Pros-Roomy. Upscale. Lively. Rugged. Nice ride. Solid handling. Interior design. Advanced safety features. Front- or All-wheel drive. Towing ability.
Cons-So-so fuel economy. High step-in. Third row tight for adults.
Bottom Line-New SUV provides ruggedness and spacious luxury.
The new 2020 Kia Telluride
SX V6 AWD SUV promises to draw many with its upscale, deftly designed, roomy interior, smooth ride, lively performance and good handling.
This Kia model is only moderately attractive, although features such as its 20-inch black finished alloy wheels, rear roof spoiler and a sculpted rear skid plate with integrated twin exhaust tips are signs that the Telluride is a tough customer.
The Telluride won't be a stranger to gas stations. The AWD model delivers only an estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on highways, while the front-drive version provides an estimated 20 city and 26 highway. However, you can fill the 18.8-gallon fuel tank with just 87-octane gasoline, and the engine has a stop/start feature to save fuel when it is idling excessively.
The Telluride was designed at Kia's design studio in California and assembled in Georgia. It's the largest Kia ever designed for the United Sates.
Kia colorfully says the Telluride "is all about big skies, desert roads, mountain passes, shady forests, smooth highways and long coastal drives." It comes with front-wheel drive or active on-demand all-wheel drive that actively distributes torque between front and rear wheels depending on road conditions and drive input. It's offered in a variety of rear and all-wheel drive models, starting at $31,600 for the base front-drive LX and ending at $43,490 for the top-line SX AWD model, which I tested.
Powering all Telluride versions is a smooth 3.8-liter 6-cylinder engine with 291 horsepower and 262 pound/feet of torque. It works with an efficient 8-speed automatic transmission with a crisp manual-shift feature. This SUV provides lively in-town and highway performance despite weighing a hefty 4,112 to 4,317 pounds, depending on the model. Up to 5,000 pounds can be towed.
The all-independent suspension does a nice job absorbing bumps, and the steering is quick with a positive feel. Handling is reassuring, thanks partly to a vehicle stability management system with electronic stability control. The brake pedal has a fluid motion to ensue smooth stops with the anti-lock system.
A driver can select via a console dial four driving modes Eco (for economy), Smart (judges driving habits), Comfort (for smoothest operation) and Sport (for steering, engine and transmission adjustments for enhanced driver performance). Drivers can also select from two different settings: Snow and AWD Lock. Downhill brake control maintains a controlled descent on steep roads.
Kia says there's seating for eight with the small third-row seat, but there's really only comfortable room for four in the first two rows and tight seating for two adults in the split third row. Of course, you can comfortably put smaller kids back there. Kia says legroom in front is 44.1 inches and 42.4 inches in the slide/fold middle seat but only 31.4 inches in the third row. Thankfully, the split folding third-row seats can be reached via a narrow aisle between the second-row seats.
The cargo floor is high, and the cargo area is small with the third seat in its upright position. Cargo volume shrinks to 21 cubic feet behind the third row from 46 cubic feet behind the second row. But there's decent cargo room with the third seat folded out of the way, and the split second-row captain's chairs also fold forward. Standard is a "smart" (hands-free) power tailgate. The cabin has a good number of storage areas, including wide ones in front doors. A large storage bin in the front console contains easily reached cupholders. One nifty feature is grab handles integrated into the center console that suggest journeys off the beaten path. The handles contain controls for heating and ventilating front seats.
Getting in the supportive, comfortable power first- and second-row seats calls for a rather high step up, but occupants sit high and are surrounded by a deftly designed interior. It has top-notch materials, including simulated brushed metal and matte-finished wood. Front seats have leather trim and are heated and ventilated. There's also a heated steering wheel with controls, push button starter, tri-zone automatic climate control, power tilt-and-sliding sunroof, fixed glass rear sunroof, AM/FM with a 10-inch touchscreen and plenty of clearly marked dashboard gauges for those who don't want to bother with operating a touchscreen. Hooks keep objects off the floor and away from feet, and there's ceiling-mounted second-row climate control.
There's also a Harmon/Kardon Surround Sound audio, AM/FM with a 10-inch touchscreen, Android Auto & Apple CarPlay Smartphone integration and wireless phone charger.
The number of safety items is formidable. They can remind one of the coming "driverless cars," especially the Highway Driving Assist feature that uses radar systems to interpret lane markings so the vehicle can control steering, acceleration and braking to automatically adjust distance from the vehicle detected ahead. HDA also is designed to recognize speed limits on federal highways and adjust speeds.
Other items include blind-spot collision avoidance at the rear, cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, forward-collision avoidance, lane keeping assist, parking distance warning-reverse, smart cruise control and a rear occupant alert with ultrasonic sensors to detect child or pet movement in the second and third row after doors have been locked-and then issue audible alerts to the driver. There's also a safe-exit assist that detects vehicles approaching from the rear and keeps doors from being opened until the vehicle has passed. And there's also a rearview camera, parking distance warning and surround view and blind-spot view monitor.
There's also seven air bags.
Options on my test Telluride SX V6 AWD included a head-up display Nappa leather seat trim, premium cloth headliner and sun visors, heated and ventilated second-row seats and rain-sensing front windshield wipers.
The Telluride will be sold in limited numbers starting this spring. It hits the booming market for SUVs and crossovers at the right time.