2020 Kia Telluride: Think Big, Korean Style

Strong points
  • Spacious and well-appointed interior
  • Lots of technologies
  • Strong V6
Weak points
  • Question marks about resale value
  • High entry price
  • Some hard plastics
Full report

Long considered a stronghold of American manufacturers, the three-row midsize SUV segment is now populated by companies from all over the globe. This year, it’s Kia’s turn to think big. Meet the largest vehicle ever offered by the Korean brand, the 2020 Telluride.

Make no mistake, though: apart from the Kia badge affixed to the middle of the front grille, this new SUV is basically as Korean as a cheeseburger. Built in the U.S., the Telluride was designed and engineered specifically for North American drivers. Even the name is inspired by a city in Colorado.

In terms of size, the Kia Telluride can look every competitor in the eye and not suffer from an inferiority complex. Standing exactly five metres long, it is aimed squarely at the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and other similar SUVs, including the equally new Hyundai Palisade which the Telluride shares its platform and powertrain with.

Photo: Frédéric Mercier

Room for Everybody

One thing’s for sure: the Telluride has room to spare. The boxy silhouette not only gives it a rugged look that nicely stands out from the non-U.S. competition, but also results in excellent headroom even in the sometimes dreaded third row. To access the rearmost confines of the vehicle, the second-row seats folds down at the simple push of a button, creating a wide-open path in the process. That’s a big advantage most companies often overlook.

The trunk can hold quite a bit of cargo, too. Without even dropping the third-row seats, the Telluride has a capacity of more than 600 litres, which trumps the majority of rivals.

Up front, the layout is modern and tastefully executed—aside from the cheap, hard plastics that get dirty real quick around the centre console. The infotainment system is accessed via a low-mounted touchscreen that does not block the driver’s view in any way and I’ve found it quite easy to use.

Photo: Frédéric Mercier

Even the base EX trim is generously equipped. With standard all-wheel drive, a 10.25-inch display, wireless smartphone charging and a bunch of driver-assist features, the 2020 Kia Telluride is at the leading edge of technology.

Adding a few luxury amenities like a 360-degree camera system, Harman Kardon stereo, dual sunroof and 20-inch alloy wheels, the mid-range SX model appears to be the one that offers the most bang for your buck.

The Telluride is normally an eight-passenger SUV, but you can have a pair of captain’s chairs instead of a second-row bench if you opt for the top-line SX Limited. You’ll also get Nappa leather, a head-up display and a load-sensitive, auto-leveling rear suspension.

Photo: Frédéric Mercier

One Great Powertrain

All trim levels come with a 3.8-litre V6 that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This powerful mill endows the 2020 Kia Telluride with a towing capacity of 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds) and pretty decent performance for a vehicle of this size. The eight-speed automatic transmission does a flawless job of finding the ideal gear and it nicely adapts to the drive mode you select.

Combined city-highway fuel consumption is officially rated at 11.2 L/100 km, which is neither outstanding nor alarming. Unlike some turbocharged four-cylinders, the V6’s real-world number is extremely close to the one advertised by Kia.

Speaking of which, the company chose not to offer a four-cylinder option that would have lowered the base price. As it is, the Telluride starts at $44,995 before freight and delivery, which is definitely not what I would call an affordable SUV. Kia products also tend to have a low resale value, so I expect the Telluride to lose quite a bit of value during the first few years.

Photo: Frédéric Mercier

On the other hand, while it’s more expensive than most competitors, this machine is better equipped, too. If you take time to compare specs and features with other three-row SUVs on the market, you’ll realize that the price is right.

Still, I cannot help but think Kia would have benefited from selling a more rudimentary base model with a smaller engine—just like Volkswagen does with the Atlas. Instead, the company is already talking about adding an electrified variant in the near future.

At the end of the day, I was amazed by the amount of room in the 2020 Kia Telluride, the impressive integration of technology and the high level of refinement—something that would have been impossible to find in a Kia even a few years ago.

Kia really does have the power to surprise.

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