By on March 22, 2019

2020 Kia Telluride

Life is often a matter of timing. Ask Kia about the difference between the 2020 Kia Telluride crossover and its last attempt at something similar – the Kia Borrego.

Remember the Borrego?

I do. That body-on-frame SUV wasn’t a poor vehicle – I drove one, briefly, and liked it – but it came to market right as the Great Recession and a rapid rise in gas prices were conspiring to work against expensive, gas-guzzling SUVs. Sure, plenty of nameplates survived the carnage, but a newcomer like the Borrego, produced by a brand once known for cheap compact cars, had no chance against those market headwinds.

Enter the Telluride, which is so different from the Borrego that about the only things they have in common are class, amount of seating rows, engine displacement, and door count. Unlike the body-on-frame Borrego, the unibody Telluride is entering a market where the winds are a bit more favorable – crossovers are still hot and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.

So Kia won’t have to worry about fighting an uphill battle, at least in terms of market forces. It’s going to be all about the product this time. And the product is quite good.

(Full disclosure: Kia flew me to Gateway, Colorado so that I could drive the Telluride. The company fed me and put me up in a room in a nice resort that had a pretty neat car museum on property.)

Good when judged against three-row crossover expectations, that is. In this class, shoppers want space, content, comfort, and utility. Other than perhaps passing power and ride, performance-related issues take a back seat in buyers’ minds.

2020 Kia Telluride

If such things as ride and handling do matter to you when you’re looking for a family hauler, well, here’s the skinny on the Telluride. The 3.8-liter Lambda II GDI is a more-modern version of the 3.8-liter Lambda II found under the Borrego’s hood, and this direct-injection, Atkinson-cycle engine puts out 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque.

This powerplant motivates the upcoming Hyundai Palisade (which shares its chassis with the Telluride), as well, and it mates with an eight-speed automatic transmission in both applications. Wheels are either 18 or 20 inches, depending on trim, and the Telluride has a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. Front- or all-wheel drive is available.

Acceleration ends up being adequate. The SX trim I drove had all-wheel drive and a curb weight north of 4,300 lbs, so there’s a bit of bulk to be moved around. There was enough passing punch on hand to allow me to get around a slow-moving truck at altitude while driving uphill en route to the actual town of Telluride without drama, but if you’re expecting to be pushed back into your seat, don’t hold your breath.

2020 Kia Telluride

The eight-speed is mostly not felt, but it didn’t much care to downshift for engine braking needs, and some downshifts for passing were a bit wonky. Oh, and if you’re wondering why the sublime twin-turbo V6 from the Stinger isn’t available here, that engine was designed for a front-rear layout and wouldn’t fit well in the Telluride.

Steering feel is artificial yet firm and accurate, and as you might expect, there’s plenty of body roll in corners; understeer/plow occurs if you come in a little too hot. Ride is smooth (although marred a bit by some float/wallow) on the pleasant two-lanes of Colorado, though we had no chance to test on the freeway. Switching from “smart” drive mode to “sport” firms the proceedings up a bit, but only a bit. Other drive modes include comfort and eco. There’s also “snow” modes and an “AWD lock” mode available on AWD models.

Speaking of AWD models, smart and eco modes deliver 100 percent of the power to the front wheels, while comfort splits it 80/20. Sport has a 65/35 split, and lock distributes power equally to all four wheels.

2020 Kia Telluride

Kia did have us try our hand at a fairly easy off-road trail, and while we did hear tell of one popped tire on someone else’s rig, our Telluride had no real trouble. Getting to the trailhead should be easy.

The front suspension is an independent MacPherson strut setup with coil springs and stabilizer bar; the rear is an independent multilink setup with stabilizer bar.

Not that the Telluride’s responses when driven hard really matter all that much, save perhaps the ride and passing aspects, as noted above.

That in mind, the seats are all-day comfy. Third-row access isn’t impossible for adults – I got back there via the pass-thru between the second-row seats without too much trouble, and I’m a long-legged six-foot-one. Once back there, I had enough legroom that I could’ve tolerated a ride of up to maybe 30 minutes without complaining.

2020 Kia Telluride

Getting out via sliding the second-row seat on the driver’s side was a tad trickier, but I made it out, if not gracefully.

Legroom and headroom upfront are plentiful, even for taller adults.

