2020 Kia Telluride: One Word, Folks - 'America'

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2020 kia telluride one word folks america

Is it possible to be more American that a Kia Telluride? Probably not. Clint Eastwood drove one in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. John Rambo rolled into a small, Northwestern town behind the wheel of one shortly after his repatriation. John Wayne owned two, and the Telluride was the first vehicle to storm Omaha Beach. From its exhaust pipes come clouds of red, white, and blue.

Folks, this vehicle is more American than a bald eagle eating apple pie on July 4th. It is the three-row SUV that rowed across the Potomac to get to a dealership near you, and don’t you forget it.

Of course, Tellurides are not yet appearing in showrooms, but that will change before the end of the year. When it arrives, Kia customers will already know the Telluride was Made For America™.

Designed in America (at the Kia Design Center in Irvine, CA.) and slated for production in America (at Kia’s West Point, Georgia assembly plant), the Telluride unveiled ( for the second time) today at the North American Auto Show had one group of buyers in its crosshairs since day one: You, your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. You wanted a boxy, imposing SUV that oozes brawn and machismo and the can-do spirit that built this great land. You wanted a rugged steed to transport your significant other and up to six of your kids over varying terrain, in all weather. You think the Sorento is too small.

How could Kia not listen?

With the Telluride, Kia plugs a man-sized hole in its product lineup, and does so as sister division Hyundai does the same with its three-row Palisade. A large, three-row crossover or SUV is no longer a nice-to-have for volume automakers seeking continued profitability in a world that shuns cars. And so the Telluride goes to work.

Boasting a body that, in Kia’s own words, is “big, bold, and boxy,” the Telluride sources its power from a direct-injection 3.8-liter V6, good for 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It takes a big standard engine to move all that patriotism, after all. Handling the shifting duties is an eight-speed automatic.

It’s not a spartan conveyance, either, despite Kia’s emphasis on the word “rugged.” Kia aimed to convey the vehicle’s semi-premium interior feel through its exterior sheetmetal, though the level of content found within depends on where your vehicle lies on the trim ladder. LX, EX, S, and SX are your choices, with each donning different hats.

First off, all-wheel drive is not an absolute necessity for Telluride buyers. Spring for it, or not. Either way, you’ll look like you’re ready to tackle the trail, as a rear skid plate with integrated exhaust tips comes standard on all but the base model. EX and SX buyers have the option of adding self-levelling rear suspension to their features list. Towing capacity stands at “up to” 5,000 pounds.

As for those who spring for AWD, Kia wants its system to mimic a rough-and-tumble 4WD system, sans transfer case. In addition to Smart, Eco, Sport and Comfort modes, two extra drive settings join the fray to handle messier road conditions: Snow and Lock. Like Comfort, Snow ensures an 80-20 front/rear traction split, while Lock sees the electro-hydraulic system dole out equal measures of power to all four corners. Moving the selector to Sport delivers a 65-35 split, helping Telluride drivers give the kids a thrill.

If you’ve just rescued a hostage from a remote mountaintop locale, rest assured that Downhill Brake Control is on board to ensure a controlled escape.

While Kia hasn’t specified what features to expect for each trim, the list of standard and available safety features runs the gamut and includes some gear not found anywhere else in the brand. In the “standard” category is: anti-lock braking and electronic stability control (of course), downhill brake control, hill-start assist, forward collision warning, driver attention warning, Smart Cruise with stop-and-go, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and lane departure assist, safe exist assist, rear occupant alert, and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist.

Available features include a surround-view monitor, blind spot view monitor, high beam assist, parking distance warning, Highway Driving Assist (Kia’s attempt at easing long-distance drives with a smidge of autonomy), as well as Talk Mode and Quiet Mode, which aims to connect and separate the front seat and rear rows, respectively. A telematics system allows all Telluride owners to start and lock/unlock their vehicle from the comfort of their home, while EX and SX owners can pre-heat the cabin to a desired temp in the same manner.

Up front, available niceties include a 10.25-inch touchscreen, 10-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, a head-up display, and wireless charging. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity comes standard, as does five USB plug-ins (you can add a sixth for extra dough, as well as the ability to sync two Bluetooth-enabled devices.

In the comfort category, double-stitched and quilted Napa leather exists as an option to satisfy the demands of tony derrières. Brushed metal or wood trim abounds, depending on trim level and customer preference. As for third-row passengers, they’ll be allowed to recline, making the trip to Yellowstone a whole lot easier for the driver (Kia doesn’t offer a sliding glass partition between front and rear seats).

What’s the damage to your wallet for all of this Korean red-blooded American acreage? Kia’s not saying, preferring to leave the trim details and pricing a mystery until closer to the SUV’s on-sale date.

[Images: Kia Motors, Tim Healey/TTAC]

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  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Jan 15, 2019

    I was talking to a Ford designer at the Detroit show about the Telluride being a surprisingly derivative design considering Kia's Peter Schreyer has been pretty good at getting uniquely styled cars out of their studio. The Telluride has a GM inspired grille and Expedition inspired turn signals. David Woodhouse, Ford's head of styling, was getting photographed in a Lincoln Navigator and I asked him, "Is it hard to make an SUV elegant?" He smiled and nodded. "But then the Bentley sets a very low bar," I said. "And Rolls-Royce as well," he replied.

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Jan 15, 2019

      The new Explorer is about as derivative a design there is (more so than the Telluride).

  • Keith Tomas Keith Tomas on Jan 18, 2019

    I hate crossovers.

  • Tassos The EQS is the best looking BEV, better than even the only Tesla I would ever consider (the S) and more luxurious inside etc etcThe self driving features will come in handy when I'm 110 and my eyesight and reaction times start to suffer.But that's four decades away, and only Tim recommends 40 year old "used cars"
  • Tassos "Baby, Baby light my fire!""Oh God please give me a Kia Forte" --Janis Joplin
  • Tassos The fugly looks of any Subaru, and especially the non-sporty non-elegant, fugly, low-rent looks and interior of the WRX are alone a sufficient turnoff to never want to own one.One can be a 100% car enthusiast but ALSO demand a beautiful AND luxurious vehicle one can be truly proud of and which makes one very happy every time one drives it.The above is obviously totally foreign to Subaru Designers and managers.
  • Thehyundaigarage Am I the only one that sees a Peugeot 508?
  • Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.