It's a rare thing when a three-row family conveyance can be deemed cool, but we're pretty sure the 2021 Kia Telluride manages to pull it off. Credit almost entirely goes to its refined, tastefully adorned and classically proportioned styling. There's a little Volvo here and a little Range Rover there, but those are certainly good muses to have. The aesthetic appeal carries inside as well.
However, there's more than just good looks here. The Telluride also manages to check off nearly every functional box as well. It's one of the most spacious three-row crossovers, has plenty of family-friendly storage solutions, boasts user-friendly technology and comes standard with an abundance of well-executed safety features (plus its upgrade blind-spot warning system was named Autoblog's Tech of the Year). The driving experience is admittedly a bit forgettable, but it's also free from bad habits. In short, no other three-row family crossover does a better job of both fashion and function. It's a must drive.
What's new for 2021?
The Telluride gains a new Nightfall Edition (pictured above) following an industry trend of special trim levels or packages slathered in blacked-out body trim. Unlike many of those other examples, however, the Telluride Nightfall Edition is available in eight colors, including its exclusive new-for-2021 Wolf Gray. Other updates include the addition of standard remote ignition, an upgraded trailer harness and LED headlamps added to the EX Premium package. Prices increase between $400 and $850 depending on trim level, including the destination charge that also goes up a bit for 2021 to $1,170. Apparently, it costs a little more to ship the thing from Georgia this year.
What are the Telluride interior and in-car technology like?
Admittedly, we've only had contact with the ritziest, range-topping Telluride SX model that boasts soft, interestingly stitched leather, convincing faux wood trim, and a generally luxurious ambience that trumps everything else in the segment. Oh, and it costs less than range-topping rivals that actually have less equipment.
Now, will an LX and EX be as swank? No, but the general quality of plastics, switchgear and other materials should still be above average. Every Telluride is also extremely well equipped. Check out the pricing and features section below for a full breakdown, but suffice to say, you don't need to pay top dollar to get heated and ventilated seats, sunshades and an abundance of infotainment features.
Indeed, every Telluride comes standard with five USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and satellite radio. An 8-inch touchscreen is standard (and is typically sized for the segment), yet the EX and SX features a wide 10.25-inch touchscreen that will not only impress your friends with its largesse, but it improves functionality as well. It brings with it wireless smartphone charging, integrated navigation and a grand total of seven USB ports spread throughout all rows. The ports embedded in the backs of the front seats are unique, and shorten the distance between phone and port for those in the second row (versus the typical placement down low at the base of the center console).
How big is the Telluride?
The Telluride is a large, three-row family crossover, eclipsing most competitors in terms of overall length and interior space. On paper, second- and third-row legroom are particularly roomy, and we confirmed this in person by comfortably fitting 6-foot tall people back-to-back in all three rows. That's a rare feet for any vehicle, especially in terms of the third-row. The way back's comfort and space are enhanced by its ample headroom and reclining capability, as well as the sliding second row (available as a bench or captain's chairs). We also like the large rear quarter windows that help the Telluride's third row avoid the claustrophobic feel of many competitors. Access to the third row is gained by pressing a button on the second-row captain's chairs (if so equipped), which automatically slides and flips the seat forward. This may be conveniently simple, but the resulting gap isn't that big.
Cargo space also betters that of most competitors, even with the third-row raised. There's 21 cubic feet with all seats in place, versus the 16 to 18 range of most rival crossovers (it's even more than the mechanically related Hyundai Palisade that's jumbo in its own right). This is accomplished by removing a panel (stored outside the car) that lowers the floor by about 5 inches, but nevertheless, this difference in space can be the difference between an extra bag (or even person) coming along.
With all seats lowered, only the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse outdo the Telluride's 87 cubic feet of maximum space. Credit for this size and versatility should go to the Telluride's boxy shape, which is always a benefit when it comes to storing big, bulky things.
What are its performance and fuel economy?
