My review of the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride last year was mostly positive.
There’s a reason for this – I thought it was pretty damn good. Especially given its price point, and that it was Kia coming up with a very good three-row crossover, seemingly out of nowhere.
Yep, Kia, a brand that hadn’t been a player in this segment since its last attempt, a body-on-frame SUV called Borrego, ran into the economic headwinds of the Great Recession. Kia had help from corporate partner Hyundai – that brand’s Palisade is the more urbane sibling to Telluride – but still, Kia’s reentry to the segment seemed remarkable.
After living with the Telluride for a week as opposed to a day, that remains true.
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.
Korean automakers have a history of labelling their crossovers and SUVs with names ripped from rugged-sounding towns of the American mid- and southwest. Witness the Santa Fe and Tucson. The newest entrant? Telluride. Even the little-known Borrego Pass got a nod during the five minutes in which Kia built a body-on-frame brute.
Until now, the most we’ve seen of the new Kia Telluride was that oddball New York fashion week thing, replete with a not-from-factory rear spare tire carrier and leather hood straps. Now that the build and price site’s gone live, we can see the model without all that froufrou. You know we’re most interested in the base LX model…
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.
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.
Fashion is not a subject this author is particularly familiar with. While I know that a button-up and suit jacket serves me better than an oversized Space Jam t-shirt, the reasons why remain a complete mystery. I just know that people are less likely to ask me to leave their establishment when I’m wearing a tie.
Be that as it may, I am savvy enough to know that Fashion Week is a strange locale in which to introduce a new vehicle. However, fashion designer Brandon Maxwell convinced Kia to donate to his childhood school district in Marfa, Texas, in exchange for the opportunity to showcase the automaker’s giant, unibody SUV. Created by Kia’s American design studio in Irvine, California, the customized Telluride that appeared on the runway drew influence from Texas (where everything is bigger). Fittingly, that was also Maxwell’s inspiration for the Spring/Summer 2019 collection — which I’m told is “fabulous.”
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