2020 Kia Telluride: steller SUV debuts in saturated market

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More sport utility vehicles cruising down the road look alike. Even high-end, niche manufacturers that once disdained the idea of combining luxury and utilitarian characteristics in one vehicle offer SUVs. And they all look the same.

Bentley, Maserati and Porsche sell SUVs. What’s next? Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce SUVs? Yes, they would be the Verekai, Purosangue, Urus and Cullinan. It’s hard to fathom how they’ll fit into the crowded marketplace.

The 2010 Kia Telluride is stellar newbie the crowded SUV market. Image courtesy of Kia.
The 2010 Kia Telluride is stellar newbie the crowded SUV market. Image courtesy of Kia.

The 2020 Kia Telluride debuted in February as a three-row SUV that looks like it could be part of the supercar SUV fraternity. But it costs about 10 percent of some prestigious machines and has a better chance of survival.

The Telluride also looks like other SUVs. Designer Tom Kearns has detailed in industry publications he was influenced by other carmakers’ vehicles, notably Range Rover. The vehicles’ front grille and the font of the exterior lettering are nearly identical. Kearns’ played youth hockey and the Kia’s taillights resemble pudgy hockey sticks on end. It’s an edgy look that would be further attractive if Kia redesigned its insignia.

Although similarities to competitors abound, much is right with the Telluride. And if there’s room for another SUV in the marketplace, the new Kia is as good as any. It has enough unique styling and handy features to warrant attention.

Unveiled as a concept in 2016, the Telluride, named after mountain city in Colorado, joins the Sorento, another three-row SUV in the Kia lineup. Offered in LX, S, mid-level EX, and top-line SX trims, the Telluride is a three-row, seven-or-eight passenger SUV with a 3.8-liter, 291-horsepower engine propelled by an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Gas mileage estimates for the front-wheel-drive Telluride are 20 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 miles per gallon on the highway. All-wheel drive trims’ mileage estimates are reduced by about five percent. The MSRP is $41,900.

At its top level, the Telluride is offered with an SX Prestige Package. It advances the vehicle from a well-conceived, handsome and spacious SUV into near-luxury status. The $2,000 option includes all-wheel drive, Nappa leather trim, a head-up display, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and rain-sensing front windshield wipers.

Captain’s chairs replace bench seats in S and SX trims, reducing the seating capacity from eight to seven. Seating and overall comfort in the higher trims is a Kia priority for additional reasons. Upgrades include leather and premium leather upholstery, heated and ventilated first-and second-row seats, power-adjustable front seats, second-row sunshades and a heated steering wheel.

The first two rows of seats are also well-padded and roomy. Like many SUVs, third-row seats are best reserved for diminutive occupants. Overall comfort blends well with the Telluride’s smooth ride and steady acceleration of 0-60 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds.

Overall space is impressive. There are 21 cubic feet behind the rear seats, expanding to 46 cubic feet with the third row down. The tally is 87 total cubic feet with both rear sections down, the size of a decent storage shed. The Telluride has a 5,000-pound capacity with its $795 towing package.

Further interior stylings shine. The light-colored faux wood paneling on the dash and door trims is handsome. Two thick, sturdy grab handles are positioned on the sides of the center console. It’s a keen idea, considering many manufacturers’ preferences for installing handles in hard-to-reach upper corners of the front cabin.

The Telluride has strong technology features, including an ideally placed 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation system with sharp graphics. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth and six USB ports are included as is a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo. A feed from side-view cameras is projected on the sides of the instrument panel when the turn signal is activated in either direction.

Sport Utility Vehicle saturation is upon us. But the Telluride? It’s a terrific newbie.

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