The Kia Telluride’s reputation precedes it, a three-row crossover utility vehicle that is among the best available.
Prized for its rugged looks, the Telluride also delivers a comfortable and upscale cabin, loads of tech and safety equipment, and a decent powertrain. It is also one of the most difficult models to obtain as demand continues to outstrip supply.
Kia Telluride Review
Kia offers the 2023 Telluride in four levels – LX ($32,790), S ($35,290), EX ($37,790), and SX ($42,690). A “Nightfall Edition” is available for the EX and SX trim levels.
Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is a $2,000 upgrade. Add $1,335 for the destination charge.
Our test model was a 2022 Telluride SX Prestige grade with all-wheel drive. The sticker price was $49,238.
For 2023, the X-Line and X-Pro grades debut, replacing the previous Nightfall edition. The interior is also refreshed and a 12.3-inch panoramic display screen is now standard. Other changes include a revised front fascia and making navigation standard equipment.
Utility vehicles typically fall into two categories. The traditional sport utility vehicle such as the Toyota 4Runner is underpinned by a truck platform, in this example the Toyota Tacoma. These types of models are best suited for off-roading when properly equipped, but they’re also much less comfortable around town.
In the past two decades, we’ve seen the rise of crossover utility vehicles, models based on car platforms. Most don’t tackle tough terrain, but they do quite well around town thanks to their car-like steering and comfortable ride. The Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse, and Volkswagen Atlas are examples of modern crossovers.
The Kia Telluride attempts to find a middle ground between the two. Although very much a crossover, the Telluride has the look of a traditional SUV, due to its squared edges, high pillars, and beefy wheels. Its truck-like appearance is edgy and sporty, marked by a tiger-nose grille flanked by LED lighting elements.
Because this Kia eschews the soft and rounded edges of most competitors, it presents a masculine persona designed to win a targeted consumer base.
The 2023 introduction of the X-Line and X-Pro packages only enhances Telluride’s rugged appearance. Exclusive 18- or 20-inch wheels, raised roof rails, and a unique grille design amplify Telluride’s credibility.
Most grades offer power-folding and heated side mirrors, a panoramic dual-pane sunroof, and a power liftgate. Rain-sensing wipers are available.
With room for as many as eight, the Telluride is a strong complement to the Kia Carnival multi-purpose vehicle. That said, Telluride models equipped with second-row captain’s chairs likely get a nod from shoppers even at the cost of one seat.
Those center-row chairs are nearly as comfortable as the front-row thrones and relieve some of the back-row legroom tightness with the bench seat swapped out.
Notably, Kia pulled out all the stops in developing the Telluride cabin. For instance, imitation leather seating surfaces and an abundance of soft-touch materials elsewhere dress the base model. Most grades, however, come with leather seats or high-end Nappa leather, the latter matching the look and comfort of some luxury models.
Most grades supply power-controlled front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and zoned climate control. Heated and ventilated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, and rear side window sunshades are available.
The Telluride features 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. Fold down the second-row seat and cargo capacity jumps to 46 cubic feet and 87 cubic feet behind the front row. These numbers place Telluride in good company amongst its SUV peers.
The 12.3-inch center console display screen is one of the largest in its class. New for 2023, it replaces the previous 10.3-inch screen. We’re also fans of Kia’s Connect interface, an improvement over the previous Microsoft-developed UVO system.
A 6-speaker audio package comes standard and incorporates satellite radio. Other standard features include Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, and six USB ports.
Packages and grade improvements bring in a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, and a 115-volt power outlet. A head-up display is also available.
Kia outfits the Telluride with a long list of standard driver-assist technologies. These comprise forward collision warning, collision avoidance assist, blind-spot collision warning, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist.
Also, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with full stop and go, and park distance warning-rear are included.
A surround-view monitor, park distance warning-front, and a blind-spot-view monitor are available. The latter features a pair of screens in the instrument panel that activates when a turn signal is engaged. The cameras then capture the side views, thereby expanding the driver’s range accordingly.
The 2023 Telluride features a 3.8-liter V6 engine with 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Power routes to the wheels utilizing an 8-speed automatic transmission.
All models have at least four drive modes – smart, eco, sport, and comfort. Tellurides equipped with all-wheel drive gain two additional modes – snow and AWD Lock. With AWD Lock activated, power is delivered to all four wheels evenly.
This model earns an EPA-estimated 20/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive. Choose all-wheel drive and those numbers are 18/24/21 mpg. The 2023 Telluride enjoys a modest bump in towing capacity, up from 5,000 to 5,500 pounds when properly equipped. The optional tow package ($795) includes a self-leveling rear suspension.
The Telluride’s powertrain is good, but not great. It delivers steady off-the-mark acceleration and consistent power on the highway.
We noticed, however, that the transmission tends to become lazy at times – holding gears longer than what we like — especially under hard acceleration. This isn’t a huge demerit, more of an annoyance, one that appears from time to time.
We do like the weighted steering and this SUV’s ability to play off-road when properly equipped. Most models with all-wheel drive handle light-duty off-roading well. The new X-Line and X-Pro benefit from a higher ground clearance and feature downhill brake control.
All-terrain tires on 18-inch wheels and improved approach and departure angles also help. While we might venture off-road when properly equipped, the Telluride won’t follow the Ford Bronco or Jeep Wrangler on rigorous trails.
Most owners, though, will keep the Telluride on firm pavement. There, this SUV navigates washboard surfaces with ease with its four-wheel independent suspension assisting. Overall, the Telluride delivers a comfortable ride along with the expected body roll on twisty roads.
Kia Telluride Considerations
The Kia Telluride is a satisfying SUV. The new X-Line grade features improved ground clearance for enhanced off-road travel. Along with the X-Pro, the two “X” models give the Telluride a more rugged appearance.
Supplies of the Telluride remain very tight as Kia struggles to keep up with demand. As a result, some dealers are charging thousands of dollars above the sticker price and customers are paying up.
We recommend ordering the Telluride and working with a dealer who doesn’t mark up the price. Alternatively, the three-row Kia Sorento is another option, but it is slightly smaller, and the third-row seat is tight.
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