The Kia Telluride name might not roll off the tongue easily in Australia, but it’s a big deal in its homeland of North America.
Bumper to bumper, the Kia Telluride is longer and wider than a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series and has a roomier interior. It is primarily designed for on-road rather than off-road use, despite being named after a ski resort in Colorado.
Think of it as Kia’s answer to the Cadillac Escalade or Audi Q7.
We got to drive the 2020 Kia Telluride late last year as part of the testing schedule for the 2020 World Car of the Year awards. The Kia was one of the fleet of WCOTY contenders assembled ahead of the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show for jurors to drive.
We were fortunate enough to test the US-made Kia Telluride and its twin under the skin, the South Korean-made Hyundai Palisade, back-to-back over the same demanding roads. You can read that review here.
We didn’t bring you these road tests until now as we weren’t sure if the vehicles were coming to Australia. Both Hyundai and Kia are yet to formally confirm if these giant SUVs will make it to local showrooms, but both are on their wish lists. If successful, we could see one or both of them here within the next 12 months.
In the US, the Kia Telluride is available with two seating configurations: an eight-seater (two-three-three), or a seven-seater (two-two-three) with a massive walk-through to the third row.
There is a wireless smartphone-charging mat, six USB power ports (two per row), and air-conditioning vents to all three rows.
Top-end models also come with two sunroofs – one above the front seats and a larger one above the second row – matte woodgrain trim (which gives the cabin a Range Rover feel), mood lighting (64 colour options) throughout the cabin at night, and 10-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and embedded navigation.
Other mod cons on top-end models include leather seats (heated and cooled in the front row), a digital instrument display (bordered either side by analogue dials) and a 10.25-inch touchscreen for infotainment.
Convenience items include grab handles near the large centre console, extendable sun visors, one-touch auto-up windows on all four doors (Hyundai has this function on the driver’s door only), a deep centre console, and large storage pockets in the front and rear doors.
There is a generous cargo area even when all three rows of seats are in use. It is unclear which seats would have the ability to accept child restraints if the vehicles were to come to Australia, but North American models have the US 'latch' system (their equivalent of ISOFIX) in both the second and third rows.
The Kia Telluride has a conventional automatic gear lever, whereas the Hyundai Palisade has buttons. I preferred the lever as there is no ambiguity about whether or not the correct gear has been selected.
Safety equipment available on the US model includes autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind-zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitors, and blind-zone cameras on both sides of the car (displayed in the digital instrument cluster in front of the driver).
In the US, the Kia Telluride is powered by a 3.8-litre V6 (220kW/355Nm) petrol engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
North American ratings show fuel consumption averages of 12.5L/100km for city driving and 9.6L/100km for highway driving, but the measuring methods are different from those used in Australia.
We did not record fuel economy numbers during our test drive, but suspect real-world figures of about 10L/100km in ideal conditions and 15–17L/100km in heavy stop-start traffic are likely (similar to a Toyota Kluger V6).
A diesel version of the Kia Telluride is unlikely for Australia – if the vehicle were to be sold here – because a diesel is not made in its domestic market of North America. The other big market for the Kia Telluride is the Middle East; they too prefer petrol.
Towing capacity is rated at a relatively modest 2200kg in North America. Service intervals on Kia cars sold in Australia are customarily 15,000km/12 months and warranty is seven years/unlimited kilometres.
On the road
The Kia Telluride is huge inside and out, and that’s immediately apparent once you slip behind the wheel.
There’s plenty of shoulder room whichever seat row you’re in. The example tested had a seat configuration of two-two-three. The convenience of being able to easily access the third row will likely be welcomed by many families.
That said, we’re not sure if we will get the standard eight-seat or the ‘walk-through’ seven-seat option or both.
Visibility is excellent thanks to the large glass area, wide mirrors and cameras dotted over the car. After some time behind the wheel, it doesn’t feel as large as its exterior dimensions suggest.
The V6 engine is either refined or well muted or both, but it’s definitely not raucous. It gets the job done smoothly and with ease – and works well with the eight-speed auto.
Ride comfort over bumps – at suburban speeds and on the concrete freeways of LA – was impressive despite rolling on 20-inch alloys and low-profile tyres.
On the winding mountain pass that we also tested the cars on, the Kia Telluride did a good job of feeling planted in corners. It would be a stretch to call it car-like, but it certainly did not feel like a massive SUV.
Tyre and suspension technology has progressed massively in recent years; the Kia Telluride feels very secure in corners.
I also liked the bulky steering wheel, the feel and precision of the steering, and all buttons and dials were well positioned and easy to use. I also prefer the Kia’s conventional gear lever versus the push-button arrangement in the Hyundai Palisade. That said, tech lovers may prefer the Hyundai’s gear selector style.
The location of the electronic park brake switch in the centre console is more intuitive in the Kia Telluride than it is in the Hyundai Palisade, which is hidden down on the dash, left of the steering wheel.
Both the Kia and Hyundai have side blind-zone cameras; in the case of the Telluride, the images are displayed in the digital instrument cluster in front of the driver. I’m not sure this is any better than a warning light in each side mirror. It’s also unclear if this tech will make it to Australian models, but the tech worked automatically and well.
Overall, the Kia Telluride is a very appealing vehicle in the same way the smaller Kia Sorento has proven popular here, and will likely carve out a decent slice of the large-SUV market in Australia if it were to be introduced here.
Aside from its Hyundai twin, the Kia Telluride’s main rivals would likely be the new-generation Toyota Kluger due in Australian showrooms next year and the current-generation Mazda CX-9, both of which are petrol-only propositions.
The Kia Telluride looks like the business, is one of the roomiest SUVs available, and will appeal to large families. We just hope Kia can mount a business case to bring it to Australia.