Car Reviews SUV of the Year

2020 Kia Telluride Pros and Cons Review: The Heartland Kia

The big Kia SUV built in America for Americans is a 2020 SUV of the Year finalist

The big Kia SUV built in America for Americans is a 2020 SUV of the Year finalist

Pros:

  • Handsome inside and out
  • Smooth, quiet, refined
  • Astounding value

Cons:

  • More torque, please
  • Transmission response
  • No hill descent control

The 2020 Kia Telluride is a game changer. This is a Kia built in America for Americans—a confident, comfortable, roomy three-row SUV that’s perfectly pitched and precisely priced to appeal to the heartland of the market.

It’s the largest SUV yet from the Korean automaker, nearly 8 inches longer overall than a Sorento, and it has a 4.8-inch-longer wheelbase. That means the Telluride is also bigger than the Honda Pilot and the 2020 Toyota Highlander. It’s a bit shorter than the new Ford Explorer but feels more spacious inside.

Read about Car, SUV, and Truck of the Year contenders HERE.

The Telluride shares its platform and mechanicals with the new Hyundai Palisade. There’s only one powertrain option, the 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 with an eight-speed automatic.

The base Telluride LX has an astonishing MSRP of $32,785 USD. For that you get 18-inch alloy wheels and a ton of equipment, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Kia’s 8.0-inch touchscreen and UVO infotainment system interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and five USB ports.

Also included in the base price is the full suite of driver assistance aids, including forward collision warning, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and smart cruise control. And there’s room aboard for eight passengers, with a 60/40 split-folding second row and a reclining third row that provides ample room for three preteens.

It’s a terrific value for a family vehicle. Pony up to the top-of-the-range $42,585 USD Telluride SX, and you get 20-inch wheels, a premium Harman Kardon audio system, dual sunroofs, and a 12-way adjustable driver’s seat with memory. We recommend adding three key options: all-wheel drive ($2,000 USD); the towing package ($795 USD), which adds a self-leveling rear suspension; and the SX Prestige package ($2,000 USD), which includes a head-up display, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and soft Nappa leather trim. Outfitted thus, you have an impressively smooth and quiet, lavishly equipped, and beautifully finished SUV that puts ritzy rides like the standard-wheelbase Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator on notice. All for about $47,000 USD. That’s about 30 grand less than its luxury counterparts, but without sacrificing luxury. “It looks and feels like a millionaire rancher’s living room,” executive editor Mark Rechtin said.

The headlines may focus on the price-value equation, but the Kia Telluride driving experience is anything but bargain basement. Although the V-6 engine could use a little more than its 262 lb-ft of torque in the 4,460-pound (2,023 kg) SX AWD model, a fully loaded Telluride is still quicker to 60 mph and over the quarter mile than an entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 4Matic, which costs $10,000 USD more, without options.

What’s more, this Kia also comfortably punches above its weight not only in terms of ride, refinement, and low noise levels but also in steering and handling. “The Telluride is among the very few three-row crossovers that I actually like driving,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “It feels like a good two-row crossover, with crisp turn-in, excellent ride quality, and great body control.”

A rotary controller on the center console allows drivers to switch between Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Smart modes. (The latter lets onboard computers figure out the best combination of efficiency and response.) There’s also a Snow mode, which adjusts throttle, transmission, and traction control settings to suit low-friction surfaces.

A button in the center of the controller locks the center differential for ultimate traction in challenging conditions. Driven with due regard for its 8.0 inches of ground clearance, 17.0-degree approach and 20.9-degree departure angles, and 114.2-inch wheelbase, the Telluride will comfortably cope with bad roads and worse weather.

The 2020 Telluride needs more torque and could benefit from a more responsive transmission, but the handsome and lavishly equipped Kia is still one of the most compelling family SUVs on the market today.

2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD
Base Price/As tested $44,535/$46,860
Power (SAE net) 291 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.2 sec
Quarter-mile 15.4 sec @ 90.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 126 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.76 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.7 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 19/24/21 mpg