2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD Review

Excellent right out of gates


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Exterior design is truly special and stands out, excellent driving manners, one of the best interiors for the money, great space for large families, fake wood looks real, top notch tech
Negatives: Only one engine choice.
Bottom Line: The Telluride is officially one of the best, if not the best, mainstream three-row SUVs on the market, and it's Kia's first attempt at a near-premium SUV. As far as bang for your buck, there's almost nothing better thanks to room, high style, great tech, and solid driving chops. Why can't other carmakers do it this well for a truly attractive price point.
As popular as smaller crossovers are, there will pretty much always be a need for spacious three-row SUVs, especially when it comes to that third row that really should be fine for adults, not just tiny kids. The Telluride is Kia's first effort at a true mid-size SUV since the Sorento doesn't really work in terms of space. The Telluride rides on the same platform as the equally spacious Hyundai Palisade, offering space for up to 8, depending on configuration. But coupled with the space is top-notch levels of style that butt up against the likes of Audi and Land Rover. Kia really went all out on this one, and we were excited to drive this new upstart. We helmed the premium SX V6 trim for a week to determine how truly good the Telluride is for shoppers looking for more space for less money than the premium brands.
 

Driving Experience

8.8

 

It's hard to make a big SUV drive well since weight and center of gravity tend to betray it, but the Telluride does quite well, and time spent behind the wheel provides some satisfaction, if not actual thrills.

Ride Quality: The Telluride is smooth and composed but not mushy, just the way we like it. It has no problem managing bumps and undulations even with the big 20" alloy wheels.

Acceleration: The naturally-aspirated V6 provides sufficient power to make the Telluride feel potent. 0-60 comes in a hair over seven seconds, which isn't bad for the segment. The 8-speed automatic shifts well and had no problem dropping down gears when needed.

Braking: The Telluride has great brakes. Pedal feel is excellent, and there's progressiveness to the system. Braking distances are class-leading, too.

Steering: The Telluride has a steering feel like few other crossovers in that it's light but nicely increases in effort while turning. There's not much feedback, but the precision and on-centeredness are very good.

Handling: For a crossover this size, we were surprised by the minimal body roll. The Telluride feels composed and balanced in turns.

Technology

9.4

 

The Telluride, like so many other Kia models, has great in-car tech. It may not be the sexiest system (BMW and Volvo own those), but it's one of the simplest and easiest to use. Plus, almost no one does intuitive controls like Kia. In fact, we can't think of one.

Infotainment System: The Telluride SX V6 gets the large 10" screen, which is a nice upgrade from the 8" version on lower trims. More real estate means you get an additional swath of information. UVO works remarkably well and responds well to inputs, and the graphics are solid without overdoing it. Features like the hands-free standard liftgate and the intercom for the third row are great additions to the standard set, as well.

Controls: The clean row of metallic-like infotainment buttons is large and sits below the horizontal HVAC vents. They're very easy to press while driving, and the steering wheel control are some of the best around. We also like the traditional gearshift knob, unlike the pushbutton system found on the sister Hyundai Palisade.

Styling

9.8

 

If there's one thing that truly stands out about the Telluride, it's the unique and premium styling that outshines SUVs that cost twice as much. It's hard to believe Kia builds something this attractive in a segment that so often seems lackluster at this price point. We can see why some buyers are jumping from premium brands to get the Telluride. Inside and out, it's gorgeous.

Front: The metallic-like meh grille evokes a refined aesthetic, and the tall headlights with the amber LED signature match perfectly. The squarish fascia is a nice change from the slenderized looks from so many other crossovers.

Rear: The bird's head-shaped LED taillights look like no other vehicle's regardless of price, and we also love the big rear glass that looks almost frameless.

Profile: From this angle, the Telluride has some Range Rover, some older Ford Explorer, and some VW Atlas in the look but still manages to look original. Tweaks like the upticks at the base of the B-pillars and the scalloped front door give the Telluride a look that separate it from the rest of the pack.

Cabin: The Telluride's interior s a melding of sport and luxury. The unique seat stitching pattern, the coin-edge bezel on the analog gauges, and even the excellent faux wood trim give the Telluride a premium look and feel.

Comfort

9.2

 

Personally, we'd kill for a Telluride for our own large family. There's plenty of room in all three rows, and the ergonomics and materials are excellent. Sure, there's still some hard plastic in there, but it's all well-placed.

Front Seats: The seats are big and well-cushioned. The premium Nappa leather is soft and looks great, too.

Rear Seats: Plenty of legroom and headroom for adults, and the optional Captain's chairs are great. The rear seats are both heated and ventilated, too, not something you find in SUVs costing way more.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Sound deadening is very good, as is the management of highway wind noise. Build quality is also excellent.

Visibility: Unlike so many other SUVs, the Telluride has big windows and well-managed pillar size, lending to great visibility all around. The cameras and optional Surround View monitor also work very well to manage tight spaces.

Climate: The big vents (three in the center stack alone) move air well. The heated and ventilated seats are responsive but not as powerful as we'd like.

Safety

9.4

 

The Telluride scores with excellence in crash tests and also comes with great standard features including accident avoicance technology.

IIHS Rating: The Top Safety Pick rating thanks to "good" in all crash tests and "superior" front crash prevention. It gets "poor" and "acceptable" headlights, contingent on trim, and "acceptable" LATCH ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: The list of standard features is about as long as your arm. The Telluride comes with Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Highway Driving Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Parking Distance Warning-Reverse, Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Rear Occupant Alert, and Safe Exit Assist.

Optional Tech: The SX V6 tester we drove came with Surround View and Blind Spot Monitor View, as well as Forward Parking Distance Warning.

Storage/Cargo

8.9

 

The Telluride has ample, usable cargo space, but the in-car small item storage could use improvement. It's not bad, but we expect a bit more storage space in the front row for a vehicle like this.

Storage Space: There's a binnacle at the base of the center stack, and a small cubby in front of the cupholders. The armrest is decently sized, as well. The presence of a shift knob compromises some storage opportunities, unlike the Hyundai Palisade which has a pushbutton transmission.

Cargo Room: Cargo space behind row three is a generous 21 cubic feet, and there's a capacious 87 cubes with both rows folded down. The cargo hold opening is wide, the floor is nicely flat, and there's even a storage compartment under the rear floor. The Telluride can also tow 5,000 pounds, making it more than just a pretty face.

Fuel Economy

8.3

 

The V6 provides ample power, and the transmission doesn't seem finicky, which tallies to a decent level of efficiency for a naturally-aspirated big three-row vehicle. We got good numbers given the fact we drove it Sport mode 100% of the time.

Observed: 20.5 mpg

Distance Driven: 183 miles

Audio

9

 

The SX gets upgraded audio with the great Harman Kardon surround sound system. It provides strong sound with great bass and clarity. It's a n excellent system that's nice to have in a vehicle that looks and feels premium.



Final Thoughts

Watch out premium brands. Kia just delivered a big three-row SUV that looks as good, if not better than, many higher priced vehicles. Not only that, its styling is very original, and it's a head turner. But more than just a pretty face, the Telluride has the goods to back it up including great driving chops, real room and comfort, as well as top notch safety and in-car tech. It might not be as luxurious as its Palisade sibling, but it certainly is easier on the eyes. Kia is doing some big things, and the other automakers should be put on notice.
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