Kia built a luxury SUV with a third row. Scratch that -- Kia built an amazing luxury-esque SUV with a third row that's an outstanding value. The Telluride starts at $31,690 and is punching above its weight. Except for a few interior material choices, the Telluride should be on your shortlist of SUVs to check out.
The design is the first thing that grabs you. It has a hint of Range Rover. It's not a copy of the iconic brand, but out of the corner of your eye, you wouldn't be blamed for mistaking it for a British SUV. This is one of those vehicles that when I drove it around, I was asked what it was based only on the exterior. Most were surprised when I said it was a Kia. Then they texted their spouse the pics they took of the car.
The interior is nearly as impressive. The seats are comfortable throughout, and while I encountered some headroom issues in the third row, anyone under 6 foot should have no issue sitting there for an hour or two. The look follows the Kia/Hyundai design language, but fancier. The only reminders you that you're in a relatively inexpensive luxury SUV are the materials. They still feel like they're from a midclass vehicle. Sure, they look great, but they feel less than lavish.
Personally, I'd overlook it. I rarely run my hands over the interior of my car and think about how the manufacturer decided on one material over another. Yes, the wood in the dash is fake, but I still like the way it looks. Plus, nothing actually feels cheap.
Kia is still using the no-nonsense infotainment system found in Hyundais. It's not exciting, but it works, and I'm still a fan of the customizable home screen that surfaces three features. While using the system, latency was barely noticeable, and it supports CarPlay and Android Auto standard. So if you'd rather use your phone, you can without dropping some extra cash.
Behind the wheel, the Kia has sharp steering but still drives like a large midsize SUV. The expected body roll is there, especially on mountain passes. The 3.8-liter V6 engine's 291 horsepower and 262 pounds of torque had no trouble with merging onto the freeway and overtaking slower drivers.
The driver's assistance features (adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist) are on par with Kia's other vehicles. The adaptive cruise control is solid and reduces speed in a comfortable fashion when cars merge ahead of it. Lane-keep assist is fine at straight lines and wide curves, but anything else is beyond its abilities.
My biggest issue is that the lane-keep-assist is rather aggressive; I found it a bit too overbearing. It's not as assertive as Tesla's Autopilot while driving, but I turned it off more often than I do in other cars. It's coupled with a lane-departure warning that's ready to yell at you when you get too close to the edge of the lane. It's fine on the freeway and in town, but on mountain passes, it might get annoying if you hug the line around corners.
While those features seemed a bit overzealous, one safety item on the car seems just right: the blind-spot cameras. When you put the turn signal on, the blind spot of the lane you're merging into shows up in the dash cluster. I first encountered this feature on the Hyundai Sonata, and I liked it there. Here, it's better. Large vehicles have larger blind spots, and reducing the chance of a collision via some slick camera placement is a win in my book.
Even if you're not changing lanes, it's helpful. If you're moving into the right lane to make a turn at an intersection, the camera could alert you to a bicyclist you may have missed while driving.
In addition to seating for seven or eight (depending on if you want the second-row captain's chairs), the Telluride has a lot of cabin room with plenty of head and legroom for most adults. With all the seats up, the back of the Telluride has 21 cubic feet of storage. Put all those seats down, and that number jumps to 87. That matches the Ford Explorer and is just a bit more than the Honda Pilot's 84 cubic feet.
The Telluride has an all-wheel-drive option and a snow setting for those who live where the white stuff falls. You can also add a sunroof to it. In fact, you can push that starting price up pretty quickly. Kia sent me one with all the bells and whistles, and it ended up costing about $46,000. Nothing to sneeze at, but still a good value.
The Kia Telluride is the automaker's largest vehicle. It's a large midsize SUV with a surprisingly comfortable third row. In fact, the entire vehicle is comfortable and well equipped for its price point. Throw in a large dose of tech, some great styling and don't be surprised if you see more of these rolling around the neighborhood.