By on February 18, 2019

Image: Kia Motors

Built with the sprawling American lifestyle in mind, Kia’s range-topping Telluride doesn’t deploy any fancy tricks to lower its fuel consumption. With EPA fuel economy figures for the 2020 Telluride now out, the three-row midsizer can rest assured that few consumers will take its thirst as a selling point or deal breaker.

The Telluride begins arriving at Kia dealers this spring, though widespread availability of the model range won’t occur until later this year. It carries a single powertrain: Hyundai Motor Group’s naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V6, mated to an eight-speed automatic. Power amounts to 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive is the standard setup, with all-wheel drive available for added security.

In front-drive guise, the EPA rates the Telluride at 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined, with AWD versions returning 19/24/21. Expect the Telluride’s Hyundai Palisade twin to boast similar numbers when it appears this summer.

In terms of FWD fuel consumption, the Telluride basically matches its Japanese competition, though the AWD Honda Pilot beats the AWD Telluride by 2 mpg highway and 1 mpg combined when equipped with a nine-speed automatic. The AWD Toyota Highlander sees an identical highway and combined advantage, though the difference isn’t likely to sway sales.

Given that the 2019 Ford Ranger nets a 22 mpg combined figure with its turbo 2.3-liter/10-speed auto combo, the upcoming 2020 Ford Explorer isn’t likely to blow the Telluride out of the water. As for the rest of the competition, Chevrolet’s big Traverse falls behind the Telluride by 2 mpg combined in front-drive form and 1 mpg in AWD guise. That’s when outfitted with the 3.6-liter V6, keep in mind. The AWD Telluride still beats the 2.0-liter, FWD Traverse by 1 mpg on the combined cycle.

There’s also the Volkswagen Atlas, which trails the Telluride in economy. While the 3.6-liter Atlas returns 19 mpg combined in both FWD and AWD guise, the rare 2.0-liter FWD model still falls behind its FWD Kia competitor by 1 mpg. Should automakers stop putting optional 2.0-liters in big, two-ton-plus crossovers?

Of course, hybrid options exist in this segment for eco-conscious consumers (just the Highlander right now, but the Explorer goes gas-electric for 2020), and in this field the Telluride does not apply. It’s ICE only for the time being.

[Image: Kia Motors]

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38 Comments on “The Kia Telluride’s Fuel Economy Is Pretty Much Exactly What You’d Expect...”

  • avatar

    Yeah. Good luck with that mileage. These EPA numbers are to allow comparisons only. They bear little or no relationship to the real world. I drive a 2016 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 (same engine as above). It also has an 8 speed, but I doubt the RWD and FWD trannys are the same. In city traffic (on winter gas) I get 12-14 mpg. On the freeway I can hit about 30mpg (but a sedan has much better aerodynamics than an SUV). The Palisade and Telluride look great, but carefully consider your monthly gas bill before you buy. Gas prices are low today (unless you live in California where our “special anti smog blend” adds about $1.25 to a gallon), but can we count on that for the next 84 months of your loan??

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I paid $3.17 in Ventura,CA this morning.

      My trusty 2015 Mazda6 with manual trans comfortably takes me 400 miles between fill-ups and I have never seen less than 31 mpg, usually 33 mpg in mixed driving. Great car…and I will likely NEVER purchase a vehicle that returns less than 30 mpg. I drive too much…it just doesn’t make sense. I can afford to spend more on fuel, but I don’t want to!

    • 0 avatar

      To make matters worse, this thing is going to be rather slow. “…naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V6, mated to an eight-speed automatic. Power amounts to 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque.” on a vehicle of that size will result in the driver pushing the engine harder to keep up with traffic. Mileage will be lower as a result.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I didn’t know the 3.8 was still around.

      My 09 Sedona has the port FI 3.8, good for ~250 HP, 5-spd auto, and weighs between 100-300 lbs more than the Telluride.

      My city mpg: 13-15 winter, 15-17 summer.
      Highway mpg: 20-24 depending on load, speed, and weather.

      Towing 1800 lbs with a full passenger load in 100 F heat I got about 12 mpg for 2 weeks one year, but I don’t count that.

      But since the Telluride has less weight and 3 more gears than my Sedona, I think it might actually achieve its EPA ratings.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s about on par w/ the Japanese competition which is where it needs to be.

