Car and Driver is kicking off a 40,000-mile long term of the Telluride and so far everything it's all positive.
It was obvious on first glance that the 2020 Kia Telluride was going to be a contender in the hotly contested class of mid-size three-row SUVs. Just sitting on an auto-show stand, the big Kia had presence. The smooth, disciplined lines. The sophisticated detailing. The Chevy- and Volkswagen-shaming interior. The Telluride is an exemplar of the old saw that it is no more expensive to build an attractive vehicle than it is to build an unattractive one.
Our good will toward Kia's latest three-row ute was blunted not a bit when we drove and tested it. And we're not alone. We've heard fear-tinged acknowledgement of the Telluride's excellence from people who work for rival carmakers. The only things we haven't yet confirmed about the Telluride are its reliability and its ability to sustain our affections over the long haul. So, naturally, we ordered one from Kia to run the gauntlet of our 40,000-mile, long-term test.
We specified a top-of-the-line SX model for our evaluation in part because it comes with effective LED headlamps and taillights, handsome 20-inch wheels, understated satin-chrome body trim, and a variety of interior niceties such as a memory seats, second-row privacy window shades, and heated and ventilated seats. All-wheel drive, which adds $2000 to the cost of any Telluride, was a no-brainer. We also added a $795 Towing package for its hitch and self-leveling rear suspension (all Tellurides are rated to tug up to 5000 pounds).
We topped off the whole thing with the $2000 SX Prestige package, which brings a head-up display, nappa leather upholstery, premium cloth headliner, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. All of this pushed the SX model, which starts at $44,585, up to a not-unreasonable $47,590. In fact, considering the Telluride's level of features and amenities, that counts as something of a bargain in this class. The Dark Moss green paint choice cost us nothing but makes our Telluride one refined-looking family transporter.
The Telluride-and its mechanical twin, the Hyundai Palisade-is powered by a standard 291-hp 3.8-liter V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. There is no upgrade engine available. The Kia's V-6 provides less torque than the turbocharged four-cylinders found in competitors such as the Mazda CX-9 and the Ford Explorer. But in real-world driving, the Telluride is just as fuel efficient as its four-banger rivals, and it is happy to sip regular fuel. Our long-termer has so far averaged 21 mpg in mixed driving.
At the test track, our Telluride laid down a 7.0-second zero-to-60-mph run and continued on through the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 93 mph. Those are competitive times for the class, and the Telluride's 0.82-g skidpad performance and 177-foot stop from 70 mph are both within the norms as well.
The Telluride might not slay its competitive set at the track, but its on-road, day-to-day comportment has made it a staff favorite. It's certainly quicker, nicer, and more fuel efficient than the Volkswagen Atlas we also have in our long-term fleet. In fact, print director Tony Quiroga notes that if he had a Porsche Boxster Spyder and a Telluride in his garage, he "wouldn't want for anything more." The writer of this story couldn't agree more. Deputy editor Josh Jacquot sang the praises of the Telluride's impressive ride quality over potholed gravel roads. "I'm impressed with the Telluride's damping," he noted. "It has fantastic individual wheel control, especially for this class and with 20-inch wheels."
Senior editor Joey Capparella wrote, "Honestly, this interior pleases me more than the Range Rover I drove last night." The tasteful, rich-looking cabin also got to chief brand officer Eddie Alterman, who said he keeps debating the highs and lows of the Telluride interior compared with that of the Mercedes GLS-class and then remembering how much more the Mercedes costs.
It's likely we'll find things about this Kia we do not like. And maybe the Telluride will break often and in infuriating ways over the course of the next 37,000 or so miles. But so far, the Telluride is looking pretty damn good.
Months in Fleet: 1 month Current Mileage: 2842 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 21 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 18.8 gal Observed Fuel Range: 390 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0