A 1,000-mile round-trip road trip in a 2023 Kia Telluride in near-luxury and complete comfort
Table of Contents
Road-Trip Ready Telluride
2023 Telluride Pricing
Back Seats and Cargo Space
Ride and Handling
What’s New for 2023?
Why Buy the Kia Telluride?
I had just unpacked from a 1,000-mile round-trip road trip in a 2023 Kia Telluride and wasn’t ready for the drive to end. It was a holiday getaway with the girlfriend-wife and her sister and brother-in-law to spend Christmas with the sisters’ brother and wife in Santa Cruz. It was the quintessential getaway of four retirement-age friends rolling along in near luxury and complete comfort.
With its 291-horsepower V-6, there was plenty of power for secure acceleration — with all of us, our gear, and the Telluride’s all-wheel-drive curb weight of 4,482 pounds. Hefting such poundage still returned a combined fuel economy of 21.2 mpg to a max of 25.6 — on the recommended 87 octane.
To call the Telluride an SUV is almost disrespectful. The clumsy term with negative impact has endured from the early truck-based “sport utility” vehicles. And most of these were seldom sporty or provided much utility.
The test vehicle was an upper trim level Telluride SX-Prestige V-6 with all-wheel drive and the new-for-2023 X-Line treatment. The new X-Line and X-Pro trim levels have some off-roading traits. X-Line and X-Pro trims have a slightly raised ride height (about a third of an inch), 20-inch black wheels, a unique black grille, trailering tow mode, and upgraded traction control for better control on gravel and sand.
Somebody could forgive such a blunt front end for some interior wind noise, but the Telluride is better soundproofed than some luxury SUVs I’ve tested. Conversations do not wash out in a wall of white noise or road harshness, thank you very much in part to the Michelin tires.
With three rows, the Telluride has seats for seven with the second-row captains’ chairs or eight seats with a second-row bench. The three-position third row is kid class in legroom, but it folds flat into the floor, making it ideal for lots of luggage. We could stow all the suitcases, the cooler of homemade foods and goodies for holiday meals, and the presents. It all fit below the rear window line, but if cargo must be stacked to the headliner, the Telluride has a digital rearview camera that gives a wide-open rearward view. (It is a welcome feature when pulling a trailer.)
There is no need for running boards to climb aboard (even with the X-Line lift). And all four of us had captain’s chairs, heated and ventilated, with rear side sunshades. The front seats are power-adjustable, including lumbar, with seat-bottom thigh extension for the driver.
Telluride is sold in 10 trim levels: LX, S, EX, EX-X-Line, SX, SX-X-Line, SX-X-Pro, SX Prestige, SX Prestige X-Line, SX Prestige X-Pro. Entry-level LX, S, EX trims are front-wheel drive; AWD is optional ($2,000) and includes Michelin tires. Trims of SX and above have standard, active on-demand AWD.
The powertrain for all trims is a 291-horsepower, Atkinson cycle 3.8-liter, direct-injected V-6, and eight-speed automatic transmission. The tow rating is 5,000 pounds or 5,500 for the SX X-Pro.
Starting prices range from $37,025 for the LX to $54,120 for the top-line SX Prestige X-Pro. Today’s SX-Prestige X-Line tester starts at $53,120, and with options for Wolf Gray paint ($495) and carpeted floor mats ($210), the sticker price was $53,825. All manufacturers’ retail pricing includes the $1,335 freight charge from West Point, Ga.
Kia’s new vehicle warranty coverage is 5 years or 60,000 miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance. The powertrain has coverage of 10 years or 100,000 miles.
Find current pricing and incentives here.
Because the cabin has door-to-door shoulder room of 61.6 inches, interior roominess is maximized.
The contemporary cabin design is open with contemporary with design elements of brushed metal trim and light gray wood in the tester. The plastics have an appealing texture, with attentive assembly to all panels. The headliner, roof pillars, and visors are wrapped in soft microsuede. Large sliding sun visors have large, covered mirrors.
There are 39.5 inches of front headroom and long legroom of 44.1 inches. Sightlines are open and further empowered by the around-view camera. (The Telluride is a big vehicle, but the camera system with an overhead side view is empowering when parking and backing out of the space.)
The shift console is efficiently designed with a large charging bin with a wireless pad, 12-volt plug and two USBs. The drive-mode controller (comfort, sport, smart, eco, etc.) takes up just a small square of space, with the nearby electric parking brake switch.
Sturdy grab rails flank each side of the console, and there is yet another USB in the dual-level armrest box.
There is no confusion when reaching for climate controls or to access the navigation system, radio or other media choices. But the navi system was a struggle to use, so we used the Waze smartphone app.
Telluride has almost as many USB ports as cup holders (12). There are up to six USB chargers, five of which are the more modern C-Type. But there is one “old-style” A-Type USB in the e-bin.
The second-row captain’s chairs are road-trip ready. They recline and, in the SX, are heated and ventilated. Legroom is grand at 42.4 inches maximum. With no step rail, placing a child in a car seat is much easier.
