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2020 Kia Telluride SX Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

As good as a three-row mid-size SUV can get?

It's tough to be a regular workaday sedan or SUV—like the 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD—that was invited to Automobile All-Stars. Alongside the latest big-dollar, high-roller counterparts from the Germans, there's usually at least two or three supercars, a handful of loaded-to-the-brim luxury coupes, and a charcuterie of mega-fun hot hatches, roadsters, and sporty stuff to yank the spotlight away from the more consumer-minded stuff. We strive to keep it all in perspective in order to avoid the comedown from sliding out of Maranello's latest hotseat into, say, a staid three-row SUV.

We didn't have to try all that hard when it came to the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride. South Korea's stylish three-row SUV had, thanks to previous test drives, already filled its trophy case to bursting with numerous industry awards; with dashing Range Rover-esque looks and room-a-plenty to haul a family and all of its precious gear on extended road trips, the Telluride made a big impression right out of the gate.

In keeping with Kia's modus operandi, the Telluride established itself quickly as a stunning achievement in value-for-money, both technologically and materialistically.

"It looks like a Korean Cadillac Escalade, and those amber lights just do something for me," raved social media editor Billy Rehbock. "The interior looks and feels really good; for a mass-market brand, Kia is punching into luxury car territory with this one."

We all agreed: scrape that Kia badge off the schnoz and rear decklid, and you could sell the Telluride at any luxury dealership in the nation. Not that Kia needs help selling Tellurides: last summer, the new SUV outsold segment-mainstay Toyota Highlander for a total of 58,604 units. That was an impressive feat for a car that didn't hit dealers until March, and part of it comes down to Kia's aggressive pricing: Even with every single option box checked, our maxed-out tester still came in at less than $50,000, a figure that's a fairly large watermark for some buyers.

If you like the way the Kia Telluride looks on the outside, wait until you check out its interior digs. On our top-of-the-line Telluride SX Prestige tester, the materials, comfort features, and design appeared to be ripped out of something noticeably pricier. It included Nappa leather for all three rows, heat and ventilation for the first two, a fixed rear sunroof, and an upscale Harman/Kardon sound system. The setup impressed all occupants, as did little touches like retractable sunshades on rear doors, rain-sensing wipers, and a head-up display.

"Kia nailed it with the feature-packed Telluride," said features editor Rory Jurnecka. "Only the insecure or ignorant spend 10s of thousands more for a fancy badge when you can have all the luxury, surefootedness, and style the Telluride delivers for far less money. It's not an exciting performance car, but it does everything it's supposed to do well and with presence that punches far above its MSRP."

Speaking of performance, it's the one category in which the Telluride perhaps falls short. Regardless of trim, all Tellurides arrive with the 3.8-liter naturally aspirated Lambda II V-6 and Kia's in-house eight-speed automatic transmission. In the days where forced induction is prosaic, the Telluride's 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque arrive at a lofty 6,000 rpm and 5,200 rpm, respectively, for a 0-60-mph time somewhere in the mid-to-low 7-second range. That's fine and dandy when the beast is empty of passengers and gear, but merging might turn into an adventure if you fill all six seats.

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This is a sled built for comfort and definitely not handling, so we forgive any reasonable amount of body roll and numb steering, though the Telluride doesn't possess an egregious amount of either. "The dynamics, while not the most exciting, are exactly what they need to be to have wide appeal," Rehbock said. "It's just nice to drive, and although the engine isn't the most powerful, it has enough grunt to be satisfactory in the majority of driving situations." We found the same to be true during the SUV's launch in its namesake city, especially as we cut through blind mountain roads at high elevation.

Realistically, though, let's leave canyon carving and stoplight drags out of this. The Telluride is best enjoyed hopping from city to city, gobbling up highway miles, bumps, dirt roads, potholes, and broken pavement with aplomb. Much of the All-Stars evaluation process involved mindless slogs to and from the base camp and hotel, and short of the Bentley Continental GT, we were hard-pressed to find another commuter half as cush, winner or otherwise. When the cavernous rear cargo area (with folded second and third row, natch) had swallowed all gear from the All-Stars base camp and we headed back to civilization, the heated seats kept us comfy, and an impressive suite of on-board assistance systems like standard lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and optional assisted cruise control provided us with some additional security.

There you have it. Standing tall amidst such weapons like the Ferrari F8 Tributo, Porsche 911 Carrera S, and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the affordable, handsome, well-designed 2020 Kia Telluride adds the laurels of being a 2020 Automobile All-Star to its crowded trophy case.

2020 Kia Telluride Specifications
PRICE $32,735 (base)/$46,860 (as tested)
ENGINE 3.8L DOHC 24-valve V-6/291 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 7- or 8-passenger, front-engine, FWD or AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 19/20 (AWD); 24/26 (FWD) (city/hwy)
L x W x H 196.9 x 78.3 x 68.9 in
WHEELBASE 114.2 in
WEIGHT 4,112-4,482 lb
0-60 MPH 7.5 sec (est)
TOP SPEED Not available

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2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners 

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What makes the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette an Automobile All-Stars winner? Killer performance and unbelievable value, for starters.

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In a field of supercars, sports cars, and Europe's best, Kia's Telluride three-row SUV proved it's a great choice for anyone in need of an affordable, well-built people hauler. So great, it's an Automobile All-Star for 2020.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

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2020 Toyota Supra Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

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2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

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2020 Automobile All-Stars Contenders

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Subaru's family wagon might seem a bit out of place in this company, but that's only because you haven't driven it. The 2020 Subaru Outback XT is a 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender.

It's Mercedes' smallest offering in the U.S. , and not even the hot version, but the A220 is breathing the rarified air of the 2020 Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

This limited-edition, U.S.-market-exclusive super-STI is unlike any Subaru that's come before, that's for sure. But is the WRX STI S209 an All-Star?

The Lamborghini Huracán Evo is fast, loud, and gorgeous. No wonder it's a strong 2020 Automobile All-Stars contender.

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

It's a special edition, but is the Porsche 718 Spyder really that special? We found out during our 2020 All-Stars evaluation.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

We spend three days in Southern California hills and desert testing the 2020 Jeep Gladiator along with 20 other All-Stars Contenders to see which rise to the top.

2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The very fact that an affordable family hauler is rubbing shoulders with hypercars and mega-luxe cruisers should tell you the 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite is something special. It's also a contender for the 2020 Automobile All-Stars award.

How does a car this big drive this well? We dig into what brought the 2020 Mercedes-AMG 63 S to this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

It's McLaren's first car to put a serious emphasis on practicality and comfort over outright performance—but is the GT an Automobile All-Star?

2020 BMW Z4 M40i Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2020 BMW Z4 M40i proves it's just as much about good handling and driving fun as it is about top-down cruising.

BMW's excellent M850i xDrive luxury sport coupe does battle with 2020's best cars but falls short in this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback Test Drive: 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender 

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Electric cars have many inherent advantages over the combustion-powered competition, but does the 2020 Audi E-Tron have what it takes to hang with this year's best?

 

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