2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD

2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD Review By Auto Critic Steve Hammes

Now that they’re both finally here, how will you choose? 

Will it be the Hyundai Palisade or its equally fresh corporate cousin the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride?  Bigger than the departed Borego and their current best-selling Sorento, the Telluride is the largest Kia ever with seating for up to 8.




No matter how hard you work, it takes time to change perceptions so good for Kia who has gone from making the worst SUV I’ve ever driven with the first gen Sportage to now producing the best mainstream 3-row on the market, all in about 20 years. 



Think that sounds like a long time?  It really isn’t, in car years.  And from the very first moment I laid eyes on the Telluride concept, I knew Kia had a winner on its hands.  Though it’s not quite as formidable looking in production form, it’s still a huge styling success. 



One of the biggest complaints I hear is that all of these SUVs are starting to look alike – well, the Telluride breaks the mold, even distinguishing itself from the Hyundai Palisade.




While most people know that for instance Chevy and GMC are General Motors brands and Lincoln is a part of Ford, the Hyundai Kia connection is still a mystery to the general public. Both are part of the Hyundai Motor Group and many of their vehicles are very similar. Including the Palisade and this Telluride. Other than the fact that this one is built in Georgia and the Palisade is built in Korea the differences between the 2 are extremely nuanced. Same engines, transmissions, wheelbase, mileage…they’re even priced within $300 of one another. So your decision will likely come down to styling preference, local dealer and incentives. 

I drove the Palisade last year and came away just as impressed as I’ve been with the Telluride this week.  No surprise there.  The only differences for me come down to the fact that the Hyundai I had wasn’t the top level trim and this Kia is…so I get to check out the Blind-Spot View Monitor, a unique take on Honda’s system that displays in front of the driver as opposed to on the center screen and works on both sides of the vehicle. 


Personally, it’s not a must-have feature.  But also in the SX trim bundle is the surround view monitor which is something I’d definitely want for perfect parking every time. 




And then the $2,000 SX Prestige Package bundles other items I’d like the excellent heads-up display, beautifully soft Nappa leather seats and rain sensing wipers.  And get this; the rear seats are heated and ventilated…cooling is usually exclusive to big bucks machines.  And that’s what Hyundai and Kia have long since been renowned for…providing tons of features at a bargain price. 


At $46,860 as-tested with everything Kia offers, this is the pleasant kind of sticker shock.





The engine is a 3.8-liter V6 making 291 horsepower working through a traditional 8-speed auto driving all 4-wheels.  And Kia’s Drive Modes are simple to access and well-programmed though I’m surprised there’s not one dedicated to off-roading seeing as how Kia likes to show the Telluride driving through muddy fields.  There is a 4-wheel drive lock setting but no further tricks.     

No turbo or funky transmission, it’s so satisfying to drive something with this level of organic feel. It’s smooth, linear power delivery makes it joy to drive while the cabin checks all of the important 3 row boxes at a bargain price. After living with it for a week it’s easy to understand why it’s racking up the sales and the accolades. 

And that’s what it is…there’s a sense that Kia toiled over this vehicle to the nth degree so you’re left with the sense that it is holistically satisfying.  It looks cool, drives the way you want it to, and makes life simpler not more complicated.  That’s why the seats slide easily out of the way for access to the large 3rd row, there’s a system for communicating with the unruly kids back there so that they can clearly hear your admonitions,  and with the electronics you can leave the owner’s manual in the glovebox because everything is so intuitive.  The “I wish they had done this differently” list is extremely small but I’ve still found a few things.  1) The smart key system should work on all doors, not just the front.  2) The 2nd row seats don’t fully fold flat until you run around to click them into place and 3) why can’t Kia deliver wireless CarPlay if MINI can?  Without it you still need to use your USB cord even though there’s a wireless charge pad.  Oh, and by the looks of my abysmal mileage you’d think I’ve been driving around in Dynamic all week doing stupid stuff but that is far from the truth so if this 16mpg is for real then that’s a problem because it’s rated at 21mpg in mixed driving.  

The power is appropriately matched, the ride quality doesn’t suffer much on these 20” Michelins, it’s quiet until you don’t want it to be when the Harmon/Kardon surround sound’s impressive pipes kick in and the roster of features will leave your luxury-car driving neighbor jealous.  All of this is why you pass a couple of Tellurides every time you leave your house – it’s off to a stellar sales start and is deserving of your attention.    

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