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Car and Driver: Three-Row SUVs Compared: Explorer, Telluride, Palisade, Enclave, and CX-9

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The Kia Telluride finished first in a comparison Car and Driver did with the Ford Explorer, Hyundai Palisade, Buick Enclave, and Mazda CX-9.

They picked the Telluride because they think it looks better than the Palisade and its spacious interior.

Here's what they wrote:
Highs: All the strengths of the Hyundai, plus a rugged and not-weird shape.
Lows: The skinny tires are so hard not to stare at.
Verdict: Give the people what they want and they'll return the favor with laurels-and sales.

Staff editor Andrew Wendler doesn't usually spout conspiracy theories. But by the time he got out of the Telluride, he'd nurtured a good one: "The South Korean government is propping up Hyundai and Kia. How else can you explain how good these two are?"

It's nearly impossible to discuss the Telluride and Palisade separately, as they are more similar in feel than most platform-mates are. But that's fine by us, because they look nothing alike and because the biggest commonality is excellence. Choosing between the two is really about which one looks better to you. For us, it's the Telluride.

The Kia's broad shoulders and blocky styling give it nearly as much of a rear-drive look as the actual rear-drive-based Explorer. The earth-tone exterior palette and a heavy dose of Land Rover Range Rover in the styling feed our Rough Rider fantasies. If we owned one, it'd have a "Teddy Roosevelt for President" bumper sticker.

The macho look continues inside, with leather abutted by convincing imitations of satin metallic trim and open-pore wood that appear to be rescued from a Tombstone saloon. Unlike a saloon, the Telluride is so serene that we kept assuming the adaptive cruise had seen a car ahead and was slowing down. A glance at the speedo-or the head-up display-would confirm that we were maintaining the expected clip. This adept masking of speed is common in high-end vehicles, but we've never seen it so well done in something at this price point.

Long rear doors and a second-row seat that quickly folds and slides out of the way allow for easy third-row access, and the enormous second-row space meant that the Koreans were the only vehicles here in which middle passengers were willingly sliding their seats forward to grant those in the wayback more legroom. The debate over which third row was most comfortable, the Hyundai's or the Kia's, boiled down to individual passenger shape and how naturally our heads fit with the sculpting of the D-pillars if we decided to lean against them and sleep. In the other vehicles, we never stayed back there long enough to relax. Apart from the Korean twins, all the other vehicles elicited complaints about how tightly our knees were pressed into seatbacks or how hard and flat the bottom cushions were. If you're regularly hauling three rows of people-and hoping to impress them-the Hyundai and Kia are your answer.

They're not flawless, though. The wheels and tires look a little skinny from some angles. When slammed, the doors shake the whole vehicle. And over big bumps, there's more shimmy through the structure of the twins than you'll feel in the others. But the look and finish are such that not even a few quivers can pierce the upscale atmosphere. Not long ago, paying $50,000 for a Kia would have seemed ridiculous. Now there's one that seems like a ridiculous steal at $50,000.
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