Kia Motors America’s largest vehicle ever – the Telluride – has been awarded 2020 SUV of the Year by MotorTrend. With its comfortable and functional interior, the Telluride stood out as a well-rounded product that meets the needs of today’s modern family, while its terrific value solidified it as a winner in the SUV segment.
“The Telluride has been an undeniable success since its launch earlier this year, with an impressive number of consumers rediscovering Kia in the highly competitive SUV segment and more than 45,000 units sold to-date,” said Michael Cole, president, Kia Motors America. “Earning MotorTrend’s coveted SUV of the Year award is an honor and a historic moment for the brand, serving to further reinforce Kia’s transformation to a world-class automaker.”
Designed in California and assembled in Georgia, the 2020 Telluride’s bold and boxy shape and sophisticated exterior accents convey a spirit of adventure and possibility. That sentiment is strengthened by its engineering, delivering an enjoyable and confidence-inspiring driving experience. The mid-size SUV offers impressive interior luxury and an upscale cabin, complemented by an array of advanced technology and safety systems featuring standard Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist Rear, Lane Following Assist, Rear Occupant Alert, Safe Exit Assist, Forward Collision Assist and available Highway Drive Assist, Driver Talk, multi-Bluetooth Connectivity and more.
“This year’s MotorTrend SUV of the Year competition was one of the most competitive we’ve ever had, which makes Kia Telluride’s win all the more significant,” said MotorTrend Editor-in-Chief Edward Loh. “Telluride absolutely nails our awards criteria – it’s gorgeous, spacious, technology-laden, and offers a great ride for an astonishingly fair price. Congratulations to Kia and the Telluride team.”
With a more than 20-year history, the MotorTrend SUV of the Year award is one of the most sought-after honors by global automotive manufacturers. SUV of the Year judges are comprised of MotorTrend staff as well as two guest judges, Johan de Nysschen, former head of Audi of America, Infiniti Motor Co., and Cadillac division and Tom Gale, former head of Chrysler design. Vehicles are evaluated against six key criteria: safety, efficiency, value, advancement in design, engineering excellence and performance of intended function to determine the finalists and ultimately, the winners.
All Telluride models come with an impressive complement of passive and active safety features, with technology such as active cruise control, lane keeping assist, a forward collision alert system that also recognizes pedestrians, rear cross-traffic alert, and torque vectoring by brake standard even on the base LX.
The SX comes equipped with Kia's camera-based blind-spot monitor, which shows a high-def, wide-angle image of the appropriate side of the vehicle on the digital instrument panel when the turn signal is activated. It's a great feature for a quick extra check when changing lanes on the freeway and invaluable in crowded cities where cyclists can suddenly materialize alongside while you're making a right-hand turn.
Even with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, a large three-row SUV with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine under the hood will never be a paragon of fuel efficiency. The Telluride's EPA fuel consumption numbers—20/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined for front-wheel-drive models and 19/24/21 mpg city/highway/combined for all-wheel-drive models—are right on average for the segment.
The base Telluride LX has an MSRP of $32,785. For that you get 18-inch alloy wheels and a ton of equipment—ranging from niceties like air conditioning and a leather-bound steering wheel to Kia's 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android-compatible UVO infotainment system interface and five USB charge ports. And, as mentioned, the price includes a full suite of active safety technologies and driver assistance aids. Plus, there's room aboard for six sprawling passengers (it'll fit eight, in a pinch), with a 60/40 split-folding second row and a reclining third row that provides ample room for three preteen children.
The base Kia Telluride is a terrific value as a family vehicle. But so is upgrading to the $42,585 Telluride SX. Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, a thunderous Harman Kardon surround sound audio system, dual sunroofs, and a 12-way adjustable driver's seat with memory.
Add just three key options—all-wheel drive ($2,000); the towing package ($795), which adds self-leveling rear suspension; and the SX Prestige package ($2,000), which includes a head-up display, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and the soft Nappa leather trim—and it's an impressively smooth and quiet, lavishly equipped, and beautifully finished SUV that puts even ritzy rides like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator on notice.
Advancement in Design
The Telluride is the largest SUV yet from Kia, measuring 2.8 inches longer overall than its predecessor, with a 0.2-inch-longer wheelbase. But it wears its size well thanks to exterior styling that is both confident and sophisticated. The large grille makes a statement without being overbearing, and the headlights have been pulled back from the corners to visually reduce the front overhang. "The imposing stance and good proportions impressively disguise the dash-to-axle ratio inherent to the front-wheel-drive architecture," guest judge Johan de Nysschen said.
On the bodyside, simple surfaces mostly tell their own story instead of becoming a stage for entertainment riven with random cuts and lines. The greenhouse is subtly sporty, amplifying the slight rake to the D-pillar without compromising practicality. The rear graphic, bracketed by comma-like taillights, is strong and distinctive. Even the base LX model gets jewelry such as the contrasting silver panels at the lower edges of the front and rear fascias and the brightwork around the greenhouse and at the base of the doors.
The interior is just as confident and as sophisticated as the exterior. Again, even the base LX trim's interior looks well equipped and well finished. As for the range-topping SX: "I keep looking around the cabin and reminding myself this SUV costs only 47 grand," executive editor Mark Rechtin said after he climbed into our tester's Dune Brown Nappa leather-trimmed interior. "It feels like a rustic-modernist house of a millionaire rancher."
The Telluride shares its platform and mechanicals with the new Hyundai Palisade There's only one powertrain option—the 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 with an eight-speed automatic—but buyers can choose to upgrade from the standard front-wheel-drive drivetrain to all-wheel drive on all four available trims. It's a $2,000 option.
And while most behemoth SUVs must sacrifice steering and handling for comfort, "It drives so much smaller than it is," Seabaugh said. "It feels like a good two-row crossover, with crisp turn-in and feel for the segment, excellent ride quality, and great body control." Its suspension is just a tad bouncy, but gusting crosswinds hardly fazed the Telluride when driving at 100 mph on our high-speed oval.
But it was on the gnarly, grainy, chattery, chunky surfaces on our 28-mile test loop outside Tehachapi where the big Kia really impressed the judges. Editor-in-chief Ed Loh praised its "exceptional quietness and smoothness," and de Nysschen noted that "suspension compliance and ride comfort are its strengths."
Performance Of Intended Function
Smartly styled, loaded with standard equipment, roomy and pleasant to drive, and, to cap it all, an astonishingly good value, the 2020 Telluride is one of the most compelling family SUVs on the market today. Performance of intended function? Nailed it.
That's the real genius of our 2020 SUV of the Year. A great mass-market, mid-price family SUV like the Kia Telluride is a very, very hard product to execute. We'll posit that it's harder, in fact, than making a good luxury SUV—where the price premium afforded by the badge gives designers and engineers more spending headroom on equipment and tech that improve performance and refinement, along with perceived quality and luxury.