Interior storage is class-competitive, with a nice bin in front of the cupholders that holds the available wireless cell-phone charger. iPhone users take note – mine had a hard time charging. I have a case, like many iPhone users, and that could’ve been the issue.

The fake (Kia admitted it) wood and metal trim on the dash of our SX trim tester looked and felt good, but there was more hard plastic than I’d like, especially on the door armrests. Once again, an infotainment screen stands tackily above the upper dash, but the look is less obnoxious here than in other applications. The line of HVAC controls is sleek and attractive, and the necessary knobs are easy to reach and use.

2020 Kia Telluride

Interior noise levels are kept to a minimum, with only some tire and road noise bleeding through, although the engine does get a bit buzzy and thrashy over 3,000 RPM. Given the comfortable seats and quiet cabin, the Telluride makes for a good long-distance tripper.

Cargo space is listed at 87 cubic feet down with both rear rows down, 46 with the third row folded, and 21 with all seats up. That’s more than the Honda Pilot with rear seats all down or all up, and equal with third-row down. It bests the Toyota Highlander across the board.

Kia went all-in on the boxy styling and, while it’s sort of plain, it’s a handsome enough look. It won’t turn many heads, but there’s something to be said for simplicity. Interior tidbits I didn’t cover before include a dual grab-handle setup on the center console that looks cool (and houses the seat-heater/cooler switches).

2020 Kia Telluride

Kia hasn’t skimped on content, offering available features such as (*takes a breath*) a 10.25-inch touchscreen, premium audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless cell-phone charging, USB ports in each row (five ports standard, with a sixth available), available two-device Bluetooth connectivity, reclining third-row seats, leather seats, heated front-row seats, heated second-row seats, cooled front-row seats, cooled-second row seats, heated steering wheel, second-row climate control, remote start, keyless entry and starting, head-up display, Kia’s UVO infotainment system, head-up display, and remote start.

2020 Kia Telluride

Available tech-type stuff includes: Forward-collision warning, forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, high-beam assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist (rear), blind-spot monitoring, driver-attention warning, smart cruise control, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, park distance warning (front and rear), 360-degree camera, highway-driving assist, safe-exit assist, microphone for communicating with second/third row, quiet mode (cuts audio in second and third rows), and rear occupant alert.

Four trims are available: LX, S, EX, and SX. The LX and EX are eight-passenger, the S is seven- or eight-passenger, and the SX is seven-passenger.

Pricing is as follows: $31,690 for an LX with front-wheel drive, $33,990 for a FWD S, $37,090 for a Telluride EX with FWD, and $41,490 for an SX with front-wheel drive. Add $2,000 to any of those for AWD, and destination is $1,045.

2020 Kia Telluride

A $2,000 Prestige Package (head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, leather seats, heated and cooled second-row seats, premium cloth headliner, and 110-volt inverter) is available on the SX AWD. Our tester had that package, plus carpeted floor mats and carpeted cargo mat, for a total of $45,815. With D and D, it was $46,860.

That pricing is a bit more than that of the Highlander Limited and less than a Limited Platinum, and the same story repeats when comparing the Telluride to a Honda Pilot Touring or Pilot Elite.

Fuel economy measurements are 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined for front-wheel drive models, and 19/24/21 for AWD models.

Unless market tastes change overnight, the Telluride’s story is going to play out much differently than that of the Borrego. Sure, this is no driver’s crossover, but if you’re hauling seven or eight passengers often, or lots of gear, and you have long distances to cover, the Telluride fits the bill just fine. Quiet, comfortable, and nicely optioned, this large crossover is a darn good road-tripper.

Kia is offering up an impressive, if slightly boring, three-row large crossover to satiate consumer demand. Will it sell in tony Telluride, home of Land Rovers and Subarus? I don’t know. But it will be coming to a suburban driveway near you.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC, Kia Motors]

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54 Comments on “2020 Kia Telluride First Drive – Your Road Trip Awaits...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    while comfort splits it 80/20. Sport has a 65/35 split…

    Is that FWD/RWD split or RWD/FWD split? I would be knocked off my chair if it is a RWD/FWD split but here’s hoping.

    BTW didn’t the Borrego offer a V8 as well?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Does anyone else perceive a strong resemblance between the back of the Telluride and the current generation of Volvo CUV/SUV’s?

