With seating for up to eight, the upcoming 2020 Kia Telluride is the automaker’s first attempt to take on big, soft-roading crossovers like the Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, and Ford Explorer—not to mention sister brand Hyundai’s version, the Palisade. (Previously, the brand had offered the rear-drive and off-road-ready Borrego—remember that one?)
The Telluride debuted in concept form a couple of years ago at the same Detroit location playing host to its production debut, and it also had a quick turn as an accessorized fashion plate at New York Fashion Week in September, so we knew what to expect aesthetically. Styling-wise, the Telluride is a bit less strange than Hyundai’s version, with stacked headlights flanking a taller version of Kia’s wasp-waisted grille. Inside, the Telluride sticks to the same successful formula seen in other Kia models, with the climate and audio controls arranged in neat rows, a stand-alone widescreen display, and wood trim galore. Kia promises a nice mix of luxury and practicality, with reclining third-row seats, optional quilted leather upholstery, and plenty of hooks for grocery bags and purses.
Power will come from a stout, 3.8-liter direct-injection V-6 with 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It will work through an eight-speed automatic transmission, while buyers can opt for either front- or all-wheel drive. AWD Tellurides employ an electrohydraulic multi-plate clutch to transfer power front to rear, with power apportioned according to the drive mode selected. A “lock” mode will send torque evenly to all four wheels. Kia claims a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds.
Kia’s Highway Driving Assist system is among the options, and it uses the Telluride’s adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance systems to provide semi-autonomous driving. The system will be able to recognize speed-limit signs on federal highways and adjust the set speed accordingly. It’s a feature that those of us in the 10-over-the-limit crowd are hoping can be disabled, or at least incorporates a customizable buffer as Ford has done for its similar function in the 2020 Explorer.
Other nifty features: If the Telluride detects an impending collision from the rear, it will automatically disengage the child safety locks, while ultrasonic sensors can detect a child or pet left in the car after the doors are locked and alert the driver. The Telluride has a feature that amplifies the driver’s voice for rear passengers, and the stereo has a Quiet Mode that mutes the speakers in the second and third rows so adults up front can listen to their own audio while the kids in back tune into their devices or tune out and nap.
Kia will offer the Telluride in LX, EX, S, and SX trim levels, with pricing to be announced closer to the on-sale date later in 2019. Given our experience with Kia’s luxury and convenience features, the brand’s emphasis on value, and the new focus on driving dynamics, we expect the Telluride to give the segment’s biggest sellers some strong competition.