2020 Kia Telluride SX
When Kia came out with the model year 2019 Stinger fastback sport sedan, it was the company throwing down to the rest of the industry as well as to the public, saying, in effect, “You don’t think we know how to build extraordinary products, products that are put together well and that include everything from the chassis setup to the seats that are above and beyond not just the ordinary but the really good? You think that the Kia brand is just about putting out products that are cheap and cheerful? Well, take a ride in a Stinger.”
Of course, the Kia people wouldn’t be quite so rhetorically combative.
And having had a chance to drive a Stinger on both city streets and a race course, I can attest to the prowess of that car.
The Stinger proves a point about the capabilities of Kia in a way that the companies serial winning of J.D. Power Awards doesn’t.
It is, as is said, the real deal.
One could argue that the Kia Optima has proven the point of Kia’s capabilities. But the issue with that is that it is a midsize sedan, a category that is dominated by the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord, two cars that, for the segment, are all anyone needs and then some. What’s more, the midsize sedan market isn’t exactly robust, so the likelihood of the Optima really becoming a breakthrough by drawing people to Kia dealers was and is slight. (Proof point? Well, no one says “Camry, Accord and Altima” anymore, as the last-named has not kept pace with the first two. That said, through August Nissan has sold 142,416 Altimas and Kia has sold just 68,460 Optimas.)
Which brings me to the Kia Telluride, the company’s entry in the three-row midsize SUV category, a category where the competition is fierce and the market demand is high.
And the Kia Telluride should throw any doubts about the brand into a black hole because it is, quite simply, an extraordinary SUV.
This is an eight-passenger SUV and it is sufficiently roomy for people and stuff. It is big—the biggest vehicle Kia has built (it is not entirely surprising that it was designed in the Kia studio in California, as elsewhere in the world there is a tendency for efficiency that can lead to tinier packages and in America we like things BIG*)—with a length of 196.6 inches, a width of 78.3 inches, height with roof rails (because if you’re going to get this vehicle you are not going to not get roof rails) of 69.3 inches.
Although Kia makes much of the rugged, capable nature of the Telluride, and although there is a very capable active on-demand all-wheel drive system, there is a ground clearance of 8 inches so we’re really talking downtown Telluride not the outskirts of Moab.
As regards the propulsion system, the Telluride has a 291-hp 3.8-liter V6 that is mated to an eight-speed automatic. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
I had the opportunity to spend time in a Telluride SX. That’s the top trim level. And it was loaded with features and options (some standard, some optional), everything from seats that are—and I have to quote Kia on this, because the description is too good to pass up—“double-stitched, quilted and extra-padded Nappa leather” to all manner of technology, including blind-spot collision avoidance assist rear (it gets on the binders if you don’t) and a10.25-inch color touch screen with a clear, simple to use navigation system in there and a Harman Kardon audio system that makes it sound like you’re listening in a room, not a moving object that weighs over two tons, and. . . .
This vehicle was loaded. Deluxe. Big but a breeze to drive (and probably more importantly for some people, to park). That seat really does have extra padding (I drove it to northern Michigan and back and didn’t have any issue vis-à-vis my back).
And the vehicle had a window sticker under $50,000.
The Telluride is the real deal. There is, as previously noted, a plethora of three-row SUVs available from mass market to luxury brands. And the Telluride addresses both categories (I’ve recently been in vehicles with stickers that are $20,000 higher and am mystified as to what that gets you vis-à-vis the Telluride.)
It is more amazing than the Stinger, which, itself, is an amazing vehicle.
*And while on the subject of America, know that the SUV is built at the Kia plant in West Point, Georgia.
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