2022 Kia Telluride SX: One-Year Ownership Verdict
When Kia first debuted the Telluride, we were excited (just like the other 300,000 people who have bought one so far). It was attractively styled, spacious, and surprisingly luxurious all for a competitive price. We were many years into owning a 2000 Toyota Land Cruiser as our family hauler, and it was starting to show its age. And its lack of hardly any modern safety features besides two front airbags was starting to weigh on this young father’s mind.
So, after a few days of intense driving homework, we, even after a brief 30-minute test drive, could tell the Telluride was something special. And the hunt began. Finding one near our home was all but impossible unless we wanted to pay $15-25K over sticker, even for a used one. So that was out. We expanded our search nationwide and, as fate, luck, and the blessings of God would have it, we found one, with a very minimal markup sitting on the lot in what once was my second home state of Maryland.
It was nearly the exact spec we wanted: a 2022 with the divisive “KN” logo (which I like), Wolf Grey paint, and the SX-Prestige trim. The only thing I wasn’t in love with was the black interior, I prefer the butterscotch tan option, but my wife and I both knew this was probably going to be as close as we could get to exactly what we wanted for this price. And we needed it right then. We were about to embark on a long road trip and didn’t want to corral the Land Crusier up I-15 again. So we pulled the trigger, my friend Kelly Overfelt arranged to ship, and it arrived in Utah just two days before we were leaving for a trip.
So, how has owning one of the most celebrated, popular, and in-demand family haulers in recent years, been?
In short: Awesome. It is everything you read and hear that it is.
After driving many crossovers, SUVs, and competitors of the Telluride, I am confident in saying it is one of the best family haulers on the market. A minivan might beat it in practicality, and something full-size will obviously squash it in towing capabilities and interior space (maybe), but overall the Telluride is an excellent value and wholeheartedly deserves its journalistic praise.
So, should you buy one? Obviously, yes. If you don’t need to tow a lot, and you don’t constantly need the abundant third-row and cargo space capabilities of something like a Suburban, you’re going to be very happy with the Telluride, especially if you spend over $50,000 for one with all the options. I’ve been in luxury brand cars costing the same, if not sometimes $10-30k more and the delta of difference between the two is always surprisingly small — and usually not worth it in my eyes.
But, there are some things I haven’t loved. Some might be deal breakers for you. For me, it’s a matter of the pros outweighing the cons and its strong value proposition. To replace it with something similar (e.g. a decently spec’d Wagoneer) would cost me about $20-25K more than I paid for the Telluride. So, for now, we’re sticking with the Telluride for the long haul.
Five things I haven’t loved after a year of ownership.
After nearly 15,000 miles, I still can’t make sense of the engine’s tuning. There’s not much power down low, and you have to put your foot in it to start feeling a sense of urgency. But then it’s almost too much too fast. I long for more power here, and more responsiveness. What I would give for the Stinger’s twin-turbo V6 in the Telluride.
It also makes the most unpleasant, growling/whirling Atkinson-cycle sounds I think I’ve ever heard while steady cruising on the interstate. There’s this near-constant “Wha-Wha-Wha-Wha” sound at certain speeds and it gets annoying on long road trips (of which we’ve taken several).
I get that this engine is fairly tried and true at this point, but the lack of character and refinement in it is disappointing, nonetheless.
Tied to my complaints about the engine is the transmission. Again, I’m sure it's in the name of reliability, but this relatively old-school 8-speed automatic can be sluggish and slow to respond at times. Putting the Telluride in Sport mode does remedy some of my complaints, but it trades them for other ones. Sport mode makes it almost too responsive, hanging on to gears way too long before shifting. Some refinement would be appreciated here as well.
The fuel economy
This, perhaps, is my biggest complaint about the Telluride. We average, doing about 80% city driving, about 14-15 mpg. It’s so bad. And at that rate, I’d rather be driving a TRX (whose values are dropping right now. So tempting…). 14 mpg is 5 mpg below its EPA estimate of 19 mpg in the city. Chalk it up to our higher elevation in SLC, the hilly area where we live, or the relatively old-school V6, but I can’t figure it out. It’s just plain inefficient in the city.
On road trips, it’s another story. When driving to Oregon or California and back we usually average about 28 mpg, which is 4 mpg better than the EPA estimate of 24 mpg for highway driving.
The Jekyll and Hyde fuel consumption attitude is bewildering. But, we haven’t had any issues with the engine so I guess that’s the price you pay for reliability?
The front seats
They’re firmer than you’re expecting. And after 10-12 hours of sitting in them, you’ll start to feel it. I wish they were a tad more plush and supportive. But, for daily driving, they do the job just fine.
No wireless Apple CarPlay
First-world problems I know, but come on -- why doesn’t the Telluride have wireless Apple CarPlay? The main jack you’ll want to use is frustratingly about a half-inch above the wireless charging pad, too, so you’ll probably never be using the charging pad if you have a larger phone. I’ve been in cars much cheaper than the loaded-up SX Telluride that had wireless Apple CarPlay and it was always so nice to have. Why it’s not here in a $50,000 luxury fighter is a bit perturbing.
One-year ownership verdict
That all said, I still wholeheartedly recommend the Kia Telluride. It is superb at hauling kids and adults around, even in the third row. The interior space and comfort is the stuff of engineering wizardry. The tech and luxury features are excellent. The interior is logical and intuitive. Everything just makes sense in the Telluride. And the smooth and serene driving experience is always a nice way to spend time.
15,000 miles in and we’ve had no problems. Just regular oil changes, so far. If you’re looking for a family hauler that’s not a minivan, and you don’t need to tow, the Telluride is hard to argue with. It does everything pretty well, all for a bargain price that many luxury brands can’t compete with.
Keep it coming, Kia.
About the author: Having owned everything from a DeLorean to an E46 BMW M3 and a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jason Bell is a lifelong car enthusiast who loves sharing his passions as a teacher, writer, speaker, and social media manager. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments/questions, or just to say "hi."
The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.