2020 Kia Telluride Review

2020 Kia Telluride - Chicago plays nice with Telluride


Kia's all-new 2020 Telluride finds itself at the right place at the right time.  Large, family-friendly crossovers boasting three rows of seat comfort are in demand throughout Chicagoland and beyond.  Look no farther than recent entries into the segment from Volkswagen (Atlas ) Subaru (Assent) and Kia's kissing South Korean cousin Hyundai (Palisade) all coming online during the last couple of years.

Kia's riding a Telluride wave thanks in part to an expansive experiential marketing budget.  For those venturing to the Chicago Auto Show this past February, Kia's interactive woodsy-themed Telluride test track grabbed significant real estate in McCormick Place's North Hall while providing participants multi levels of in-seat fun.  

Telluride's arrival almost negates distant memories of Kia's last attempt a dozen years back with a three-row hauler.  Remember Borrego?  Most folks can't and for good reason.  The mid-sized Borrego launched at the wrong time lasting just two years in dealerships.  Borrego arrived during the Great Recession when gas prices tickled $4 a gallon.  Sub 20 miles-per-gallon average fuel economy didn't fit in with the times. While Borrego's 7,500 pound towing capacity impressed, its body-on-frame truck like underpinnings provided too much bounce while third-row comfort lacked civility. Plus forgettable exterior styling tilted towards bland.

Telluride arrives with uni-body car-like underpinnings supporting smoother rides and lighter overall weight. At almost 197 inches in length, Telluride measures in as the largest Kia ever, surpassing Borrego and landing at the larger end of the burgeoning mid-size crossover segment. Pitted side by side, Telluride's overall length surpasses popular competitors including the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.

Assembled and designed in America, Telluride is aimed specifically at the U.S. market. Production takes place at Kia's sole U.S. facility in West Point Georgia, where the slightly smaller Sorento crossover and mid-size Optima sedan also call home.  Production began 10 years ago this month and more than three million vehicles have rolled off the line.

Four trims include LX, S, EX and top-tier SX. Each comes standard with front-wheel drive while all-wheel drive is optional. All find motivation from a 3.8-liter V-6 producing 291 horses, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and capable of towing 5,000 pounds when splurging for a $795 tow package.

Like all Kia models and offerings from corporate cousin Hyundai, powertrain warranty coverage extends to 10 years or 100,000 miles, one of the industry's longest for original owners.

Eight inches of ground clearance allows for easy access in and out along with a decent, slightly elevated seating position.  Expect a smooth glide rather than a sporty experience.  Combined with large side and hatch windows, drivers enjoy decent perspectives in multiple directions. Square headlight housing framing flanks Kia's signature long, narrow honeycomb grille. Dual exhaust pipes extend out from the lower right end.

Pricing starts at $31,690 for a base front-drive LX trim, a very competitive price point among rivals. A minimum of factory-available packages and stand-alone options help speed along purchasing decisions.  The hire one travels up the trim ladder, the more opulent the Telluride.  In comparison, a recently tested V-8 motivated 2019 luxury-branded BMW X7 three-row crossover dinged the checkbook $92,600 to start.

Our top-line SX tester checked in at $43,480. Other than the aforementioned available towing package, SX offers one other option grouping, a $2,000 prestige package adding Nappa leather seat trim, premium suede-like headliner material, heads up windshield display, second-row heated/vented seats, heated steering wheel and rain-sensing front wipers.

Our tester's bottom line finished at $46,860 when factoring carpeted floor mats ($210), carpeted cargo mats ($115) and $1,045 destination charge.

Prominently displayed and rising above the center dash, a rectangular flat-screen multi-function display (10.25-inches in SX trims).  This screen also works in tandem with standard Apple Car Play and Android Auto Smartphones, allowing downloadable cell phone App interplay; a modern nicety some folks can't live without.

This touch-sensitive screen also interacts with a row of brushed-aluminum buttons below (media, radio, navigation) along with both a volume/on-off button and a scroll button flanking the row.  Between the color screen and push buttons reside horizontal air vents.

These narrow slots distribute HVAC orders commanded by a row of black buttons below the chrome row with larger tactile knobs commanding temperature settings at the poles along with a central digital window.

The circular push-button electric start/stop resides on the lower dash and in direct conflict with the steering wheel.  Reaching the button is not a direct shot as the right arm must maneuver on or through the orb. The easily-glance instrument panel includes two circular analog gauges; a left-side tachometer and right-side speedometer.  In between the gauges; a motion picture experience awaits.

Activate the turn signal stalk during an impending lane change to enjoy the moving picture.  Side cameras feed real-time action of blind-spot activity into the IP's little theatre screen enabling driver's to enjoy an enhanced color view of side activities. This system doesn't replace, but works in concert with amber visual warnings built into side view mirrors. 'Blind Spot View Monitor, gets abbreviated as BVM.

When traveling at speeds above 50 mph, the fast motion of pavement markings and/or side curbs on screen can be disconcerting when quickly glancing the IP.  Dividends add up if a fellow road warrior happens into the blind spot for too long a time. In this scenario, the invading vehicle is traveling approximately the same speed as Telluride, appearing prominently in the feed.

Sadly BVM comes standard only in top-level SX, although all four trims include a competent array of the latest radar-enhanced safety features.

When the BVM is quiet, a default digital speedometer panel illuminated with large reverse white type takes center stage and also includes small point-sized outside temperature, digital time and odometer readouts.  Other panel options selectable via a 3 o'clock steering wheel face button include a colorful, funky compass and settings menu to summon heads up windshield display to switch on or off.

Moving towards the middle, buyers get to choose from two second-row designs.  A 60/40 split bench seats come standard EX and LX trims. Split-folding captain's chairs adorn S and SX versions.

The third row includes split backrests which manually fold down and utilize a pull strap accessible with the lift gate open to return seats to prone. Second-row seatbacks can power down from the cargo region via left-side panel buttons in all trims.

While marketing material stresses three riders may occupy the way back, pre-teen status helps accommodate three.   Two adults may find short stints acceptable with rather tight head and adequate leg room. Second-row seats slide easily once backrests tilt forward, creating a kid-friendly walkway that adults must contort through. Third row occupants have access to USB ports supporting Smartphones.

The fuel tank holds a hefty 18.9 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel.  Unlike Borrego's disappointing fuel economy, Telluride reaches an estimated 24 miles per gallon highway.

Kia continues as one of a select few automakers offering both a three-row crossover and a conventional three-row minivan.  With Telluride's debut, the future of Kia's Sedona minivan seems tentative.

2020 Kia Telluride

Price as tested: $46,860

Engine:   3.8-liter V-6

Horsepower:  291

Fuel estimates:   19 mpg city/ 24 mpg highway

Length:   196.9 inches

Wheelbase:  114.2 inches

Height:  69.3 inches

Curb weight:  4,482 pounds

Powertrain warranty: 10 year, 100,000 miles

Assembly:  West Point Georgia

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.