New Telluride is too attractive for its own good

John Gilbert

A few years ago, I was on an auto introduction trip to Colorado where we drove among the various peaks and valleys, and I remember well the little town of Telluride, which is one of the locations of one of Colorado’s many legendary ski resorts.
So when Kia came out with a classy and full-sized SUV and named it the Telluride, I always make the connection that its size, capabilities and great looks makes it achieve all the snob-appeal of its namesake town.
Getting up to Telluride is a chore in winter time because snow at such high altitude comes down in feet, not inches, and the highways are readily blocked after blizzards.
The Telluride SUV, of course, could probably get through the worst of those winter storms and make it to the resort suite of your choice, where you could relax in comfort, warmth and security. Even if you didn’t go skiing.
The accolades have been pouring in for the Kia Telluride, which has acquired various rankings as the best 3-row SUV in the industry, the best LOOKING 3-row SUV in the industry, and the best-performing as well as the best family vehicle.
The rave reviews started as soon as the Telluride came out, three years ago, and never let up.
So impressive are the reviews that the partnership between Kia and Hyundai have made a curious disconnect between the South Korean manufacturers.
For several years, since Hyundai began overseeing Kia, the two shared vehicles, with each getting versions of new products. When the Telluride came out, Hyundai sort of sat back, like a proud patriarch, and watched Telluride’s success while its own Palisade was held for several months before being introduced.

To this date, while they are identical under the surface, the Palisade has never overtaken, or even caught up, with the Telluride, and various magazines including Consumer Reports lists both of them as being among the best, but ranks the Telluride higher.
The 2023 Telluride I spent a week test-driving recently was a singular beauty. It was the SX-Prestige model, which is top of the line, and includes all sorts of fashionable features inside to make sure owners and occupants alike are impressed.
Despite its popularity and achievements, the revised new Telluride SX-Prestige carrie a list price of $55,120 off a $52,785 base price, which ranks as moderate when it stands up against much more expensive – and less well-equipped – vehicles from competitors.
The only options on my tester were $495 for the “Midnight Lake Blue” paint that was a unique shade above navy but below royal in penetrating-sense shade, plus $295 for the Terracotta interior color package, and $210 for floor mats.
Making the vehicle stand out more were the 18-inch black X-Pro alloy wheels with their all-terrain tires, accompanied by other X-Pro exterior styling bits, which lift it above the standard trim upgrades of the SX-P all-wheel-drive features.
The heart of the matter comes inside, where the seats make you want to nestle back in those buckets and relax, which you can do if you let your wife, or someone else, drive while you select the passenger seat or one of the richly appointed rear buckets or the way-back third row, which turns it into a 7-passenger chariot.

But driving the Telluride is such fun you may also not allow anyone else behind the wheel. Its responsive power comes from a 3.8-liter direct-injected V6 engine and a hearty 8-speed automatic transmission that shifts as smoothly as silk.
We didn’t make it as far as Telluride, but our hillsides in Duluth were covered with 30 inches of snow that fell while I had the perfect vehicle to take it on. The heated seats and steering wheel were welcome when the temperature dipped below freezing and stayed there, and turning through all that snow to escape from our block-long driveway at the Gilbert Compound were the perfect preview to the treacherous roadways I would have to take on to get downtown from our perch on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

I didn’t mind it staying cold after all the snow, because the clean and beautiful blue Telluride could stay clean without concern for dodging the slush and crud that warmer weather from a thaw would guarantee.
Of course, all the many safety devices were in place – forward collision avoidance, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic warning, safe exit and highway driving assist, parking distance warning front and rear, parking collision avoidance assist, all blend perfectly with the plane-keeping assist and obvious assets of the active all-wheel-drive system.

It was great to revisit the Telluride to note the subtle upgrades Kia has used to keep the Telluride at the top of the SUV chain, and with all the power the 3.8 V6 puts out, fuel economy is estimated as 18  city and 24 miles per gallon highway.
I admit we didn’t get up to 24 because we gave in to the temptation of using the remote start to warm up the vehicle before dashing through the snow.
All wasn’t perfect, however, although the Telluride and I were blameless in what happened late in our week. After attending a press conference for a hockey weekend downtown Duluth, I decided to drive out to 27th Avenue West, where a wonderful little bakery named “Duluht’s Best Bread” is located on Grand Avenue. The bread is great, as are other delicacies, but the one drawback is there are no places to park at the corner shop. So I parked second in line facing east on Grand Avenue, ahead of a fairly new Honda Pilot.

The Telluride has this great feature where you can check the side mirror to make sure nothing is coming before you get out, and because of the excess accumulation of snow, the piles of white stuff narrowed the usual thoroughfare of Grand Avenue significantly.
When the mirror showed all-clear i hopped out, clicked the remote lock, and headed for the walk-up window to buy a loaf of cranberry-walnut bread, sliced please. I took it and walked back to the car, and the first thing I saw was that the left outside mirror I had just used was hanging, mortally wounded, from a couple of electrical wires, useless and dangling in a way that could slap against the door.

At first I thought a truck or something might have hit it, but extremely unlikely. I also knew that the Kia of Duluth dealership was only a few blocks away, and I would hurry there for aid, About a block ahead, I spotted two teen-age boys walking along and having a good time on their school lunch break. Because of the snow piled on the sidewalks, they were cavorting along in the street. I also realized they had walked past the Honda Pilot and the Telluride on the street side when they passed where we were parked.

And, sadly, I thought of how times had changed. In days long gone, teenagers might pull a prank that was funny or annoying, but apparently these two subscribed to the new philosophy that no prank is worthwhile unless they damage something.
One of the two obviously spotted this beautiful blue, and clean, and brand-new vehicle, and couldn’t resist throwing an elbow flipper that was hard enough to tear off the outside mirror and leave it dangling.
I only wish I had taken less than the three minutes I left the car, because I would have caught them in the act.
I entered Kia of Duluth and talked to the woman who was service manager at the time, explaining how it was not my car, but was a Kia corporate press-fleet vehicle that I was test-driving. The problem was I had only the weekend left with the car and i couldn’t risk driving it with that dangling mirror. She got her crew to remove the mirror – although with all the wiring, the task required removing the door and disconnecting everything before removing the mirror. She worked it out with the dealership’s management and they agreed to do the work with no charge.

Is it possible to make a vehicle too attractive? To have sweetly flowing lines and contours that all are integrated into an overall package, detailed with a unique new paint color and details that not only attract customers but, alas, might also attract the darker side of our society?
My recent week road-testing the 2023 Kia Telluride would indicate that yes, it can be too good-looking to all. It doesn’t mean we have to revise how we design vehicles, but it does mean we need to alter the warped thought processes of those punks who think anything that looks that good should  be ruined by some damage they could inflict.