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2020 Kia Telluride SX Review

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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.

Kia sent me a top-trim SX with all-wheel drive. Telluride offers just one engine: A 3.8-liter V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is listed at 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 mpg combined.

In addition to the all-wheel-drive system, the SX I tested had 20-inch blacked-out wheels replacing the 18-inch wheels found as standard kit on the lower-trim EX, LED headlights and fog lamps, rear sunroof, second-row captain’s chairs, 12-way power driver’s seat, memory for the driver’s seat and side-view mirrors, premium audio, park-distance warning, blind-spot monitoring, surround-view camera, and HomeLink.

An optional $2,000 Prestige Package added a head-up display, 110-volt inverter, Nappa leather, premium cloth for the headliner and visors, heated and cooled second-row seats, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Carpeted floor mats added $210, while a carpeted cargo mat added $115.

With the $1,045 destination price, a vehicle that based at $43,490 reached $46,860.

For that mid-$40K price tag, you get a pretty capable family hauler.

The boxy, masculine shape is handsome, and the interior also charms, although I think the Palisade’s cabin is arguably even prettier. Still, the Kia’s controls are laid out logically, with two rows of buttons on the center stack that are easy to use. Even the faux wood trim looks good. Only the tacked-on info display looks out of place – it feels like an afterthought.

The V6 is strong enough for both grocery-getting and highway cruising, although there’s too much weight on tap for those who expect truly blazing acceleration. The eight-speed automatic that provided some wonky shifts during the press-launch drive seemed better behaved during my loan.

Firm yet artificial steering feel awaits drivers, and the Telluride’s mass and mission unsurprisingly mean it’s no corner-carver. But it acquits itself well enough – there’s little of the body-roll blues or yacht-like float that tends to afflict full-size three-row crossovers.

That’s one of the Telluride’s strengths, one that it shares with the Palisade. While no one in their right mind expects a three-row crossover to be even in the vicinity of “fun-to-drive”, the Telluride is at least dynamically sound enough to suggest that some other automakers weren’t even trying with their land barges. Yes, the recently redesigned three-row Ford Explorer also acquits itself well on-road, and the also redesigned Toyota Highlander is no slouch. But Kia could’ve just slapped together a soft-roader with family-friendly features, and it didn’t. It gave us a full-size crossover that actually doesn’t totally suck to drive.

More importantly, Kia priced it right. Other standard features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, lane-keep assist, highway-driving assist, park-distance warning for reverse, blind-spot collision assist, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision avoidance assist, adaptive cruise control, rear occupant alert, safe-exit assist, UVO infotainment, navigation, 10-inch touchscreen, tri-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, satellite radio, front sunroof, and wireless cell-phone charger (these appear to be features standard on EX trims, with the options listed earlier in this review added to or replacing the features on SX trims).

Again, those features and the ones listed above added up to just under $47K. A similarly-equipped Highlander Platinum starts for a grand more, and both the Explorer Limited and Platinum are gonna hit your wallet harder (and the Limited doesn’t offer a gas V6).

I’ve driven the Highlander (review forthcoming) and the Explorer, and while both are fine vehicles, I’m hard pressed to figure out why I should pay more for either of them. Kia’s biggest competition comes from the Palisade, of all places, since it’s priced similarly. At least, for Toyota’s sake, the Highlander is somewhat close in pricing, and we’re not even factoring the ever-fluctuating incentives here.

You’ve probably been seeing Tellurides all over your town over the past year. Now you know why.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]

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