Look around you, it’s the 1990s all over again; gas prices are reasonable, big American-built SUVs are everywhere, and politicos are trying to impeach a president. So, what better time for Kia to introduce their biggest SUV yet, the Telluride.
If you recall the Kia Borrego, Kia’s last big ute, it arrived at exactly the wrong time, 2008. Gas prices were pushing $4.00 a gallon, and people were actually trading in their behemoths for smaller, more fuel efficient rides; Hybrids even!! Well, obviously we have short memories here in America, and we’re back to buying big SUVs. So, unforeseen events aside, this 2019 Kia Telluride now looks to be arriving at just the right time.
Built in the traditional big, boxy SUV fashion, means there’s no sloping, hatchback-like roofline to rob interior space; and plenty of greenhouse to look out of, no matter which of its 3-rows you’re occupying.
It’s not quite Tahoe size; with 196.9-inches of overall length, riding on a 114.2-inch wheelbase, but it’s pretty close.
Looking high, wide, and substantial from the rear, it’s highlighted by inverted “L” LED tail lights and silver skidplate-like bumper trim.
There’s a very good level of luxury inside, as all materials and finishes, including available leather and simulated wood, are stellar. And there’s even grab handles integrated into the center console, just like the Mercedes-Benz GLE.
Plush seats and plenty of space for people and provisions, even behind the 3rd row, with 21.0 cubic-ft. In 2nd-row guise, there’s 46.0 cubic-ft., and with all seats folded, 87.0.
Standard for the middle row, is a 3-passnger bench, but of course Captain’s chairs are available. Both allow for good access to the 3rd row, where true adult size space awaits.
For better or worse, connectivity is at the top of everyone’s wish list these days, and highlights here, are a standard 8.0-inch and available 10-inch touchscreen with full smartphone integration and UVO telematics.
Safety features are up there too, as the Telluride is fully competitive, with Kia Drive Wise Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems available, and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with pedestrian detection standard.
Under-hood space is occupied by a slightly detuned version of Genesis’ 3.8-liter V6. Output here is 291-horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque.
With uni-body construction and a front-wheel-drive architecture, the Telluride rolls down the same Georgian assembly line as the Kia Sorento on which it is loosely based. Max tow rating is an identical 5,000-lbs., and all will come with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Compared to V8 rivals, it’s a little sluggish off the line, and it needs some revs before it really starts to feel powerful. Nevertheless, it behaves solid and purposeful for a respectable 7.3-seconds that it takes to hit 60.
Shifts from the 8-speed automatic are very smooth, and the full ¼-mile is relatively drama and stress-free. Our best time, 15.5-seconds at 93 miles-per-hour.
Steering is exact with good feel, and the Telluride felt capable and confident through our cone course, if not overly sporty. It’s big and heavy, but there’s surprisingly little body roll; and it still has the benefit of crossover bones with a 4-wheel independent suspension aided by torque vectoring, versus the clunky feel of many full-framed competitors.
While not intended as a serious off-roader, the Telluride does have some legit credentials for backroads exploring. No specific off-pavement mode for the optional on-demand all-wheel drive system, but you can lock it into distributing the power evenly between all four wheels for mud and inclines, while Down Hill Brake Control helps modulate steep descents.
Plus, there’s up to 8-inches of ground clearance with a self-levelling suspension.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 19-City, 24-Highway, and 21-Combined for all-wheel-drive; 20-City, 26-Highway, and 23-Combined for front-wheel-drive. We averaged 25.2 miles-per-gallon in our all-wheel-drive tester. The Energy Impact Score is only about average, at 14.3-barrels of annual petroleum consumption, with 6.5-tons of CO2 emissions.
Pricing starts at $32,735 for LX trim, ranging to SX, at $42,535. Even with 2-grand added for all-wheel drive, like most Kias, it still undercuts rivals in bang for the buck.
So, with the 2020 Kia Telluride, Kia has not only created their biggest and most appealing utility yet, but they’ve aimed it squarely at the heart of the American three-row SUV market. It may not be a true game changer, but the Kia Telluride is surely a new force to be reckoned with in making a smart choice for a big family SUV.
Engine: 3.8 liter
Torque: 262 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 7.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 15.5 seconds @ 93 mph
EPA: 19 mpg city / 24 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 14.3 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.5 tons/yr