The back side of the front armrest console has a pair of cup holders; down low is a 12-volt plug and a 115-volt, 150-watt household outlet. Plus, there is a charging USB notched into the front seatback sides, with a bag hook in each seatback.
An electronic AC controller in the headliner allows control of fan speed, vent flow, and temperature; the controller panel also packages a pair of large reading lights. The moonroof is a welcome skylight, but it would be nice to have a separate sunshade control switch, not just the main controller up front.
Entry to the third row is via a one-touch button to tilt and slide the captain’s seats, with a nearby grab handle for leverage. The three-seat bench, with legroom of 31.4 inches, is snug for adults but fun for youngsters. The seats recline, and the area is stocked with reading lights, cup or box holders, and two more charging USBs.
The cargo area is 4 feet wide and square with up to 7 feet in length with both rows folded, but the captain’s chairs prevent a contiguous floor, such as for sleeping. Behind the third row is 21 cubic feet of grocery capacity. And below the floor is some usable basement space, with storage for the roller shade.
I’ve long believed in electric and electrified vehicles, so a V-6 combustion engine might seem indulgent. But it is an asset for a vehicle of this size. The Telluride’s combustion V-6 uses the Atkinson cycle design for fuel efficiency. Together with auto stop-start at idle, the direct-injected engine can be considered a mild hybrid. With 262 foot-pounds of torque at 5,200 rpm, the power response is unhesitating in Sport mode and guarded in Eco mode.
In this round-trip road trip of almost 1,000 miles, my average fuel economy ranged from 21.2 mpg to a high of 25.6. The sweet spot for interstate cruising with cruise control was a consistent 22.8 mpg. With that mileage, the 18.8-gallon tank could provide a cruising range of around 425 miles.
I couldn’t complain about the fuel economy with a cabin of four adults, tooling along between 70 and 80 mph. The Telluride SX curb weight is 4,524 pounds, plus another 700 pounds or so with people and luggage.
I drove the entire trip in Eco mode, thinking that would stretch the mileage. But I also was surprised to find that Eco mode was capable of stiff acceleration when needed, but it wasn’t all that quick to respond to an urgent demand for get-going power.
The transmission also has modes for Smart, Sport, and Comfort. Each mode applies different calibrations for the engine, transmission, and steering effort.
When I’m creeping along in commuter traffic, I dial up Sport mode. There is enough added kick to guard my line against impatient drivers who have to try to cut in front.
In Eco mode, the steering weight is comfortable and appreciated when hands are on the wheel for 8 hours. The wheel has an easy roll in tight parking situations but was never vague at speed. And the suspension and Michelin tires help the Telluride track steady at high speeds without wandering. Driving the Telluride SX X-Line — with self-leveling rear suspension — never felt heavy, nor was there body lean in cornering. For my passengers, there was no mention of queasiness — and that’s high praise for a road-trip vehicle or for parents with children prone to motion sickness.
Four-wheel disc brakes are reassuring with 13.4-inch vented rotors front and solid 12-inch rotors rear.
Kia’s advanced driver assist systems contribute to a much more relaxed driving experience.
Highway Driving Assist 2 (standard on upper trim levels) is a semi-autonomous system that requires both hands on the wheel. But the vast network of safety technologies functions as an array of eyes to keep the Telluride on course. The system gives accurate lane centering, and not once did the Telluride drift wide in cornering or cross the highway lines or Botts dots.
Among the safety features are seven air bags, navigation-based smart cruise control, and Intelligent Speed Limit Assist. The list of driver-assist technologies is highlighted below in ADAS Technologies.
Active On-Demand AWD
Kia’s active on-demand all-wheel-drive system distributes torque between the front and rear wheels. Depending on road conditions and driver action, the system continually redistributes the amount of power transferred fore and aft.
In everyday driving, Eco and Comfort modes can direct 20 to 35 percent of the power to the rear wheels. Sport, Smart, and Snow modes can deliver up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels. AWD Lock”sends power evenly to all four wheels.
The Kia Telluride was a smash success when it debuted in the spring of 2019 as a 2020 model. It had the right look and the right stance — substantial and engaging. And 2023 brings a range of updates for Telluride.
The 2023 Kia Telluride has some freshened exterior styling, mainly for a more rugged yet refined look, Kia says. Among the tweaks are the following:
- Revised vertical headlamp design with optional LED headlights and fog lights;
- New front fascia and grille;
- Revised taillights and new rear fascia and trim;
- New wheel designs for every trim;
- Three new exterior colors: Midnight Lake Blue, Dawning Red, Jungle Green;
- X-Line trim replaces the former Telluride Nightfall Edition;
- Downhill Brake Control, which helps keep a controlled descent on steep roads.
