2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD – Bottom Line Review

On June 24, 1889, Robert LeRoy Parker, fellow cattle rustler Matt Warner and two of the McCarty brothers pulled their first heist at the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colorado. The town was a remote copper and silver mining community about 300 miles southwest of Denver, named for the gold telluride compounds found elsewhere in the state. Butch Cassidy Wild Bunch gang’s take was $21,000, then a considerable sum equivalent to over $500,000 today.

Cassidy’s getaway ride out of Telluride in 1889 was surely on horseback or partly by rail as the Wild Bunch also robbed trains. By the late 1970s, the sleepy mining town was transformed into a major year-round ski and recreational center. Surveying the main drag of boutiques and latte bars, means spotting the typical celebrity or magnate parking their impressive SUVs at the old hitching posts which once lined Colorado Avenue.

In such a parking area worthy of such exclusivity the all new 2020 Kia Telluride full size 3-row crossover is expected to blend right in.

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2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: Vertically arrayed LED headlamps seem more Escalade assertive, while the clamshell hood carries the “TELLURIDE” lettering above the wide lattice kidney grill, in a very British royalty goes to Balmoral way.

WHAT: All new 2020 Kia Telluride full-size 3-row family crossover utility vehicle.

Standard Power: 3.8L, direct injected, dual VVT-i DOHC 24V V-6 gas engine = 291 hp/ 262 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm + 8-speed planetary automatic transaxle.

  • Idle Stop and Go
  • 5 Drive modes: Smart, Sport, Comfort, Eco Snow
  • Optional Drivetrain: PTU to viscous multi-clutch differential all-wheel drive

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: What they’ve done to the basic Kleenex box on wheels is impressive. Kia Design Center America gave their all new full sizer an elitist upright, with hints of blacked ops modern look, borrowing a few all-too-familiar elements from some familiar luxury SUV’s.

Some Schreyer Signatures: Wide, dark lattice kidney grille; Matching wide kidney windshield top roof outline; Hockey-stick LED tail-lamps; Oversized body matching roof spoiler; Front & rear aluminum simulated skid plates.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: The mid tailgate is pinched with a single crease with the lower rear quarter and bumper rising up and outward in Range Rover fashion.

Decision to Derive: Range Rover clamshell hood w/ model name spelled out at front + low beltline, tall greenhouse + acutely pushed out liftgate joined to acute jawed rear bumper ; Porsche Cayenne / VW Touareg lower side spat, Coke-bottled fuselage flaring wide from D-pillar to quarter panel.

STANDOUT TO EYES: “B” [Bentley behind derived] amber DRL’s / directionals outlining vertical stacked LED headlamps assemblies; Dual cube chrome tipped right exhaust outlet.

WHY: Kia slams down the sledgehammer, ringing the bell on an admirably aspirational big ute.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since early 2019

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: West Point, Georgia, U.S.A.

WHERE TO:   Lockable 50:50 all-wheel drive torque split + 8.0″ ground clearance means probably never getting stuck in accumulated air frozen H20 crystals.


Kia keeps things naturally breathing with luxury cousin Genesis’ venerable 3.8L twincam V-6 mill. The refined powerplant hums almost too surreptitiously. Capable of perfectly deft cog swaps, the  8-speed transaxle won’t lock a low gear for long. A relatively high peak torque engine speed factors for un-urgent motivation from the start line.

If the target is more polished ride than much of the segment Kia Telluride  succeeds. There is near total absence of jostle and the barest of wheel hiccuping afoot on rough stuff. Nor does the big rig respond as heavy as its size suggests, with decently sharp turn in on the big Michelins. Conceding some lateral control makes for a judicious approach to tail-in push limits.  Electric assist steering winding smoother than past Kia crossovers and  good sized, though shy initially biting, disc binders betray some meekness.

HOW FAR: 22 combined miles per gallon observed fuel economy; 450 miles highway range.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: The new Kia Telluride , spanning +4.8″ inches wheelbase & +7.9″ inches length, now slots above the decidedly mid-size 3-row Kia Sorento .

  • 2020 Kia Telluride 114.2″ wheelbase = 6.7″ < Chevrolet Traverse; 5.7″ < Dodge Durango; 4.9″ < Ford Explorer, 3.4″ > Toyota Highlander, 3.1″ < Volkswagen Atlas; 3.2″ > Honda Pilot.

42.4″-inches Row 2 legroom = 4.0″ > Chevrolet Traverse; 3.8″ < Dodge Durango; 3.0″ > Ford Explorer ; 4.6> Toyota Highlander, 4.8″ > Volkswagen Atlas; 4.0″ > Honda Pilot.

31.7″-inches Row 3 legroom = 1.8″ < Chevrolet Traverse; 0.1″ > Dodge Durango; 0.5″ < Ford Explorer, 4.0″ >  Toyota Highlander, 2.0″ < Volkswagen Atlas; 0.2″ < Honda Pilot.

