Review: The Kia Telluride is so worthy of its praise, I bought one
Of the last several years, few SUVs have garnered the kind of recognition and awards that the Kia Telluride has. In a three-peat win, Kelley Blue Book has again just named the Kia Telluride as its best buy for a three-row SUV, in addition to accolades from Car and Driver, Motor Trend, North American Car of the Year, and others.
And buyers have caught on. As of November 2021, Kia had sold over 86,000 units — far outpacing the demand. If there is a hot car on the market right now, the Kia Telluride is it — and we wanted one.
A few months ago, I wrote how our family car, our 2000 Toyota Land Cruiser was starting to lose its appeal for our family’s needs. It was a sad realization, we’ve enjoyed our Cruiser, but my wife and I both knew it was time to move on. And what a year to make a purchase! With the chip shortage and supply chain issues, it was going to prove difficult to find what we wanted at a price we were ok with — especially given that we wanted the most popular car in America (I know, very original).
Thus ensued a dedicated online search. I started locally with Utah’s excellent KSL Cars listing service that at any given time has about 50,000 - 70,000 cars listed. This proved to be laughable and exemplative of the Kia Telluride’s demand nationwide. The few local listings I found were used models selling up to $18,000 more than the original MSRP. Pivoting, I called the local Kia dealerships about reserving a new one, and each of them said their reservations were six months out and, unless you ordered directly, were charging $5,000 - $10,000 in markup. They offered to order one for me at MSRP, but the wait for one with the SX package could be a “year to 18 months.”
Hanging up the phone, I knew finding “the one” was going to be an arduous ordeal that no doubt would take me out of state. Diverting my searches to Autotempest, I began calling out-of-state dealerships. I must have called two or three dozen in a day, each with a higher markup than the last. Exasperated, I decided to come back to the search the next day.
Buying out of state
The next day I found it. The “one.” It was a brand new 2022 Wolf Grey SX Nightfall Telluride located in my home away from home, Maryland.
Listed very close to MSRP, I thought it must be a mistake in the listing (most were listed with a minimum $8,000 - $10,000 markup) and, surely it couldn’t still be available. As it turned out, the pricing was accurate and it was still available. I hated the idea of paying anything above MSRP, but this wasn’t much, and we needed a car immediately. Worst case if we hated it we could flip it back in Utah and make some money. So, I called the salesman and began the purchase process.
After a painless experience with Safford Kia in Salisbury, MD, the Telluride was on a truck (thank you, Kelly Overfelt, at Elite Auto Logistics!) and on its way to Utah.
There aren’t words that can accurately describe the experience of driving something so new and luxurious after living with a 22-year-old Land Cruiser for six years, but it made an excellent first impression. My wife was so happy and still is.
So, after two months of ownership, how is the Kia Telluride? Is it worth the hype? Read on for our experience.
Smooth and effortless
The Kia Telluride is shockingly smooth to drive. The suspension is just taut enough to give you some semblance of handling, but it truly is a pleasure to drive around town and on road trips. The day after we took delivery of the Telluride, we embarked on a road trip up to the Pacific Northwest. Setting out at about 4:00 am, the serenity we experienced was otherworldly. Very little road noise comes through. The extra thick glass in the front windshield and driver and passenger side windows did its job. The headlights are so bright, it was illuminating to see so much of the road in front of us. The seats, while not the best I’ve sat in, are supportive and have some of the best heating elements I’ve ever felt.
The technology goodies are also excellent, if a bit sensitive. The Highway Driving Assist cruise control was especially cool. The Telluride nearly drove itself for hours at a time, keeping me centered in the lanes and properly distanced from other cars. I don’t use it much in heavy traffic, though.
The Telluride is good around town and great on the freeway. We averaged 26 MPG on our trip. Not bad for being fully loaded with gear, two kids, and traveling at 80 MPH for long stretches.
Impressive, intuitive interior space
Just yesterday I had my wife, two kids, mom and dad, and sister all loaded in the Telluride, and we were comfortable. Coming from the Cruiser, the Telluride feels and looks smaller but somehow is much larger inside. Whatever wizardry the designers and engineers at Kia have conjured has made for a very spacious interior that eschews its compact packaging. I’ve thought a lot about how Kia has packaged the interior and it’s just darned impressive, especially considering larger SUVs that seem to have less space inside.
Kia has also done an excellent job in making the interior intuitive enough for anyone to use. All the buttons, knobs, gauges, dials, lights, charging ports, etc., are where you would hope they would be and are easy to use. They even thought to put plastic cladding on the back of the front captain’s chairs and the speaker covers because you know those kids will be kicking your seat and the speaker covers. Brilliant thinking, Kia.
Luxury, comfort, styling
At an MSRP shy of $50,000, a fully loaded Telluride is not an inexpensive car. But, for what you get, it’s an excellent value. I wouldn’t pay $60,000 for one, but I can see why some people do. The Telluride has all the new technology and luxury you could want (even cooled second-row seats!), and yet it’s approachable, simple, and intuitive in its execution. As complex as this vehicle is, it never feels complex or overwhelming. The Kia Telluride is an incredible value, and Kia should be applauded for its thoroughness here. It’s so well thought-out you can feel the care and consideration that went into every detail.
Power and transmission
As excellent as the Telluride is, it needs more power. The naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V6 is perfectly adequate, but it’s just not enough for my (or my wife’s) liking. I understand why Kia put this engine in the Telluride (longevity, simplicity, low-maintenance, etc.), but it could use an extra 50 horsepower and 50 pound-feet of torque. We live in a hilly area and the engine and transmission always feel like they’re not sure what to do. I prefer naturally aspirated engines, but I wonder why Kia hasn’t beefed up the power output here. Out on the freeway, the power is fine, but in the hills, it’s a little annoying to have to push the engine for the oomph you want.
City-only driving also yields pretty bad fuel economy. We average about 16 MPG — almost Ram TRX territory. Not great, but the positives about the car outweigh the fuel economy woes.
Those complaints aside, the Kia Telluride is an excellent three-row SUV. It’s a great value, wonderful to drive, and will have you wanting to come back to it as often as you can. It’s the perfect tool for the family job, and it sets a high standard for its competitors. It just needs more power.
About the author: Having owned everything from a 1981 DeLorean to an E46 BMW M3 and a 100 Series 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 or jasonbellcars.com for comments/questions or to say "Hi."
The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.