By on April 8, 2020

Image: Kia Motors

Awards mean damn little around here, as most “official” accolades foisted upon various models carry as much weight as a gnat. The GM X-body once boasted a well-stocked trophy case.

And that’s the way it remains, for now and forever, though the recipient of the most recent big-ticket award deserves mention, if only because it reinforces a conclusion this writer landed on months ago.

If you haven’t heard already from family members and Facebook friends, the Kia Telluride was the big winner at the 2020 World Car Awards (announced Wednesday). Specifically, it is World Car of the Year — the first time any Korean vehicle has earned the title.

Don’t we all want to be World Car of the Year? I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t mind a little praise, dammit.

Clearly well regarded by a posse of journalists from around the globe, the Telluride is more than just a large-ish midsize crossover from a Korean manufacturer with a value-focused bent. Besides its obvious — but hardly groundbreaking — attributes (standard V6 engine, good level of content, spacious interior), the Telluride has something else. And it’s something few expected of Kia; certainly not in this segment, anyway.

Panache. Gravitas. Street cred. A certain machismo baked into its design that instantly sets it apart from other car-based CUVs, most of which look ready for the Whole Foods parking lot, not the parking spot in front of the nightclub. The Telluride, in this humble author’s opinion, is the crossover John Shaft would own, were his offspring more numerous than that one reedy dweeb in the most recent film.

Given its persona, one can easily imagine used examples of this vehicle being driven, far into the future, by that 18-21-year-old we all knew. You know, the one with the connections. Regardless of what aftermarket additions might crop up, no one will assume the Telluride is packing a base four-cylinder under that hood. There isn’t one. Nor is the model’s personality watered down by a hybrid or plug-in variant. One powertrain, no waiting. Now choose your options.

For all of these reasons, the Kia Telluride is the third-generation Nissan Maxima of its day (especially in secondhand form). Fêted upon their debut, they appealed to two different mindsets and lifestyles; much more so than other entries in their respective midsize segments. Both represented something of an outsider invading the mainstream, bringing with them unexpected upscale-leaning pretensions, plus a dose of status and respect.

As you read here, the Telluride boosted Kia’s bottom line in 2019 by romancing buyers left and right. Consumers liked what they saw, and Kia noticed. It’s no wonder the automaker is reportedly planning a loftier rung on the model’s trim ladder.

Am I way off base? Tear me to pieces in the comments.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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65 Comments on “It’s Official: The Kia Telluride Is the Early ’90s Maxima...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    As the former owner of a third gen Maxima, drive it and enjoy it…but be sure to dump it around 100k lest you end up broke trying to keep it running.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My 09 Sedona is nearing 140k with only 1 unscheduled repair in its time. YMMV. The body is perfect, but the undercarriage is suffering from the Pittsburgh road salt.

      Anyway, keeping a H/K running is a lost-cost endeavor.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I had a 2nd gen Maxima that I gave to my son with a 183K miles and he drove it another 50K miles and sold it to a friend. Art, I’m sorry you found the bad Maximas, but my experience was the opposite

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          The second and third gen are different entities

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I always thought the 3rd gen was just a re-bodied 2nd gen

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            You are correct, more or less. I was off a generation. Mine was a 4th gen. My mistake. Yes, I am a fan of the third gen…I just thought it was the second gen lol. But steer clear of the 4th gen.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Nonsense. 4th gens are tanks, simple and robust all around. The only thing that really gets them around here is rust the turns structural (lower core support).

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Nope @GTEM. I am familiar with these cars and was active in clubs with them at the time of ownership. 12 pounds of motor in a 10 pound bag with difficult to service and oft failing components. And yes, my core support rusted through…on a Florida car. That rust would have been expected on an 85 model, but a 98? no. Everyone else had figured this out so anything by that point with “rust in the usual places” on non rust belt cars was substandard already. They were not built to last. It is you with the nonsense.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    The closer you get to a Range Rover, the better you look.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m seeing a few of these around town on a regular basis and at least one Palisade.

    The only reason I find that unusual is that the nearest Kia and Hyundai dealers are at least 150 miles away.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Telluride is the first car I’d consider to replace my 09 Sedona, which I hope is a long time from now.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    It’s a pathetic mommymobile that has already been featured on the Hyundai and Kia Burnt Taillight Spotting Club.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      I think calling something a “mommymobile” is inherently misogynistic. It devalues moms, what they do, and what they drive as inferior.

    • 0 avatar
      CKNSLS Sierra SLT

      IBx1

      You must spend a lot of time on the roads to see all these “supposedly” burnt taillights. I have seen some pretty attractive women driving these things-maybe you should stare more up towards the front of the vehicle.

      These things are so pathetic they are selling almost as many as they can make.

      • 0 avatar
        IBx1

        CKNSLS, join the spotting club on Facebook and see for yourself; we get tons of brand new cars on paper tags that have burnt taillights because hunday can’t spare the fractions of a cent to make a proper wiring harness. It’s not just incandescent lights, it’s LEDs too, and you only have to spend all of 5 minutes on the road to invariably find one.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          So, kinda like the Camry “dent registry”?

          Don’t know anyone who has owned a H/K w/ a “burned-out” taillight, but there have been some who had to get their front bulbs replaced after some years, as well as the mini bulb illuminating the rear license plate.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Sorry, but the Karens around here all drive BMW and Audi crossovers. Thanks for playing.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The majority of the population are “mommies” or “daddies” during their lifetimes.

      Really no different from a G-wagon, Range Rover or a Cayenne which are mostly used to ferry kids around.

  • avatar
    dumblikeyouTu

    It’s the VW Atlas of Korea’s attempt at American-sized bigness with more style with both offering that sweet-spot square(ish shape and hints of almost the size of Suburban/Expedition baked in even though they’re really just high riding minivans.

    Both are doing quite well for each brand.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      You can add the Subaru Ascent to the mix. The Atlas and the Ascent are within a couple hundred vehicles in volume with the Kia running around 1k units ahead of each. Sadly, one of the big TTAC favorites, the Mazda CX-9 lags far, far behind.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Telluride really isn’t that big, only about 2″ longer than the new Highlander (the Palisade is only 1″ longer) and a bit shorter in length than the Atlas, CX-9 and esp. the Traverse.

      Need to upgrade to the Suburban (instead of the Tahoe) to get similar amounts of 3rd row/cargo room.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Burned out taillights aside.
    I will look at one when my current lease is up in DEC.
    I may concede.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    This Telluride is everything that new Cadillac X…something should have been at $25K less. I see these everywhere, so I guess people know a good value when they see it.

    Congrats Kia, job well done :)

  • avatar
    cprescott

    The title of the article is repugnant.

    But the Kia Telluride is a first rate product that makes its Japanese competition seem so 1990 in comparison – especially that lazy Honduh which built two almost exact copies of an SUV off of one platform – only making a shortening of the platform the virtual difference – something not done since AMC cut a foot out of its Hornet and called it Gremlin.

    Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis are on a roll – and they are going to eat the sushi out of Toyoduh and Honduh in the process in the next five years. These companies are now outdoing the Japanese out of their own game!

    Party on, Duhfanbois. You blivetheads.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      don’t you mean “Hyunduh” and “Keeuh”?

      The title of the article is WHAT? What are you smoking?

      And there’s not a chance on earth that the Telluride makes the Highlander seem “so 1990”.

      Honda is screwed, because they don’t know how to compete and they’ve switched to making junk. But Toyota will forever eat H/K’s lunch.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        The Highlander makes the Highlander look so 1990. Kia has nothing to do with it.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Despite being newer, the Highlander has been losing to the Telluride in comparison tests.

        The Telluride has been selling at a premium for its top spec, something that the Highlander has been unable to do.

        The Telluride has won virtually every automotive award in NA and now won WCoTY.

        Don’t think we’ll see the Highlander come anywhere close to that.

        And oh, there’s someone who works at Toyota’s HQ in Texas and despite being able to get any Toyota for 10% above cost, payed ABOVE sticker for a Telluride SX.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      While Honda should’ve shortened the Pilot’s platform for the Passport, it has gotten good reviews (worst thing is its aging interior), actually better than what the Pilot had gotten.

      A more egregious example of this is what Lexus did to the RX when adding a 3rd row (not much aside from adding some length behind the rear axle leading to even more overhang).

      The 3rd row in the RX-L aren’t good for anyone except for younger kids (and wouldn’t exactly want to put young kids or anyone back there considering the lack of body structure behind them in case of an accident).

  • avatar
    cprescott

    It should be noted that Genesis is already planning a larger than this SUV to go head to head with the Cadihack Escalator and Lincoln Lost and Found. And this could indicate that a top of the line model is coming to Kia and Hyundai as well to bring the development costs down.

    If there is a larger than Telluride in the future, than professional grade Chevrolet will be served notice – putting a tacky grill on a Chevrolet and calling it a GMC will cost you dearly in sales. Pretending you are better than you are will lose you sales when something better will kneecap your price point and shift profits to Korea!

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      No plans for anything larger than the Telluride.

      It may get a higher trim level tho.

      And the Telluride doesn’t directly compete w/ the GM BoF SUVs.

      Now, both Kia and Hyundai are working on proper pick-ups and presumably BoF SUVs on the same platform, but it remains to be seen if any of them would be headed to the US.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    As for me, Steph Willems is certainly a contender for World Card of the Year.

  • avatar

    The Koreans surpassed Detroit about five years ago. It did not take long.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Two domestics, a Japanese car and a Hyundai. The Hyundai is the worst built of the bunch. Hopefully I can get it in for the knock sensor recall soon so I’ll get some warning before the bottom end munches itself on the metal they left in the crankcase.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      The Koreans haven’t surpassed anyone. They’re merely competitive and it did take a long time. Many decades.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Both Hyundai and Kia have a significantly higher Road Test score from Consumer Reports than Toyota (even higher than Lexus).

        The 2019 Car&Driver Editors’ Choice list was filled w/ Hyundai, Kia and Genesis models.

        Toyota had just the Camry and RAV-4.

