Telluride Tops Kia’s Potent SUV Line

CHATHAM, Mass. – Four years ago, Kia introduced its range-topping Telluride three-row sport-utility vehicle (SUV), but the Korean auto maker refuses to sit on its laurels infusing the 2023 version with several upgrades, as well as two off-road-skewed trim levels – the X-Line and X-Pro.

We recently spent a week in a top-of-the-range 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro. The X-Pro builds off the other new trim package, X-Line, bringing more robust trailering and off-road capabilities to the Georgia-built SUV.

Power to the people from an efficient V6

The heart of all Telluride models is the 3.8-liter V6 3.8L, V6, gasoline direct injection (GDI) double overhead camshaft engine. Running on regular gasoline, the tried-and-true powerplant produces 291 horsepower and 262 pounds-feet of torque.

This power flows through an automatic eight-speed transmission into the full-time all-wheel-drive system (AWD) with locking center differential. A rotary knob with central button (for engaging the diff lock) controls the Comfort/Eco/Sport/Smart/Snow driving modes which use different settings for powertrain, drivetrain and steering effort mapping to provide the desired driving experience. There was a noticeable difference in acceleration when selecting “Sport” mode, providing a quicker response to my right foot’s activities.

Despite playing with the different driving modes and using the comfort setting for much of the time, I saw 24 miles per gallon during the week, some 3 mpg better than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s overall rating (18 urban, 24 highway). This is a solid result for a large mid-size SUV weighing approximately 4,500 pounds driven in my aggressive style.

Sophisticated chassis handles its business

Smooth and quiet describes the atmosphere inside the Telluride while my partner and I navigated around the crowded, twisting roads heading to and from the Atlantic Ocean in Wellfleet, Mass. A lot of the credit for this goes to rigid unibody design and careful chassis engineering. A fully independent suspension setup with MacPherson-type struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar up front and multi-link with stabilizer bar in the rear.

The power-assisted, dual-diagonal, split-circuit braking system with anti-lock (ABS) features 13.4-inch vented rotors up front and 12.0 solid ones in the rear. The system also facilitates traction control, downhill-braking control, electronic-stability control, vehicle-stability management, electronic-parking brake and trailer-stability control.

The rotors live within, on the X-Pro model, 18-inch black-alloy wheels wearing 245/60 R18 aggressive-tread Continental all-terrain tires. (The cabin’s quiet environment is even more impressive considering the block tread of these tires, normally a major noise producer.)

Being an X-Pro version meant the review model featured 10mm greater ground clearance (8.4 inches), improved approach and departure angles compared to standard models; upgraded traction-control system; tow mode for enhanced trailering performance.

The engineering of the X-Line chassis and powertrain also allows for 5,500-pounds of towing capacity, some 500 pounds greater than the other variants.

Braking system a foundation for the ADAS suite

A comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) which Kia refers to as Drive Wise features and utilizes the automatic-emergency braking (AEB) system as a foundation, especially for the Forward Collision Avoidance (FCA) systems.

The list includes: blind-spot warning with parallel exit; blind-spot-view monitor; forward collision avoidance (FCA) with pedestrian and cyclist detection; FCA with junction turning detection; FCA lane-change oncoming traffic; FCA evasive-steering assist; forward-collision warning; Highway Driving Assist 2.0; Intelligent Speed Limit Assist; lane-departure warning; lane-following assist; lane-keeping assist; navigation-based smart cruise control; parking-distance warning (forward/reverse); parking-collision avoidance (reverse); rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist; surround-view monitor and rear-view monitor, and safe-exit assist.

The FCA systems are designed to detect vehicles which might be crossing an intersection (FCA-Junction Crossing) or turning left (FCA-Junction turning), for example, ahead of the Telluride. If the system detects a collision may be imminent, the system may apply the brakes to help slow the Telluride.

Thankfully, aside from systems like blind-spot, surround-view monitor and parking-assist systems, I had no chances to put most of these systems to test.

A technology-filled cabin

Kia does not call the Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro a luxury vehicle but it has a cabin filled with technology and amenities rivaling virtually any SUV on the market.

Dual 12.3 color screens live within the panoramic display stretching 36 inches from the left side of the dash to the center. The left screen projects the driver-selected cluster information while the center one features the infotainment system with standard navigation and vehicle-system controls (many operating in conjunction with well-located dash buttons below the display).

Sound amplification is courtesy of the 10-speaker Harmon Kardon Premium Audio System with subwoofer and external amplifier. Should the passengers in the second and third rows not want to hear the audio system, the new for 2023 Quiet Mode takes care of this. But they cannot ignore the driver should he or she need to communicate thanks to the new Driver Talk system which uses a microphone to enhance communications with those in the second and third rows.

The head-up display for 2023 grows from 8.5-inches to 10-inches. It can display speed, speed-limit, blind-spot warnings, smart cruise control information and navigation turn-by-turn information.

A three-zone automatic climate-control system takes care of the interior environment, supplemented by the heated and ventilated leather-covered seats in the first and second rows (individual seats in both rows). The steering wheel is both leather covered and heated (along with having comprehensive audio controls).

The premium Nappa leather seats and much of the dash and door trim is a rich, deep red/beige, part of the Terracotta Package of the three options ($295) on the review vehicle.

An SUV easy to live with

The seats are firm, comfortable, which can also describe the ride over everything but the most extreme road surfaces. Maneuvering around busy Cape Cod traffic, as well as the twisting roads found off the tourist venues, was smooth and reassuring; the Telluride handles like a smaller vehicle. The good visibility and plethora of ADAS make these activities a simple matter – this was an enjoyable vehicle in which we spent time.

As mentioned, the 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro represents the pinnacle of Kia’s offerings in the U.S. and as such offers virtually no options. The base price of $52,785 includes everything mentioned above – and lots more! The two additional options on the test vehicle, Midnight Lake Blue paint ($495) and carpeted floor mats ($210) along with the ($1,335) inland freight & handling charge brought the total to $55,120, a very fair, competitive, value price for a three-row, premium SUV.

Next week TBR Drives the 2023 Honda Pilot AWD Trailsport SUV.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.