    Well since you mentioned the Borrego and the importance of timing, here in the GTA over the past 3 weeks the price for regular gas has risen from just under $1.00 per litre to today’s price of just over $1.20 per litre.

    Will that have an impact on sales of less fuel efficient vehicles?

    In 1979 Joe Clark lost an election largely because his Finance Minister John Crosbie introduced a budget in which they proposed raising the price of gas by 4 cents per litre. Now it swings far more than that in one day.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I predict this will do quite well, Kia appears to have done all their homework on 3 row family crossovers and has come up with a very competitive package. To me it looks like something straight out of GMC with the word “Denali” printed in chrome letters on it’s nose. Price looks good for what you get. Good job, Kia

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      You can even get 21 cubic ft of stuff behind the 3rd row! In the unibody class that’s an accomplishment. Some of these 3 row crossovers can barely boast 14 cubic ft.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think Kia, Hyundai, Ford, and FCA have done a good job making their minivan-class CUVs look like BOF SUVs. GM and Nissan offerings just look like minivans anyway. Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, and VW fall somewhere in between.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Whoever is responsible for interior design at Kia needs a pay raise. They are absolutely killing it in their segment and other than the Merc/Audi/Volvo interiors, this is next best for design ideas.

    It’s a lux car designed interior for the same price that VW wants for the nice but dull Atlas.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I guess I’ll sit back and wait for the obligatory I can’t believe they’re charging this much and they’re pressing themselves out of the market statements.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      You won’t get that from me. A big SUV isn’t my choice in vehicles, but this thing looks damned nice, and a good deal for the money.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      I’ll bite. While $47k seems plenty reasonable for what this offers, Kia’s going to have pricing issues for at least as long as they continue to rely on a network of glorified used car dealers to sell them.

      “WE WANNA SEE YA IN A KIA!!!”

      It’s a shame, too, because in many ways Kia (and Hyundai) have been killing it while the top-tier Japanese brand have had to be browbeaten into offering competitive levels of interior quality and luxury/tech options.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        This is so true, when will car manufacturers ever realize that if you’re going to compete in the premium market you are going to have to treat your customers better then the “buy here pay here” used car guys. It really isn’t always about the bottom line for me anymore. I am actually willing to pay more for a car to be treated like the knowledgeable car guy I am. Talk down to me or put the “squeeze” on me and you won’t get my business

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          The guys/girls selling fractional jet ownership, try to put the squeeze on you…

          And then talk down to you, for not “understanding” that their headline prices aren’t inclusive of a million “obvious” nickles and dimes……

  • avatar
    redapple

    Good looking CUV. And I m the K H hater.
    Tall windows.
    A trend I d like to see more of.

  • avatar
    mikestuff

    I think the side-on view looks very much like a VW Atlas. Or is it the VW Tiguan(v2). Or is it the …….hard to tell ’em all apart.

  • avatar
    bts

    Looks like this one comes up short of others like the Chevy Traverse especially in fuel economy and space.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I wish I had an excuse to get the Telluride, but my 09 Sedona is still solid. That, and my need for a Large Family Vehicle is soon passing.

    Interestingly, the Sedona is dimensionally very similar to the Telluride, except the Sedona can haul a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood home inside the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Kia PR said a 4×8 would “likely” fit with the rear seating rows down.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        If it passes the 4×8 test things just got very interesting…

        Especially with the optional load leveling suspension.

        (Forgive me, you know my little heart wishes I could go down to the local dealer and make a deal on a brand new B-body wagon.)

      • 0 avatar
        jatz

        “Kia PR said a 4×8 would “likely” fit with the rear seating rows down.”

        I wonder if Kia PR tracked down a building maintenance gnome for an answer or if they just went with a consensus from the nearest cubicles.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Well whomever gets the first one for a more “long term review” (auto companies seem to loan vehicles out for about a week at a time) needs at a minimum a tape measure and at the most, a Home Depot run.

          This is a question that needs a definitive answer.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I couldn’t find anything definitive, but there’s 55″ between the two rear doors and that tailgate looks almost as wide as the vehicle, so, in theory a 4×8 sheet could work

            Judge for yourself

            https://media.ed.edmunds-media.com/kia/telluride/2020/fd/2020_kia_telluride_crg_fd_320191_1600.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            jatz

            Looks like a 4’x8′ would ride on the wheel humps, cracking any sheetrock.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            If braced properly it shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, utilizing the roof rack would work as well, but I’m not sure what kind of crossbars come with this

          • 0 avatar
            jatz

            That’s a lovely cargo area regardless and I’ve solemnly sworn to leave the 4×8 stuff to pros.

