price, as well.
Other automakers have been put on notice with the Kia Telluride. They can no longer get away with sub-par design and lackluster features. For less than $50K, you can get just about everything you'd ever want in a three-row midsize crossover, and you'll turn heads even more than some of the premium models that cost tens of thousands more. All this, and more, is what makes the 2019 Kia Telluride the best SUV of the year.