By Ed Piotrowski
From zero to hero. Kia had no credible competition for the likes of the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot before launching its all-new 2020 Telluride. Now it has a contender for the best midsize crossover with three rows of seats. Here are five key things you should know about the South Korean automaker’s flagship SUV.
1. It’s the largest Kia ever
In a painful example of poor timing, Kia launched a three-row SUV called the Borrego for the 2009 model year. Instead of crossover-efficient car-type unibody construction, Borrego employed old-school truck-type body-on-frame engineering. And it was available with a V-8 engine just as the global economy was mired in recession and U.S gas prices were topping $4.00 per gallon. Borrego didn’t survive past its introductory year.
By contrast, Telluride is the right vehicle at the right time, as healthy early sales make clear. It’s larger in nearly every dimension than the Borrego: 0.2 inches in wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles) and nearly 5 inches longer overall and 3 inches wider. Despite its extra physical size, it’s more than 400 pounds lighter. This means the well-proportioned, eight-passenger Telluride can make the most of the 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque generated by its sole engine, a 3.8-liter V-6.
2. Ultra-cool, ultra-wide infotainment
Telluride comes in four trim levels: base LX, sport-themed S, volume-minded EX, and top-line SX. Standard on the EX and SX is a 10-1/4-inch ultra-wide infotainment display, a screen size commonly found on premium-brand vehicles. It can be customized to show up to three pieces of information simultaneously, for example, the map from their imbedded navigation system, audio-program info, and real-time weather. Support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto is included, the screen’s crisp resolution making it especially easy to interact with these smartphone interfaces. SX grades also come with a high-resolution surround-view camera, which makes maneuvering tight spaces a cinch.
3. Semi-autonomous driving and better blind-spot alert
Kia is stepping up its game when it comes to including important driver-assistance features as standard. All 2020 Tellurides come with drowsy-driver alert, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward-collision warning, lane-departure alert with automatic steering correction, adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set follow distance from traffic ahead, and rear-obstacle detection.
EX and SX grades include Kia’s new Highway Driving Assist for semi-autonomous driving. It uses radar to interpret lane markings and automatically steer the crossover. It also regulates acceleration and braking to maintain a set distance from the vehicle ahead. And it can recognize speed limits on federal highways and adjust speed accordingly.
Exclusive to the SX are automatic high-beam headlights and a feature we believe is a game-changer. Kia calls it Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM). Activate a turn signal, and cameras mounted under the exterior rearview mirrors project a view of the left- or right-side blind spot onto a screen in the center of the instrument cluster. The driver need only glance down briefly for a surprisingly detailed real-time look at what the mirrors might miss.
Clever and well-executed, BVM is thus far a class exclusive. Not even Telluride’s corporate sibling, the Palisade crossover from Kia’s corporate partner Hyundai, offers such a convenience. We’d urge Kia to expand BVM to other Telluride trim levels, at least as an option.
4. Ride Steady
Telluride is one of the few crossovers in any class to offer a self-leveling rear suspension. Available as part of a $795 Towing Package on the EX and SX, the system uses a pair of reservoirs to distribute hydraulic fluid as a means of keeping the vehicle at a consistent ride height, even fully loaded. While not as sophisticated as systems that use an air compressor, it has fewer moving parts, which reduces the risk of failure.
5. Outstanding Value
Any Telluride model is an excellent value for the money. Including Kia’s $1,095 destination fee, base prices with front-wheel drive are $32,785 for the LX, $35,085 for the S, $38,185 for the EX, and $42,585 for the SX. Traction-enhancing all-wheel drive (AWD) is a $2,000 option across the board. At a sticker price of $40,980, an AWD EX with the Towing Package will satisfy most Telluride intenders.
But don’t overlook the extra tech, safety, luxury, and convenience features that come with the SX. Equip an SX with AWD and the Towing Package, and you’re looking at a suggested retail of $45,380. If your budget allows, consider the $2,000 Prestige Package. Exclusive to the SX, it adds a head-up instrument display, heated and ventilated outboard second-row seats, faux-suede headliner, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a 110-volt power inverter, and the piece de resistance, quilted Nappa leather upholstery that turns the cabin into a classy abode that would not look out of place in a Bentley.
No matter which Telluride you choose, you benefit from Kia’s excellent bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty coverage. Combine this with standout styling, roomy accommodations, and pleasant road manners, and this midsize crossover merits a top spot on any shopping list.