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Auto Showdown: 2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Kia Telluride

How does the newcomer compare to the class stalwart?

How does the newcomer compare to the class stalwart?

Three-row crossovers aren’t sexy, but they’re sure gaining lots of attention lately. Debuting at the 2019 Detroit auto show this week, the 2020 Kia Telluride joins the Volkswagen Atlas, Subaru Ascent, and Hyundai Palisade as another completely new nameplate in the segment. Also new in Detroit is the sixth-generation 2020 Ford Explorer, which benefits from a significant redesign. So how does the ambitious newcomer compare against to segment staple? Take a look below to find out.

Exterior Design

In terms of design, the Explorer builds off the previous model. The headlights and grille take on a more rounded shape, the roofline appears more sloped, and the rear end is new, though it keeps the old model’s blacked-out A-pillars and D-pillars. The Telluride receives more unexpected design cues that give it a quirky vibe. Square headlights, curved taillights, muscular wheel arches, and boxy proportions contribute to the Telluride’s unique personality. Oversized “Telluride” badging can be seen on the edge of the hood and on the liftgate.


The Explorer comes with a choice of four engines while the Telluride offers just one. The base engine on the Explorer is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo-four projected to make 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Platinum models receive a 3.0-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 good for 365 hp and 380 lb-ft on 93-octane gas. A more powerful 3.0-liter engine makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft in the ST. Finally, there’s a hybrid Explorer that uses a 3.3-liter naturally aspirated V-6 making a total of 318 hp. All engines come paired to a 10-speed automatic.

The Telluride is less powerful than even the base Explorer. The 3.8-liter V-6 makes 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, and it’s mated to an eight-speed automatic. Fuel economy numbers are not yet available for either model.

There’s another big difference between the two vehicles. Although both are available with all-wheel drive, the Explorer comes standard with rear-wheel drive, and the Telluride is standard with front-wheel drive. The latter has an available self-leveling rear suspension that automatically adjusts the ride height based on the vehicle load.

Drive Modes

The Explorer offers up to seven driving modes. These include normal, sport, trail, slippery, tow/haul, and eco modes; all-wheel-drive models with the advanced terrain management system add a deep snow and sand mode. The Telluride has four driving modes: smart, eco, sport, and comfort. Two special settings include one for snow and another called “AWD lock,” which delivers power evenly to all four wheels.

The 2020 Telluride is shown above and the 2020 Explorer below.

Interior Design and Features

The Explorer (pictured above) can seat up to seven, depending on the trim level chosen. The Telluride offers seating for up to eight occupants.

When you step inside the Explorer, you’ll notice the buttons are arranged in an orderly fashion. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard, but a tablet-style 10.1-inch screen is available. The Telluride’s 10.3-inch screen is oriented horizontally, unlike the similarly sized unit in the Explorer. The Explorer offers a rotary shifter to the Telluride’s more traditional gear selector. Grip handles on the Telluride’s center console hint that the model is capable of venturing off the beaten path.

Both models share a number of important creature comforts, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, and multiple USB ports. The Explorer has up to four, and the Telluride has five standard and up to six available.

Among the Telluride’s unique features is a “quiet mode,” which makes sure the audio playing in the front row doesn’t reach the back rows. When the driver wants to communicate with those in the rear, an available microphone can help. Third-row occupants will enjoy reclining seats. Meanwhile, the Explorer features a nifty 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that has special 3-D animated graphics for each driving mode.


The Telluride can tow up to 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg). Towing numbers for the Explorer vary from model to model. Platinum models with the 3.0-liter V-6, for instance, can tow 5,600 pounds (2,540 kg). The standard 2.3-liter engine can tow up to 5,300 pounds (2,404 kg) with the Class III Trailer Tow package.


The Ford and Kia look different but are sized similarly. The Telluride measures 196.9 inches in length, slightly shorter than the Explorer’s 198.8 inches. The Telluride is 78.3 inches wide compared to the Explorer’s 78.9 inches. The differences in the wheelbase are more noticeable: 114.2 inches for the Telluride and 119.1 inches for the Explorer.

Depending on the trim, ground clearance is 7.9 or 8.0 inches on the Telluride. The Explorer comes in at 7.9 inches, though Platinum models stand at 8.2 inches and ST models at 8.3 inches.

The Telluride wins when it comes to cargo space behind the third row: 21.0 cubic feet compared to the Explorer’s 18.2 cubic feet. If you drive with the third-row seat folded, however, the Explorer pulls ahead, with 47.9 cubic feet of space to the Telluride’s 46.0 cubic feet. Of course, we’ll have to compare the cargo bays for ourselves before we decide which one feels roomier.



Both the Explorer and Telluride offer a slew of safety features. They each get collision avoidance tech, pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Ford offers evasive steering assist, which provides steering support to help avoid a crash.

Pricing and Availability

The 2020 Ford Explorer goes on sale in June. Pricing has not yet been announced, but Ford says the base model will jump $400 USD from the old model. That means it should start around $33,860 USD. Meanwhile, Kia expects the Telluride to start rolling out in spring 2019 with limited availability. Pricing will be announced closer to the Telluride’s on-sale date.