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Stunning new 2020 Kia Telluride puts all 3-row SUVs on notice Featured

Posted On Sunday, 26 January 2020 04:16 Written by
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The 2020 Kia Telluride made a big entrance into the SUV landscape, and can only help the brand's standing in the U.S. The 2020 Kia Telluride made a big entrance into the SUV landscape, and can only help the brand's standing in the U.S. Photo courtesy of Kia

Move over, usual suspects.

Kia's bold U.S. strategy continues with the 2020 Telluride, its biggest SUV yet and one aimed squarely at families in the U.S. market, where bigger is often viewed as better by consumers.

And it’s already making waves, earning rave reviews and no doubt making the competition nervous, especially after taking home the NACTOY Utility of the Year award in January 2020.

Read on for a full report on how it stands up to the usual front-runners among three-row SUVs.


The Telluride is by all measures a well-designed vehicle, featuring a bold yet sleek-looking exterior, and a roomy and versatile interior.

The Kia front grille boasts one of the most attractive designs in the SUV landscape. 18-inch alloy wheels are standard, while higher trims feature 20-inch wheels.

Inside is where the Telluride shows its true colors and really earns its nearly universal praise, with the Kia model giving off true luxury vibes for a much-lower starting price.

It’s one of those cases where so many little features add up to a welcoming package — from the sharp wood accents, to inviting leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, and even second-row heated and ventilated seats. You’ll be pleased with the wireless charging pad conveniently located up front, and tri-zone automatic climate control can keep all passengers happy.

To earn a consumer’s trust, an SUV must be versatile and roomy, and easy to enter and exit. The Telluride passes all these tests. I found the ability to manipulate the seating arrangements to accommodate different numbers of passengers a breeze on the Telluride, and it’s an extremely roomy ride that allows passengers of all sizes to both sit and move around comfortably (and offer up to 87 cubic feet of cargo space with rear rows down).

The Telluride features a 60/40 split folding second row, with one-touch slide and fold, as well as 60/40 split folding third-row seats. You can seat up to 8 people in total on vehicles equipped with a second-row bench seat, while other versions of the Telluride seat 7 and feature second-row “captain’s chairs”.

Among other amenities: Side window curtains on rear doors, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, power tilting and sliding sunroof, and power folding and heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators.

Not all these features are standard, as some of the higher-end options are part of the available SX Prestige package. The SX trim level I tested also featured: the 20-inch wheels, LED headlamps and fog lamps, a rear sunroof and a Harmon/Kardon surround sound audio system.


The Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter, V6 engine, which pairs with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Numbers are 291 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, and drivers can choose Comfort, Sport, Smart, Snow and Eco driving modes.  

Sport mode makes the large Telluride move a lot better, and even Normal driving mode is better than many SUVs in its class. Zero-to-60 time was around 7 seconds, which is solid.

For those truly invested in power, there are other SUVs (including the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango) that are more performance oriented, but the Telluride still has strong numbers overall, and its other positive attributes may outweigh any concerns about power.

My test vehicle was AWD, and FWD is the standard offering. The Telluride can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and it offered an extremely smooth and quiet overall driving experience, in part due to the acoustic glass front windshield.

The Telluride would be an excellent choice for road trips with the family, allowing the driver to power along when needed, but overall providing a relaxing and smooth experience. Add in its high comfort level and spaciousness, and it’s clear this is a vehicle tailor-made for road trips, in addition to carrying your large family or the soccer team around town.


The strong list of tech and safety offerings on the Telluride will make families very happy. It’s a truly modern SUV in a rapidly changing time.

The large, wide touchscreen on the Telluride is easy to use, and voice commands are reliable. Navigation was slightly off on a couple occasions for me, but mostly worked great, understanding voice commands and getting me where I needed to go. It was also effective at finding POIs (places of interest) by name and topic.

Safety features on the Telluride include: Rearview camera, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

In addition, it features forward collision avoidance assist, highway driving assist, rear cross traffic avoidance assist, and smart cruise control with stop and go. These features automatically keep you inside lanes very well if you ever start to stray, and you will always feel safe.

The vehicle was sometimes overly touchy with the lane-keeping warnings, but overall you get an excellent array of safety features. The eagle-eye view of the cameras is very helpful for parking, and you get a full array of airbags.

The Telluride is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, for phone mirroring in the vehicle’s 10-inch touchscreen.

The rear seat warning is a helpful feature for families so kids are never forgotten in the vehicle, and the Telluride also reminds you if a phone is left in wireless charger up front.

The SX trim I tested includes a nice feature called the blind spot view monitor, where a camera pops up when you put on turn signal to show you what is in that direction.

The optional SX Prestige package also offers a head-up display, to keep the driver’s eyes on the road better, and rain-sensing wipers.

The official fuel economy numbers on the AWD Telluride are 19 city/24 highway/21 combined. I averaged 19.5 during my time driving the vehicle. FWD versions will jump up to 20 city/26 highway/23 combined.

Compared to others in the segment (including the Ford Explorer, Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, Hyundai Palisade, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Durango and others), these are strong but not class-leading numbers, beating some competitors while losing out to others. In a vehicle with very few weak spots, this may be one area where more choosy buyers can complain, but I doubt most people will focus on this since the differences in range are minor.

My test vehicle was close to fully loaded and came in just over $48K;   

Its base price starts about $32K, which is a good starting price for this size and class of vehicle. You can choose from multiple trim levels (LX, S, EX, and SX), and unless you want a bare-bones version, you’ll probably end up closer to $40K when all is said and done — which is about average for this segment these days.

Warranties are also excellent, which may help sway some buyers, including: 10-year/100K limited powertrain warranty; 5-year/60K limited basic warranty and 5-year/60K roadside assistance.


A major splash has been made by Kia with the Telluride, their new flagship SUV, and the waves will continue to ripple as the public becomes more aware of this option. 

Longtime 3-row SUV favorites like the Ford Explorer have a strong new contender to deal with, one that is bound to upset the standard order of things in the years to come.

It looks great outside, offers a sharp and family-friendly interior design, tons of great tech, respectable power and smooth ride quality.

Kia’s SUV lineup has not typically been considered among the best in the business, but it will be now, with the arrival of the Telluride as the award-winning face of a lineup full of worthy contenders.

===== can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page. Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2020 Kia Telluride  
  • Price as tested: $48,100    
  • Best feature: Tech bonanza, roominess and strong design   
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars     
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Smart SUV buyers looking for a bold new alternative offering a complete package
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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