        But wouldn’t say they have surpassed the Japanese as Honda (aside from falling when it comes to reliability) and Mazda are on their game.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I bought a new Kia because it was relatively fast and very RWD and looked cool (IMO) and the price started with a “3”.

          I think most people buy Toyotas with anticipated long-term reliability as by far their #1 buying issue.

          H/K/G products certainly do offer some charm but they don’t have 30+ years of top-3 reliability scores to their name. They’ve also had some disappointing recalls over the past few years.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            At the same time, let’s not think Toyota is infallible.

            They’ve recalled millions of vehicles worldwide for a faulty fuel pump and there have been lawsuits over melting/cracking dashboards.

            4Runner owners have just filed a lawsuit claiming that they should have been included in the class action over rust, and the 2018 C-HR was one of the lowest rated smaller models by CR.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    I find the premise here a little vague, so I don’t really know if I would agree with it or not.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Nope. The 3rd-gen Maxima looks fantastic today, especially in SE form. This look is going to age quickly, just like all previous Kia products that have aimed for machismo. It says “knockoff” louder than it says “Rangie.”

    Unfortunately, among mass-market brands, right now the CUVs with timeless styling (JGC, Explorer) are not the same as the ones that are compelling products.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Who’s it knocking off? It’s a pretty distinct but demur design. It’s not like an Explorer aping….a whole bunch of folks.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Change the alternator on a third gen maxima and get back to me. I have gotten engines out in less time. The third gen was decontented compared to the second gen. It was built to use and throw away.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        My mistake…the 4th gen is the crapbox I am thinking of.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Decontented no doubt, but the VQ30 is as long lived as anything out there. Jatco automatics are not quite Aisins but not bad at all. My brother just did a tune-up on a 260k mile ’97 for a customer, Florida car with limited exposure to road salt. All original drivetrain, no notable issues.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            My motor had been out long before then for a bad timing chain tensioner. It too was a Florida car, yet somehow rusty. It was a manual thank God. It was supposed to be God’s gift to driving…a Japanese 3 series…It held up like one and was as easy to work on as a modern 3. But drive like one? no. The third gen was better all around.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I really like Kia, but after seeing this at the auto show I still don’t know what all the fuss is about.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    The tellurides big splash reminds me of the 2011 optima. Kia hasnt really been able to keep the momentum goin in that market. Will the telluride succeed where rhe optima failed?

  • avatar
    Polka King

    Does it have no video screen on the dashboard? Not having a screen would be half enough to make it a great car right there.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’m with the minority here, but even setting aside my disdain for faux minivans that are being called CUV’s to associate with SUVs; I have yet to find what everyone is getting all excited about. The design looks ‘good’ in images but in the real world it’s rather oddly proportioned, cheap looking, and frankly unimpressive.

    It’s in no way similar looking to the mommy mobile Range Rovers that get every blonde trophy wife wet, and likely wouldn’t attract any due to the badge – this keeps being brought up but it seems ridiculous.

    It’s round two of the 1st gen Santa Fe, some weirdos bought them, but they aged horribly, I expect no less for this. Go buy a highlander if you want a nice midsize crossover, go buy a Grand Cherokee if you want an affordable status symbol.

    I also don’t believe this myth that the Koreans are reliable, the few people I know with HK crossovers have had long term issues, 2 people have had their engines replaced under warranty, one had to wait over a month for the engine to even arrive. Reports that rattles and finish issues aren’t being covered under warranty are icing on that cake.

    Are they better than they used to be? No question. Should you avoid them? I don’t think so, just do your research.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “It’s Official: The Kia Telluride Is the Early ’90s Maxima”

    It will be that target of insurance fraud in a Menace II Society remake?

    Early Maxima primer:
    1st gen was the RWD 910 Bluebird body with longer hood for the I6
    2nd gen was the super-boxy FWD U11 Bluebird with a transverse V6
    3rd gen was the 4DSC J30 body (the Infiniti J30 was a Y32 body)
    4th was the mid-90s torsion-beam rear
    5th was primarily a refreshed 4th-gen

  • avatar
    GXE94

    As the owner of a ’94 Maxima, the OP of this article is delusional.

  • avatar
    millerluke

    I wish Kia would put in a V8. When has any vehicle been made worse when eight glorious cylinders were stuck into the engine bay? Maybe add a supercharger and call it the Hell-Kitty

  • avatar
    GXE94

    As the owner of a ’94 Maxima, the OP of this article has a screw loose. The ’89-’94 Max has nothing in common with this appliance on wheels. The J30 Maxima is actually fun to drive, has a greenhouse you can see out of, and is easy and cheap to repair.

  • avatar
    orange260z

    I had a Gen3 1992 Maxima SE (with the “gee-whiz” VE30DE motor) from 1992 until I switched to a Pathfinder in 1998. It’s amazing looking back to see how much tech went into that V6 motor to produce the then-impressive 190hp from 3 litres – DOHC, 24 valves, VVT, variable-length intake manifolds, coil-on-plug ignition. It was a great car, but as it crossed the 100K kms mark the maintenance became very expensive (spark plugs at over $60 each stands out on my memory). Good memories though.

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