      As for power, the Honda Pilot is powered by a 3.5L 280 hp V6 (262 lb-ft of torque) and the Toyota Highlander, a 3.5L 295 hp V6 (263 lb-ft of torque).

      Don’t see what the problem is when the competition is pretty similar.

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        The Honda Pilot will actually meet or exceed its mpg ratings in real-world driving conditions. Even here in Canada during winter they produce fairly accurate returns. The Honda motor has way more refined power. The competition in this class struggle to move vehicles of this amount of weight. The Highlander will do it but it does not like to be wrung out above 4000rpm

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Kia is expecting big things from this SUV, literally. My friend just bought a Stinger GT AWD ( interestingly, he would never have considered himself a Kia buyer, 65 y/o Bimmer, Lexus previously). For every Stinger they sell , the dealer alotment of Tellurides goes up by 10, so he got a great deal.

  • avatar

    “The Telluride begins arriving at Kia dealers this spring, though widespread availability of the model range won’t occur until later this year.”

    Are there people who wait impatiently in breathless anticipation for the arrival of yet another S/CUV? I guess the fact that we’re only discussing mileage answers my question ;)

  • avatar

    When shopping vehicles, I will typically read just about every review from any “reputable” source. I use that term loosely. But some of the bigger outlets have actual long term test results with observed fuel economy. I doubt too many of these sources are babying these vehicles and you can get a pretty good sense of expected real world fuel economy particularly if it is a close figure between the various publications. One tank observed fuel economy in most first drives does almost nothing to tell you what to expect so that is why I like these long term results.

    FWIW, the observed fuel economy of the newer V6 Traverse is actually pretty good on the testing I saw (low to mid 20’s in mixed driving). As I recall, the Atlas V6 had abysmal fuel economy.

    My family truckster is a 2017 Buick Enclave AWD (which is the last model year of the old design). It is my second Enclave lease, the first was a more basic with smaller tires and FWD. Was never really thrilled about the fuel economy of the first lease with FWD, but with AWD and huge 20 inch rims, the fuel economy is truly horrid on my current model, especially considering we do mostly city driving. Cannot wait to get into something more economical at the pump.

    Oh, and I think it goes without saying that you and anyone testing the car should totally disregard the no-good dirty liar of a trip computer and the pie in the sky fuel economy figures it puts out. That goes for just about any vehicle. I have only met one trip computer that was on the money every time. Do the actual math at the pump.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally I like to go look at Car and Drivers 75 mph freeway test to see how far the numbers are from the EPA estimates.

      Occasionally there’s a surprising result like when the V8 Grand Cherokee does better on the highway in the real world than the V6 Grand Cherokee.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “Personally I like to go look at Car and Drivers 75 mph freeway test to see how far the numbers are from the EPA estimates.”

        Not sure why anyone would do this when the EPA highway test protocol has an average speed of 48 mph. The C/D numbers would be useful if you think you’ll actually drive that way, but they won’t compare favorably to the EPA number at that speed.

        I’d imagine the biggest deviations would be for turbos, however.

        • 0 avatar

          You’d be surprised how many are either within spitting distance or slightly ahead of their EPA number.

          And yes I like it because it has more to do with how I actually drive.

          FYI the Durango and Grand Cherokee V8 BEAT their EPA highway numbers.

          I believe the V6 Lacrosse beats the EPA estimate in the C&D test too.

          I do also like the C&D test for comparing vehicles within a class if fuel economy is on your mind. Like comparing the Pilot to the Highlander to the Traverse for argument’s sake.

          • 0 avatar

            Last year we got rid of my wife’s thirsty and trouble prone Buick Enclave and bought her a grand Cherokee with the eco-diesel powerplant. We went from averaging about 16mpg to about 29mpg!
            With 420ft/lbs of torque this thing just motors along effortlessly. I drove from Guelph Ontario to Orlando Florida on 2 tanks of gas, over 1000km a tank. Why haven’t the other makers caught on that to make a seriously powerful SUV that gets great mileage, drop in a diesel instead!

    • 0 avatar


      He is correct. Trip computers are always high. Must do the math, Miles Driven / Gallons in the tank.