            It’s so sweet to be able to pay others for the grunt, sweat and beers.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        With the tailgate up, maybe. Unless this thing is the size of a contemporary, no longer all that mini, van.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “…except the Sedona can haul a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood home inside the car.”

      I wonder how man buyers of either vehicle would consider this a go/no go item?

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Looks like the chicken from Moana with the eyes on the side its metaphorical head.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I like the exterior color of the press car, reminds of the short lived Guard green of the mustang 2015 vintage. Sorta gray, sorta green. Not black or grey.

  • avatar
    formula m

    Driving a rental Elantra this week while traveling and it’s not a very nice vehicle. Hyundai/KIA still haven’t put together two generations, back to back of a quality vehicle EVER. They should not get a pass for the collection of hits and misses to be praised for their very expensive large vehicles suddenly. I guess when the bar is a Hyundai Pony and Kia Borrego I shouldn’t be too surprised when these new models are celebrated

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I agree. Elantra is so-so car. But, people who buys them also so-so average Joes

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      What do expect from a rental spec?

      Plus, the Elantra to get is the Sport w/ the IRS.

      And despite its age (will be replaced soon), C/D ranks the Elantra ahead of the Corolla (including the new Corolla hatch).

      Really don’t understand what you mean by 2 successive generations when the current Elantra rides and drives better than the one before it.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Me thinks there will be more hits than misses in the future for KDM, especially in the high profit segments. For the Elantra segment , does it really matter?As long as it has the 100k warranty and car play peeps are happy

  • avatar
    tonycd

    If this is priced basically on top of the Highlander, why would you pass on the proven reliability and durability of Toyota and choose this instead? I mean, if it were your money?

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      If you’re leasing, this looks nicer and more modern, inside and out, and the warranty will have you covered for as long as you have to worry about it. If you’re planning on owning it for more than 5 years, then yes, Toyota would be the answer.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Can think of numerous reasons –

      1. better sheetmetal
      2. nicer interior
      3. roomier interior/esp. the 3rd row
      4. actually have some room for cargo behind the 3rd row
      5. more tech and amenities offered
      6. better ride and handling combo
      7. better AWD system

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Road trip! In an enormous numb overpriced Kia. Just like the ones Americans used to take in ’65 Mustangs. This big vehicle is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a road trip LOL!

    Like the Kia Bonghit before it, I think it will fail. There’s too many luxo entries in this class with more brand snaz and Kia name will be a hindrance. They probably would have been better off branding it as a Genesis.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      “Just like the ones Americans used to take in ’65 Mustangs.”

      I remember those days well… six of us in Dad’s new ‘Stang with coolers, a tent and Petey, our beagle.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “This big vehicle is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a road trip LOL!”

      Same here. Thing is, it wouldn’t surprise me if a survey of a thousand people (either single or married with no kids) overwhelmingly picked this as a better road trip vehicle over a Mustang. I get it when you need to take kids along but if its just you or two give me something fun all day long.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        I don’t think anyone’s going to pick this Kia Tallyrod over a ’65 Mustang for a road trip, unless they’re completely brain-dead. You might as well fly at that point right? Same driving sensation, only much faster and probably cheaper given how this thing guzzles gas and how inexpensive airfare has gotten lately.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Why would you compare luxo entries – when they are smaller and less well equipped for the price?

      It’s like saying why get an Avalon when for the same price can get a stripper BMW 320?

      Are the Pilot, Ascent, Atlas, etc. luxo entries?

      That’s what the Telluride competes against and it has all of them beat on both price and “luxury.”

  • avatar
    jatz

    I’m confident I’ll be able to find on Amazon a custom fit cover of darkest, dullest matte fabric to obliterate the glare and distraction from the gottdamn dash tablet in my next car.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I think someone forgot to take the yellow protective tape off the headlight surrounds.

    With a screen that wide they could have extended the gauge surround to cover the infotainment screen as well. It would have looked better and you wouldn’t feel any more closed in than the way it is now.


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