HOW USEFUL: Low load floor floor bumper cover chrome scuff plate; 40/20/40% sliding, tilting back split 2nd Row seatbacks; remote power fold 2nd Row Captain’s chairs; Fold & slide 2nd Row access to 3rd Row; 50/50% 3rd Row split folding seat backs, strap release; Available cargo shade; +1 Wide front seat cushion; +1 Outward visibility from low cowl, narrow front & side pillars, tall tailgate window; +1 Front & 2nd Row door pocket, 3rd Row wall storage; +1 Tow Rating: 5000 lbs.

PARTICULARLY USEFUL: +1 Hands-free power liftgate

Not So Useful: -1 4-prong tow package receiver requires 7-prong trailer adapter

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: tall aperture + low load floor + flat folding 50/50% split 3rd Row backs and 2nd Row captains chairs for cargo expansion

HOW SAFE IIHS Top Safety Pick ; 7 airbags; Rear camera – 360° Surround view cameras (available); Forward & rear sonar park assist; Blind Spot Warning (available); Forward collision & pedestrian avoidance braking; Full adaptive cruise control; Lane departure warning, keep assist, trace; Rear Cross Traffic Alert, collision avoidance; Automatic high beam headlamps; Rain sensing windshield wipers; -1 Blind spot warning remains an option in such a large vehicle.

SAFETY STANDOUTS: +1 Approaching side traffic 2nd Row door lock-in with daylight bicycle recognition; Sonar based 2nd Row occupant minder which notifies; Large variable color Heads Up Display (HUD).

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Contrast stitched, perforated, quilted Nappa leather seating, front & 2nd Row heated & cooled; Power front seats: Driver’s 10-way, w/ knee extension, 2-position memory, Front passenger 8-way;  4 power windows = full express; Heated tilt & telescoping, cross-stitched leather wrapped steering wheel; Dual analog dial gauges Large lower mid-dash twin dial and button climate switchgear; Concierge start-up 3-zone automatic climate settings; +1 Easily located, accessed left lower dashboard dimmer & driver assist switches; +1 Wind & road noise isolation.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: Row 3, with it’s tall roofline conveys average height adults in reasonably decent comfort for local trips.

Cool Gizmo(s): Power folding wing mirrors; Supervision meter gauge cluster TFT display of vehicle side camera view when directionals are activated.

Details Done Right: Drive mode variable 8.0″-inch color LCD center trip data / drive status display; Fully padded and contrast stitched dashboard; Matte metallic and wood dashboard and door accents; Padded center console grab handles; Middle dashboard pebble graining; Metallic vent bezels; +1 Grooved brushed metallic toggle integrated steering wheel spoke controls; +1 Brushed metal mid-dashboard media switch buttons.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: center console inboard leather padded grab handles, precision bezeled metal switchgear, grooved knobs.

Nearly Non-Descript-1 Thinner cargo bay carpets; -1 Retina straining red night switchgear illumination; -1 3rd Row and aft dark, hard grained plastic wall & pillars; -1 2nd Row seatbelt receivers get stuck inside seat cushion after upon seat back folding.

2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD: variable color, high contrast large font, informative Heads Up Display (HUD)

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Center dash-top 10.25″-inch capacitive touch LCD infotainment tri-horizontal pane screen; +1 Large touch display icons; Voice learning hands-free communications; Native GPS HD voice command, guidance navigation; 12-speaker, 630 W Harman Kardon Q-Logic audio w/ streaming audio & HD radio; Mobile powered Android Auto/ Apple Car Play application & navigation overlays; UVO-3 Apps.

Subscription based: Sirius XM & Sirius XM TravelLink (90 days included trial); UVO-e telematics (5 years included)

USB x 6, 12V x 3 (incl. cargo bay); 110V AC x 1; +1 Covered deep lower center stack mobile device pocket w/ Qi wireless charging.

HOW MUCH: $46,860 = 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD suggested retail price.

WHAT’S MISSING: Steering wheel shift paddles, snappier gearbox, 2nd Row seatbelt receivers which don’t get buried.

ANY COMPETITION: GMC Acadia: +1 Intellilink infotainment, cargo management; Dodge Durango: +1 rear-drive platform, SRT opt.;  Ford Explorer: +1 rear-drive platform, hybrid option; Honda Pilot: +1 cargo space, tight as drum build; Hyundai Palisade: +1 power folding 3rd row seatbacks, full virtual gauge cluster;  Mazda CX-9: +1 cabin finish, handling balance; Subaru Accent+1 turbocharged flat-6 motor; Toyota Highlander: +1 Ride comfort, hybrid option; Volkswagen Atlas: +1 VR-6 sounds, 3rd row access.

BOTTOM LINE: Luxury brands in ritzy ski resorts make room at the hitching post for this swanky new volume 3-Row crossover ute.

(Contributing Editors: Susan Frissell, J. Flynn)

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