New 2023 Convenience Technologies
- Standard upgraded 12.3-inch navigation screen (increased from 10.3 inches);
- Optional full display mirror with HomeLink;
- Optional Smart Power Liftgate with “Auto Close” function;
- Kia Connect services for embedded connectivity:
- Available Digital Key: Allows compatible iPhone, Apple Watch, and Samsung Galaxy smart devices to be used as a virtual vehicle key to lock, unlock and drive. Digital keys can be shared with friends and family over text messages on available devices;
- In-vehicle Wi-Fi Hotspot connects up to five devices to 4G LTE-based internet;
- Automatic over-the-air updates for maps and infotainment;
- Kia Access App for Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy smartwatch to access such features as remote climate control and door lock/unlock;
- Stolen vehicle tracking and immobilization capability;
- Connected Routing: The server-based system will calculate the optimal route using real-time and predicted traffic information. The cloud system uses past driving information to learn the driver’s preferred route;
- Smart Speaker Integration: Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant can remotely control some functions, such as remote start.
Expanded ADAS Technologies
The 2023 Advanced Driver Assist Systems add several new technologies:
Intelligent Speed Limit Assist — ISLA: Can detect a road’s maximum speed limit in some cases, provide alerts to the driver and even limit the speed of the car depending on the settings (standard);
Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control – Curve — NSCC-C: In certain circumstances, the smart cruise control can lower the vehicle’s speed proactively before upcoming curves in the road (available);
Highway Driving Assist 2 — HDA 2: A driving convenience system that helps to maintain a predetermined distance from the vehicle detected in front, keep the vehicle within detected lane markers on certain highways, and assist in lane changes under certain conditions (optional; HDA 1.5 is standard);
Forward Collision Avoidance – Junction Turning — FCA-JT: Detects oncoming vehicles while turning left at an intersection (junction). If the system detects that a collision might be likely, the system may apply the brakes to help slow or stop the car (standard);
Forward Collision Avoidance – Junction Crossing — FCA-JC: Is designed to detect crossing vehicles while passing through an intersection. If the system detects that a collision might be likely, the system may apply the brakes to help slow or stop the car (available);
Forward Collision Avoidance – Lane Change Oncoming — FCA-LO: Designed to give steering input to help prevent collisions if the system detects oncoming vehicles while passing other vehicles (available);
Forward Collision Avoidance – Lane Change Side — FCA-LS: Provides steering input to help prevent collisions if the system detects cycles or vehicles in front of the car while changing lanes (available);
Forward Collision Avoidance – Evasive Steering Assist — FCA-ESA: Gives steering input to help prevent collisions if the system detects obstacles, pedestrians, or vehicles in front of the car while driving straight (available).
The Telluride is big but efficient, even nimble for a vehicle that is 16.4 feet long. After 12 hours in the saddle, the seats began to feel like leather saddles. But only seat massagers would have prevented that. Still, I stepped out at fuel stops without stiffness or back pain. And I was always eager to climb aboard and continue the adventure.
After our trip, it was a sad wave goodbye to the Telluride. If it had fit easily in my garage, it would have been a keeper.
Body style: large 7-seat, 5-door SUV
Engine: 291-hp, direct-injected 3.8-liter V-6; 262 lb.-ft. torque at 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with active on-demand AWD
Fuel economy: 18/24/21 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane recommended
BY THE NUMBERS
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Fuel tank: 18.8 gallons
Cargo space: 21 to 46 cubic feet
Front head/leg room: 39.5/41.4 inches
2nd-row head/leg room: 38.8/42.4 inches
3rd-row head/leg room: 37.8/31.4 inches
Length/wheelbase: 196.9/114.2 inches
Width/height: 78.3/ 70.5 (with roof rails) inches
Curb weight: 4,524 pounds
Turning circle: 38.8 feet
Telluride SX-Prestige Standard equipment includes: smart key entry with push-button ignition and remote start, digital key (for smartphone app use), digital rearview mirror, Nappa-leather trimmed seat upholstery, 10-way power front seats with driver-seat memory, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, dual panoramic 12.3-inch panoramic displays with navigation, wireless phone charging pad, surround view monitor and blind-spot view monitor, head-up display, Kia Connect with free 1-year trial, Harman-Kardon audio system;
SX-Prestige exterior features include: 20-inch alloy wheel, dual sunroofs (2nd row fixed), LED headlights, smart power liftgate, power-folding side mirrors with turn signals, roof rails, and rear privacy glass.
Standard safety features and technologies include: 7 air bags, Forward Collision Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian & Cyclist Detection, high beam assist, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot collision warning, driver attention warning, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, parking distance warning – reverse, lane following assist, safe exit assist;
Kia Drive Wise Driver-Assist Technologies: Forward collision avoidance (cyclist and junction turning), blind spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, safe exit assist, highway driving assist 2, parking distance warning forward and reverse, smart cruise control with stop-and-go, parking collision avoidance assist, reverse.
Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line base price: $53,120, including $1,335 freight charge; price as tested $53,825
Options on test vehicle: Wolf Gray paint $495; carpeted floor mats $210
Where assembled: West Point, Ga.
Warranties: 5-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain