KIA adds power and luxury to new Telluride

John Gilbert

You know those trendy new “tiny houses” that seem to be sprouting up everywhere? They are true tiny, but they seem to be just big enough to take care of basic needs. Well, if you bought one of those, you probably also need to consider buying a Kia Telluride for your family vehicle.

Nearly every auto company builds SUVs these days, and some of them seem to keep growing larger and larger by the year. That thought was driven home to me, so to speak, the other day when I walked past a new Toyota Highlander, parked near my home. It was brand new, and it was amazingly large, especially for a midsize entry in Toyota’s vast arsenal of SUVs.

That still didn’t prepare me for walking out to climb into the Kia Telluride i’d been test-driving for the past week. Unlike Toyota, which makes several SUVs larger than the Highlander, the Telluride is Kia’s endeavor to build a large SUV, and it stands as the largest vehicle in Kia’s competitive brigade of SUVs.

As I approached the Telluride and Highlander parked next to each other, I was surprised that the “gigantic” Telluride was shorter and a bit smaller than the “midsize” Highlander.

How can that be? Well, as with many Japanese companies, Toyota has answered the call from consumers to build them a large-enough vehicle to haul the kids to hockey practice, your wife to the shopping center, or the family on a trip to the Pacific Ocean. So the Highlander has grown. Meanwhile in South Korea, they have stayed with the concept of building big enough then leaving it to stand as big enough.

Somehow, once inside the Telluride you feel like it’s enormous, with plenty of room for six adults, or fewer adults and a third-row full of kids. You might have to drive around the block and come back and find that Highlander to park next to for comparison evidence.

When Hyundai agreed to take over Kia more than a decade ago, the conglomerate usually followed a pattern of Hyundai coming out with a car or SUV, and then a few months later Kia coming out with its own version of the same vehicle. It worked with, say, the Hyundai Sonata and then the Kia Optima, which has undergone a few name changes while continuing to be a solid midsize sedan value.

But when it came to the corporate idea to build a large SUV that could be a worthy alternative to a Tahoe or Suburban, the plan was altered and Kia got to go first. 

The Telluride came out several months before the Hyundai Palisade was introduced, and a curious thing happened. The Telluride won SUV of the Year, while the Palisade was ranked about in the middle, by the buff magazines on up to Consumer Reports. Even though the two are virtual twins, with the same platform, drivetrain and interior dimensions, and identical performance figures.

Year after year, the pattern has stayed the same, with the Telluride ranked No. 1 among three-row SUVs, and the Palisade down a few notches, even though about the only difference is the grille and headlights.
My recent test-drive was with the 2024 Kia Telluride, which comes equipped with the new and enlarged corporate V6 measuring 3.8 liters compared to the previous 3.6 displacement. It has 291 horsepower ban 262 foot-pounds of torque, which is enough power to cover 0-60 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds, and allows you to tow something more than  5,000 pounds. It also was the top of the line SX-P model, and the top of the whole food-chain X-Line.

The Telluride in its Wolf Gray paint adds various features with the X-Line, including 20-inch black alloy wheels inside those all-season tires, 8.6 inches of ground clearance, self-leveling rear suspension, tow mode and all sorts of exterior trim, such as the gloss-black grille, with its giant “KIA” badge right in the middle.

With everything included, the sticker price of the Telluride SX-P X-Line is $54,540, which certainly puts it at the bargain end of the numerous three-row, luxury SUVs on the market.
The Telluride is a treat to drive, because it “drives small,” as they say. Some vehicles feel big and cumbersome, the Telluride is big — but not gigantic — and it handles and steers more like a sports sedan.

That is aided by a little rotating knob on the center console. When we first got the Tellulride, I mentioned to my wife, Joan, that it felt a little uncoordinated, almost as if all the parts weren’t connected to each other. She said, “Why don’t you adjust the mode?” 

Properly stung, I switched it to “Sport,” and immediately felt the steering and suspension tighten up — and feel more coordinated.

Keep turning the knob and you can get Smart, Sport, Comfort, Eco and Snow. After Sport helped us appreciate the Telluride’s agility, we tried all the settings and agreed that Eco was good, and Smart was better, and we could always switch back to Sport if we anticipated needing a little extra boost.

The EPA fuel economy estimates are 18 city and 24 highway, but we managed to get 22-24 in nearly all conditions and nearly all settings. 

The other noteworthy thing was that once on the freeway, the big tires and Kia suspension made for an incredibly smooth ride, rendering the rough patches to being nonexistent.

The Harman Kardon premium audio system filled the interior with sound, and made it the perfect spot to listen to Sirius radio broadcasts of the various Stanley Cup Playoff series going on. 

And all the standard Kia/Hyundai safety features are included, as well as a large sunroof that has a fixed rear panel for a better look at those rumored Northern Lights we keep hearing about.

Also, once you move into your “tiny home,” you might crave your next chance to experience the luxurious and solid interior of Kia’s littlest biggest SUV.