The 2020 Kia Telluride joins the growing list of three-row family crossovers, adding a more rugged vibe to what has become a pretty sensible shoes segment. Its boxier styling and clean lines certainly imply that this big SUV could get dirty, although its rather pedestrian all-wheel drive system and average ground clearance would indicate it's mostly for show. Or at least, a hefty dump of snow. That's OK, folks wear outdoorsy garb from Mountain Hardwear and rarely visit the mountains.
We're impressed by the new Telluride's spacious cabin, a massive features list and plenty of thoughtful, family-friendly details like USB ports in every row and second-row seats that slide and fold at the press of a button. The Telluride really steps things up in its range-topping SX trim, which unlike many competitors, looks and feels genuinely luxurious. The Telluride's well-balanced driving experience and impressive value round out a genuinely appealing three-row SUV that deserves serious consideration.
What's new for 2020?
The Telluride is an all-new model for Kia, filling the gap at the top of its SUV lineup.
What's the interior and in-car technology like?
Admittedly, we have only had contact with the ritziest, range-topping Telluride SX model that boasts soft, interestingly stitched leather, convincing faux wood trim, and a generally luxurious ambience that trumps everything else in the segment. Oh, and it costs less than range-topping rivals that actually have less equipment.
Now, will an LX and EX be as swank? No, but the general quality of plastics, switchgear and other materials should still be above average. Every Telluride is also extremely well equipped. Check out the pricing and features section below for a full breakdown, but suffice to say, you don't need to pay top dollar to get heated and ventilated seats, sunshades and an abundance of infotainment features.
Indeed, every Telluride comes standard with five USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and satellite radio. An 8-inch touchscreen is standard (and is typically sized for the segment), yet the EX and SX features a wide 10.25-inch touchscreen that will not only impress your friends with its largesse, but it improves functionality as well. It brings with it wireless smartphone charging, integrated navigation and a grand total of seven USB ports spread throughout all rows. The ports embedded in the backs of the front seats are unique (seen in the photo below), and shorten the distance between phone and port for those in the second row (versus the typical placement down low at the base of the center console).
How big is it?
The Telluride is a large, three-row family crossover, eclipsing most competitors in terms of overall length and interior space. On paper, second- and third-row legroom are particularly roomy, and we confirmed this in person by comfortably fitting 6-foot tall people back-to-back in all three rows. That's a rare feet for any vehicle, especially in terms of the third-row. The way back's comfort and space are enhanced by its ample headroom and reclining capability, as well as the sliding second row (available as a bench or captain's chairs). We also like the large rear quarter windows that help the Telluride's third row avoid the claustrophobic feel of many competitors. Access to the third row is gained by pressing a button on the second-row captain's chairs (if so equipped), which automatically slides and flips the seat forward. This may be conveniently simple, but the resulting gap isn't that big.
Cargo space also betters that of most competitors, even with the third-row raised. There's 21 cubic feet with all seats in place, versus the 16 to 18 range of most rival crossovers. This is accomplished by removing a panel (stored outside the car) that lowers the floor by about 5 inches, but nevertheless, this difference in space can be the difference between an extra bag (or even person) coming along.
With all seats lowered, only the new 2020 Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse outdo the Telluride's 87 cubic feet of maximum space. Credit for this size and versatility should go to the Telluride's boxy shape, which is always a benefit when it comes to storing big, bulky things.
To see how the Telluride's dimensions compare to its three-row crossover rivals, see our feature comparing the Telluride versus the 2020 Ford Explorer, 2019 Honda Pilot, 2020 Hyundai Palisade, 2019 Subaru Ascent and 2019 Toyota Highlander.
What's the performance and fuel economy?
Every 2020 Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. These are strong numbers for the segment. An eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel is an option. That system constantly alters the amount of power going to the front and rear axles, with the percentage of distribution differing depending on the selected drive mode. For instance, Sport splits power 65/35 front/rear, whereas Comfort and Snow have a 80/20 split. There's also a Lock mode best suited for off-roading, which keeps things 50/50. Towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds, which is typical for a large family crossover.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 19/24/21 with all-wheel drive. This makes the Telluride dead even with most competitors.
