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First Drive: 2020 Kia Telluride – New Segment Leader

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The competitive SUV/CUV market just got a little more interesting with Kia’s latest entry into the mid-size market with the all-new 2020 Telluride.

The Telluride was designed in California at the Kia Design Center and assembled in Georgia at the same plant that the Optima and Sorento are built. With the Telluride, Kia has brought some much needed fresh blood in the competitive mid-size suv/cuv market with a vehicle that has an excellent drive train package and a great exterior and interior design.  Kia describes the Telluride as “Big, Bold and Boxy” in an attempt to differentiate itself from the pack as the choice of vehicle for those wanting an adventure and weekend warriors. While we only spent a short amount of time with the Telluride, I believe Kia nailed it on all counts. Read further as I break down the Telluride in all it’s glory as we spent a day in the beautiful Gateway and Telluride, Colorado.

Note: Our test vehicle was a 7 passenger AWD SX Trim with the Prestige package.

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Definitely Big, Bold, Boxy!

Designed specifically for the US market the Telluride is big.  Which is good, American’s like big cars. Technically the Telluride is classified as a mid-size but it’s on the larger end by a good margin.  Not just because it is capable of hauling up to 8 passengers but because it is just physically large. Now the largest SUV in Kia’s fleet, the Telluride’s external dimensions puts it in direct competition with the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander but because it is so large, it compares nicely with even some full sized suvs like the Mazda CX-9 and Ford Explorer.  Heck it even has a longer wheelbase than the latter at 114.2” vs 112.8”.

Physically being large on the outside translates to an interior that is both comfortable and roomy.  Adults will fit in the third row seating without too much trouble and you have the ability to adjust the second row to give third row passengers more room.  The second row one touch slide and fold is super handy and even moving from the second row to the back (and vice versa) could be done with relative ease (I’m 5’11” and 240lbs and I had no issues moving around).  What’s really nice is that you also still have cargo room with the third row seats up, as much as the Ford Explorer at 21.0 cu.ft. Handy when you just picked up a bunch of buddies and their luggage from the airport.

There’s only a single engine option, a new gas atkinson cycle 3.8L GDI V6 Lambda-II engine.  This engine produces 291 hp at 6,000 RPMs and 262 lb.-ft. @ 5,200 rpm. You can get either FWD or AWD and either are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.  Seat of the pants impression is that this drivetrain is powerful enough to meet most people’s daily needs, even up in the higher altitudes that we were driving in (at the highest point of our trip, we landed in Telluride, Co, with an elevation of 8,750 feet).

The transmission did a great job of keeping us in the right gear and it was fun to drive the twisties in Sport mode. While the Telluride had some body roll, the suspension did a surprisingly good job of making me feel safe, comfortable and confident.  I wasn’t slowing down as much I thought I would and in fact would often add speed.

Kia designers obviously wanted to stray away from a conservative look and I’m 100% fine with that.  In fact, I love that they tried to stay as close to the concept vehicle looks as much as possible. The tiger nose grill is big and huge and I love it.  It says tough, it inspires adventure and actually reminds me of another great adventurous suv, the Land Rover Discovery. It’s definitely not cute and curvy shaped either like the Honda Pilot.  Kia meant Telluride to be driven in the outdoors, give you an avenue to get away and have fun. Just watch this commercial where the Telluride is happy slinging a little bit of mud.

Heck you even get functional grab bars, something that ultimately were used by my co-pilot when we did a few donuts and little off-roading .  We even ended up going through some of the slickest terrain out there, wet mud/clay. With the optional AWD Lock/Snow mode activated, the Telluride did exceptionally well (in this mode, the drivetrain is locked 50/50 front to rear).  We did our best to imitate the Kia commercial and we’re proud to say it didn’t take us long to layer a decent amount of red mud on our once beautiful white Telluride. The AWD system will be able pull decent off-road duty for most people’s needs (beaches, mountains, snow, mud) and without too much fuss.  It all just worked and worked well.

Safety

As with all Kia’s lately, you get a host of standard safety features that make Kia’s one of the safest vehicles to drive.  However, if you upgrade to the SX you get something called Blind-Spot View Monitor (or BVM) that is similar to Honda’s LaneWatch system .  When you activate your turn signal a live view of your blind spot pops up on the dashboard.  In a large vehicle this is a nice feature to have as it helps keep your eyes facing forward.

Additionally on EX and SX trims you get a feature called, Highway Driving Assist (HDA) which is about as close to hands on wheel automated driving you can get without buying a Tesla.  My testing of this feature was somewhat limited but we’ll be sure to do a more thorough review in the future on the roads of the Pacific Northwest. Kia expects the Telluride to meet top ratings for IIHS and NHSTA.

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Technology

The Telluride does not sacrifice when it comes to tech.  All models come with standard Apple Carplay and Android auto.  LX and S models get an 8” display while EX and SX models move to a wider 10.25” display and also adds wireless charging.  The touchscreen was fairly responsive and accurate. Not as nice as say a smartphone or tablet but it worked as well as any other I’ve used recently.  A cool feature when you have occupants in the second or third row is a feature called Driver Talk. When activated a microphone picks up voices from the front and ports the sounds through the rear speakers.  You don’t need to yell so your rear passengers can hear you. SX models also upgrade you to a very nice sounding Harman Kardon 10 speaker surround sound system.

An additional package that is only available on AWD SX models is the Prestige package (for an additional $2,000). This adds a very nice Napa leather seat option, HUD display, heated steering wheel, second row heated and ventilated seats, rain sensing windshield wipers and an upgraded headliner and trim. While the Telluride exudes a spirit of toughness and adventure you really don’t have to sacrifice any comfort and luxury features.  One of my favorite features was the heated steering wheel as our hands got a little cold in the snowy low 30 degree weather we experienced.

The all-new 2020 Kia Telluride has a base price of $31,690.00 for the FWD LX (plus $1,045.00 destination charge).  The fully loaded AWD SX that we drove prices out at $43,490.00 plus an additional $2,000 for the Prestige package for a total of $45,490.00.  Not bad, especially considering that a similarly equipped AWD Honda Pilot Elite tops out at $48,020.00.

If you want a great looking suv/cuv, something that you can take an adventure in and at the same time have many of the amenities of a luxury car, you have to put the Telluride at the top of your list.

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