      Funny how gas gauges lie too (first 100 miles the needle barley moves. next 100 miles you are at 1/2 full). Car companies rig it to lie so dummie drives get happy vibes about the car.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        we never got over 16mpg in our 08 awd Enclave.Personally I look at Fuelly’s real world MPG. also allows people to post real results.
        I do wish Fuelly would post whether people are using 87 octane or prem., as with 1.8 T,2.0T motors which now are prevalent, there is a wide sway.In particular the GM LTG and VAG 1.8t can run both octanes.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m getting 19 to 21 on my commute in my 2010 Highlander with 130,000 miles on it. (V6 AWD) But my commute is likely 10% city/90% hwy and I generally keep it between 65 and 75 mph.

          I’m also rocking all-terrain tires because the ones I choose have solid snow performance.

        • 0 avatar

          I am pretty sure we are approaching 20 mpg on the highway, maybe 18 or 19. But around town you can literally watch the fuel gauge drop. 12-13 mpg maybe. Not good. Otherwise like the car though.

      • 0 avatar

        Pretty much everything in your instrument cluster except maybe the tach is a lie. The distance to empty is usually a lie with it overstated when closer to full and understated as it approaches E. Your speedo says you are going 2-3 mph faster than you actually are. The temp gauge usually has a fat dead band sometimes 20-30 degrees. Many oil pressure gauges are fake and will read the same at anything over 5~10 psi.

        • 0 avatar

          @Scoutdude Not sure about your neck of the woods but here in ‘Straya it’s actually legislation that speedometers display higher speed than actual speed by an allowable variance of up to 10%. Usually manufacturers settle on 96-97 actual kmh for an indicated 100kmh

        • 0 avatar


          So nice of you to assume that we all have trip computers or that we trust them.

          I do my calculations myself. Use the trip computer to calculate distance traveled per fill up and the pump to measure how much fuel was dispensed.

          At least the state weights and measures bureau checks the pumps yearly for accuracy.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I’m a BMW snob, but I would seriously consider the Telluride.

    I have three small children, so 3 rows is ideal, and we take the occasional trip to Tahoe in the winter, so AWD is a requirement for at least one of our vehicles.

    This looks a lot like the new X7, but it’s probably going to be 20 large cheaper when comparably equipped, and likely cheaper to maintain.

  • avatar

    Every time I see a picture of this, I think Cadillac has finally made a new CUV that doesn’t look uncomfortable in its skin. Oh well.

    • 0 avatar


      It s better looking than the Caddies. They stayed way too long with the Art and Science design theme. It is hurting them and they wont wake from their slumber.

    • 0 avatar

      “Cadillac has finally made a new CUV that doesn’t look uncomfortable in its skin.”

      And no yellow matter custard dripping from a dead brand’s eyes.

    • 0 avatar

      This exact vehicle could have debuted as a Cadillac and it would’ve been panned and made fun of, probably by you (well, at least it isnt an F-150!). Face it, they cant win. No wonder they’ve basically stopped trying (XT6).

  • avatar

    Meh, I’m just hoping this comes back to the U.S., and spawns a pickup truck companion.

    6 lugs = probably not a FWD-unibody (even though the GM Lambda were). The ride height also suggests they’re keeping the BOF architecture.

    I’d seriously consider a 2009 Borrego with 4wd, and I dont even need an SUV of that size (and I’d honestly prefer one that didnt have more than a passing resemblance to the face lifted Subaru Tribeca from the front, but oh well, at least the mechanicals are there).

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    Seems weak power ratings compared to the competition.

    Yes, it has similar mpg but a bit less power, especially torque. It does look good though.

  • avatar

    I was kind of anxiously awaiting the Telluride/Palisade but now I think I’ll anxiously await the new Explorer instead.

  • avatar

    This is a big styling misfire. The headlights are too far apart. It is just awkward looking from the front.

  • avatar

    Wow, creative hard hitting headline there.

  • avatar

    I’m a low milage retiree and lease a 2017 Sorento SX with FWD. using Mobil 1 and regular gas my V6 averages 21.5 MPG around town set in economy mode. on my road trip to DC last year @ 75MPH my gage cluster said consistantly 32MPG. dropping the speed to 70MPH the milage improved to 35MPG. not bad.

  • avatar


    And other off-road kit.

    Thank you.

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