Kia just keeps improving its luxurious, stylish SUV …
Even perfection can be improved upon, but often it’ll cost you.
In Covid-crushing 2020 I selected Kia’s magnificent new mid-size SUV, the Telluride, as my Zoomie Vehicle of the Year. The tested top-level SX AWD version hit roughly $44,000 at the time and was as near perfect as I could imagine.
Telluride was, and is, luxurious, comfortable, stylish and powerful, the perfect family hauler. While excelling at all that, a low $30 grand starting price made it more attractive than many of its long-time mid-size SUV counterparts. Even loaded it was economical and touted such a finely styled interior that many luxury utes were put to shame.
Now Kia has 10 Telluride trims (up from four) and the starting price has crept up to $37,255, including delivery, with AWD adding another $2,000. That’s not horrible, considering the average SUV now goes for $50 grand or more. But in expanding its trim levels Kia has decided to challenge the luxury utes on price in addition to features. Note too, the Telluride has been named to many Best Of lists, and is rated No. 1 in its segment by Kelly Blue Book. So my praise was not singular.
The new SX-Prestige X-Pro AWD (these names!) trim is now the top level Telluride and it has a price tag to match, starting at $54,350, with delivery. That’s entry-level luxury pricing even to the Logan Roys of this world.
But one must be cognizant that luxury sells and luxury pricing drives profits. Kia has adapted to the US auto market game well.
That’s not to say anything at all against the Telluride. It’s still near perfect as a family transport with its adjustable three rows of seating, its powerful 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine, its bevy of safety equipment and a ride that’ll make you question why anyone buys a bouncy truck-based SUV.
This is so well controlled and cushy that even the most delicate of your relatives will be impressed and ladle on the praise for you having “made it.”
Watch our video review: (130) 2023 Kia Telluride review by Mark Savage and Paul Daniel – YouTube
Handling too is fairly responsive for a large ute with a 114.2-inch wheelbase and nearly 200 inches in length. Usually these types of vehicles require more steering input to keep them centered in a lane. Not Telluride, which also touts an impressive 8.4 inches of ground clearance on this top-end model. Its lower level trims will just clear 8 inches.
This one and the X-Line trim are like so many utes aimed more at off-roading though. Seems the more you spend the more likely you are to rock crawl and scratch up your nice paint job among the brambles and mud fields. Not me!
So for instance this X-Pro loads on 18-inch all-terrain tires (a bit of road noise, but not bad), heavy-duty cooling, 500 more pounds of towing power, self-leveling rear suspension, a 110-volt inverter outlet, and 18-inch black alloy wheels, plus more muscular exterior styling cues.
All fine and dandy, but for those of us who stay on the pavement it’s best to know that the Telluride has upgraded the interior some, although it was outstanding before. The infotainment screen grows to 12.3 inches from 10 and the instrument panel and info screen are joined as one slightly curved unit. That curve really seems to impress riders.
The standard Head-Up Display also grows from 8.5 inches to 10 inches.
All those screens are easy to see and read and the test truck’s Terracotta colored Nappa leather interior is gorgeous, costing just $295 extra. Seats are powered, heated and cooled, wide, and well-shaped while row two’s captain’s chairs are heated and cooled too. They also slide back and forth to allow reasonable legroom for rear passengers in row three. The Kia’s steering wheel also is heated.
Row three folds down to create a huge storage area if only four of you are traveling, but otherwise seven could ride in the Telluride. If you prefer seating for eight, that’s possible too with a second row bench seat.
Buttons under the power hatch allow quick fold-down of row two seats while row three must be lowered from inside the vehicle. That should be reversed.
Dash and screen controls are simple and should be the pattern for other makes, if only they would follow Kia and Hyundai’s lead. Buttons are big and well labeled and toggles control the heated and cooled seats, no need to play with the info screen. That infotainment system can now be updated over the air too, and WiFi is now standard. Plus you can program your smartphone as a digital key, if you’d like, to fire up the Telluride.
The turn signals activate cameras to show you the lane’s beside and behind you on the dash to avoid blind-spot issues and there’s a wireless phone charger in the bin under the dash’s center stack.
Overhead are two sunroofs, one right over that third row seat to brighten the perspective of row three occupants who often are sentenced to a shadowy atmosphere.
Oh, and if you find your kids in row three not normally able to hear your parental instructions, well, Kia offers Driver Talk, which directs the driver’s voice into the fancy Harman-Kardon stereo speakers so they pipe up in back to enable easy conversation with wee ones or digitally engaged teens.
Like to ask Alexa questions? Well, that’s available here too. Telluride is Google Assistant capable.
Basically, you name it, the Telluride has it at this level. Plus the Kia comes with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. And to address the elephant in the room, because this is push-button start is has anti-theft protection. So no worries there.
On the driving safety front all is standard here from smart cruise with Stop & Go, to parking collision avoidance when backing up, parking sensors front and rear, blind-spot warning, forward collision avoidance with cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance and safe exit assist so you won’t open a door into oncoming traffic.
Naturally AWD comes on this model, but it’s optional at all trim levels.
As equipped this Georgia-built X-Pro ended at $55,120 including an extra $495 for its Midnight Lake Blue paint job. I’d call it a blue-gray that is pleasant, but not an eye-catcher. Remember you can still get the LX model with front-wheel drive at the sub-$40,000 price mentioned above and there are nine models at price points below this luxury model.
Gas mileage remains decent for a mid-size SUV. I got 20.3 miles per gallon in about 70% highway driving while the EPA rates this at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
Near perfection? Yes, to be perfect the Telluride would offer a standard hybrid system to help boost gas mileage, or better yet, a plug-in hybrid model so those runs to the grocery store and to shuttle the kids to their school events would be mostly gas- and pollution-free.
Not sold? Well there are numerous competitors. Top of that list is likely the Hyundai Palisade, a sister vehicle to Telluride with similar features and performance. Other strong competitors include Nissan’s Pathfinder, Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot and then the Subaru Ascent, VW Atlas and Chevy Traverse.
Drive and compare, Kia is pretty sure it knows which one you’ll choose!
FAST STATS: 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro AWD
Hits: Sharp looking SUV inside and out, good power, ride and handling, plus AWD and 5 drive modes. Loaded with Harman/Kardon stereo, super center stack/console design, big screens, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, heated/cooled second row seats, turn-signal activated cameras, power hatch, useful third row seats, wireless charger, solid safety suite.
Misses: No hybrid model yet and price now reaches entry-level luxury level.
Made in: West Point, Georgia
Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 291hp/262 torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,522 lbs.
Wheelbase: 114.2 in.
Length: 196.9 in.
Cargo: 21, 46, 87 cu.ft.
Tow: 5,500 lbs.
MPG: 20.3 (tested)
Base Price: $54,350 (includes delivery)
Carpeted floor mats, $210
Midnight Lake Blue paint, $495
Terracotta interior color package, $295
Test vehicle: $55,120
Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage