Kia is a brand in want of change. What started as a budget marque eventually became a trusted mainstream brand, but moonshots like the rear-drive Stinger sport sedan and limousine-like K900 have shown Kia isn’t content to just compete with Toyota and Honda. The new 2020 Kia Telluride is the latest offensive, and this big flagship three-row SUV might be the brand’s best shot yet at cracking the luxury vehicle nut.
Kia first brought a Telluride concept into the public eye in 2016 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, so it only made sense that earlier this week it announced the production version at the 2019 Detroit show. Using an off-road loop and the three tarted-up models from the SEMA shown just a few months ago, Kia leapfrogged its own three-row Sorento with this largest model to date.
The Telluride shares its name from a Colorado mountain town, and the connection is an attempt to capture the outdoorsy feel the former mining town embodies. A boxy figure and wide grille are meant to evoke the squared-off silhouette of vintage SUVs, while the interior is what Kia calls “upscale exploration.” A long list of driver aids and interior tech put the Telluride in a good place to back up the luxury description from Kia.
A 3.8-liter V-6 will be the sole engine, with 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet routed to an eight-speed automatic transmission and optional all-wheel drive. Four drive modes adjust steering effort and power settings to fit the needs of the driver, and for tough terrain there’s an AWD differential lock. The underlying platform is shared with the new Hyundai Palisade.
This will not only be Kia’s largest model, but also its flagship family-hauler. A representative from Kia told us there are no plans for the brand to produce a larger vehicle in the foreseeable future. Like the current Optima and Sorrento, Telluride will be built in Kia’s West Point, Georgia, facility. It’s set to hit dealerships in May 2019.
The three-row SUV field is getting crowded; Cadillac showed its all-new XT6 just days before Kia’s debut of the Telluride. But the Kia is feature-packed and if priced correctly (pricing is yet to be announced), could be an underdog player in a busy market. Already you can get a Sorento with a V-6 that costs more than $45,000 when fully equipped, so expect the Telluride to start around $37,000 and go up from there. Main rivals will be the Jeep Grand Cherokee, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Subaru Acent, and Mazda CX-9. Americans’ thirst for crossovers and SUVs is insatiable over the last few years, and the Kia Telluride has all the trappings of a well-executed effort that will give the people what they want.