Every 2021 Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. These are strong numbers for the segment. An eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel is an option. That system constantly alters the amount of power going to the front and rear axles, with the percentage of distribution differing depending on the selected drive mode. For instance, Sport splits power 65/35 front/rear, whereas Comfort and Snow have a 80/20 split. There's also a Lock mode best suited for off-roading, which keeps things 50/50. Towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds, which is typical for a large family crossover.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 19/24/21 with all-wheel drive. This is effectively the same as most competitors.
What's it like to drive?
The Telluride definitely doesn't follow in the footsteps of the Stinger or other sporty Kias that demonstrate sharp handling and even driving fun. There's lots of body roll, but it's not uncontrolled, as the suspension sets itself nicely through a corner while maintaining composure over big bumps or undulations. The steering, at least in Smart or Sport modes, is also impressively precise and provides confidence to the driver. The Comfort mode is too numb and allows too much play at speed.
In terms of ride quality, opting for the big 20-inch wheels can create some choppy reactions to certain road imperfections, but in general, we spent about five hours behind the wheel on rural highways and found the ride to be perfectly pleasant. Really, the Telluride strikes a great balance between comfort and driver confidence that should be perfect for many. It also, importantly, doesn't drive as big as its sizable dimensions would imply.
Power from its standard V6 engine is ample and similar to what you'll find in most competitors, though it certainly won't blow you away. Really, it's in keeping with the rest of the Telluride's driving experience: largely forgettable but also vice-free.
What more can I read about the Kia Telluride?
Our first complete drive of the 2020 Telluride, including a deeper dive look at its design, interior functionality and driving experience.
Senior Editor John Beltz Snyder spends some time in the family-friendly Telluride with his wife and son.
Putting the two largest three-row family crossovers to the test by stuffing as much luggage as we can behind their raised third rows. (Spoiler: the Telluride can't quite match the enormous Buick.)
It's not just one piece of technology. Rather, it consists of multiple layers of well-executed tech features that collectively make lane changes safer and easier.
What features are available and what's the price?
The price goes up a bit for 2021 as the base Telluride LX starts at $33,160, including the also-increased destination charge of $1,170. All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to every trim level.
Standard equipment isn't quite as generous as you might expect from a Kia, but is certainly in keeping for the segment. The LX includes 18-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights, rear privacy glass, proximity key and push-button start, remote ignition, simulated leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen, five USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and a six-speaker sound system. See the Safety section for the Telluride's full complement of advanced safety technologies.
We think opting for either the S or EX is a good idea as they add a number of indispensable upgrades. The Telluride S ($35,560) adds a sunroof, eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, roof rails and a choice of either second-row captain's chairs (seven passengers) or a bench seat (eight passengers, which is standard on the LX). It also includes 20-inch wheels. The Telluride EX ($38,560) goes back to the 18's but adds hands-free power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear temperature controls, leather upholstery, an eight-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats, second-row sunshades, wireless smartphone charging, more USB ports, integrated navigation and a 10.25-inch touchscreen.
The SX ($42,190) slathers on luxury features, including LED exterior lighting, expanded digital instruments, an upgraded driver seat and a Harmon Kardon sound system. It then really kicks thing up with its $2,300 Prestige package that adds heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and fancier leather among other items.
Finally, the new 2021 Telluride Nightfall Edition is really a package that can be added to either the EX or SX. It basically just adds black trim to anything that is otherwise silvery and/or shiny, including the 20-inch wheels. It costs $1,295.
You can find a full breakdown of the 2021 Telluride's features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.
What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?
The 2020 Telluride comes standard with a comprehensive array of safety equipment, including accident avoidance tech. Besides the usual airbags and stability aides, standard items include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, and a driver inattention warning system.
The enhanced blind-spot monitoring system included in the SX was named Autoblog Technology of the Year for its comprehensive, effective and not annoying layers of features designed to make lane changes safer and easier.
The Telluride received five out of five stars for overall and side crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and four stars for front protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible crash protection and crash prevention scores. Its base headlights got a "Poor" rating, which is typical, while its available upgrade headlights got an "Acceptable" rating.
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