What's it like to drive?
The Telluride definitely doesn't follow in the footsteps of the Stinger or other sporty Kias that demonstrate sharp handling and even driving fun. There's lots of body roll, but it's not uncontrolled, as the suspension sets itself nicely through a corner while maintaining composure over big bumps or undulations. The steering, at least in Smart or Sport modes, is also impressively precise and provides confidence to the driver. The Comfort mode is too numb and allows too much play at speed.
In terms of ride quality, opting for the big 20-inch wheels can create some choppy reactions to certain road imperfections, but in general, we spent about five hours behind the wheel on rural highways and found the ride to be perfectly pleasant. Really, the Telluride strikes a great balance between comfort and driver confidence that should be perfect for many. It also, importantly, doesn't drive as big as its sizeable dimensions would imply.
As for the engine, our test drive occurred between 4,500 and 8,000 feet in Colorado (including near the actual town of Telluride), so it shouldn't be surprising that it didn't feel quite as robust as its specs would indicate. Torque underwhelmed, and its power really didn't come on strong until a lofty 5,200 rpm. Another drive closer to sea level is in order. Still, the eight-speed automatic could be quicker to respond to throttle inputs and downshift, even when Sport mode is engaged.
What more can you read about the Kia Telluride?
Senior Editor John Beltz Snyder spends some time in the family-friendly Telluride with his wife and son.
In this comparison of engine specs, dimensions, pricing and photos, we take a look at the 2020 Telluride versus the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer, and the Telluride's mechanically related cousin, the equally new 2020 Hyundai Palisade.
What features are available and what's the price?
The 2020 Kia Telluride starts at $32,735, including a $1,045 destination charge that we've applied to all prices below. There are four trim levels — LX, S, EX and SX — and all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option.
Standard equipment on the LX ($32,735) includes 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, heated mirrors, proximity entry and push-button start, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, manual height-adjustable driver seat, "Sofino" leatherette upholstery, a 60/40-split second-row seat (sliding, reclining, folding), 50/50-split folding third-row seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen, 5 USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and a six-speaker sound system. See the Safety section below for its standard safety and accident avoidance features.
The Telluride S ($35,035) additions include 20-inch wheels, special Satin Chrome exterior trim, roof rails, a sunroof, an eight-way power driver seat (with two-way lumbar), heated front seats, and second-row captain's chairs (the bench becomes a $100 option).
The EX ($38,135) reverts to 18-inch wheels and the second-row bench. Its additions include a handsfree power liftgate, power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, second-row sunshades, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear temperature controls, leather upholstery, an eight-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats, wireless smartphone charging, more USB ports, integrated navigation and a 10.25-inch touchscreen.
The SX ($42,535) additions include black 20-inch wheels, the captain's chairs (the bench is not available), LED headlights and fog lights, front parking sensors, a surround-view parking camera system, expanded digital instruments, driver seat thigh extension, driver memory settings, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. The optional Prestige package ($2,000) adds to the SX automatic wipers, a head-up display, heated and ventilated second-row seats, upgraded leather upholstery, a 110-volt house-style electric outlet and a heated steering wheel.
The Towing package ($795) available on the EX and SX includes a tow hitch and a self-leveling rear suspension.
What are its safety ratings and equipment?
The 2020 Telluride comes standard with a comprehensive array of safety equipment, including accident avoidance tech. Besides the usual airbags and stability aides, standard items include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, and a driver inattention warning system. An enhanced blind-spot monitoring system is included in the SX.
The Telluride received five out of five stars for overall and side crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and four stars for front protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible crash protection and crash prevention scores. Its base headlights got a "Poor" rating, which is typical, while its available upgrade headlights got an "Acceptable" rating.