Kia Telluride — It doesn't get any better than this

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(March 12, 2023) Kia struck gold in 2020 with the Telluride, a new three-row mid-sized crossover SUV. It has wowed customers for three years, and for 2023 the Telluride has undergone a mid-cycle refreshening that includes updated exterior styling and interior upgrades that include a twin gauge cluster and an infotainment screen that together provide nearly 25 inches of continuous screen across the dashboard.

Sales have been dramatic for the Telluride, and Kia has struggled to keep up with customer demand. So for the 2023 model year, production has been increased by 25 percent at its West Point, Ga., manufacturing plant.

A styling refresh for 2023 updates the Telluride making it even more attractive, including a refreshed grille, redesigned headlamps, and a new front bumper. Inside, Kia has integrated a new all-digital instrument panel with dual 12.3-inch screens serving as infotainment and gauge displays. Navigation is now standard across the lineup, as is an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. More rugged-looking X-Line and X-Pro trims join the lineup and up the Telluride's maximum towing capacity to 5,500-pounds.

Under the hood is a healthy 3.8-liter V-6 making 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 263 foot-pounds of torque at 5,200 rpm routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission. This sounds like an ample amount, but considering the Telluride weighs in at 4,354 pounds in all-wheel drive configuration, it takes a lot of horses to get the job down. And it does get the jobs of passing, merging, hauling and towing accomplished in a fist-rate fashion. This translates into 6.9 seconds from 0-to-60.

Considering its mission of moving people and things, the Telluride's EPA rating of 19 mpg in city driving, 24 on the highway and 21 combined on regular gas in AWD configuration is acceptable. If you don't need AWD, you will gain a bit of mileage — 20 city, 26 highway and 23 combined in front-wheel drive. And unlike many bigger crossovers, the Kia runs just fine on regular gas.

The bottom line is that the Telluride feels good behind the wheel with excellent road manners and great outward visibility. Kia says it has created a strong, torsionally rigid body structure resulting in a big vehicle that is agile and fun to drive on all manner of roads including the winding and twisting variety. There are four driving modes available including Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart. AWD has a snow setting and an AWD lock setting, which delivers power evenly to all four wheels.

As you might expect, we went straight for the Sport setting, which changes the transmission shift points and it did give the big crossover a bit more performance feel. While it helped on the twisting roads we found Sport a bit too intrusive for everyday driving, and reverted to Normal when we weren't all about driving fast and hard.

Seating can be ordered for seven or eight people with adequate room in the third row for adults — at least for short trips. You can order two comfortable captain's chairs in the second row — that would be our preference — but if you absolutely need the maximum passenger configuration, Kia has a second-row bench seat available.

The 2023 Telluride comes in five trim levels — LX, S, EX, SX and SX Prestige. There are also X-Line versions of the EX, SX and SX Prestige, along with X-Pro versions of the SX and SX-Prestige. We recommend the SX trim starting at $47,055. It delivers a near-luxury experience with all the bells and whistles at a still-reasonable price. The SX comes standard with high-end features including a 12-way power driver's seat, black-painted 20-inch rims, a Harman/Kardon stereo, front and rear sunroofs, and second-row captain's chairs. Those who want the added sense of security that comes with all-wheel drive can have it for an extra $2,000.

Special X-Line and X-Pro versions bring standard all-wheel drive, slightly lifted suspension for .4-inch more ground clearance, higher roof rails, distinctive grille design, 20-inch heels with all-season tires, and an enhanced traction control system. Our loaded-to-the-rafters SX-Prestige X-Line AWD carried a bottom line of $54,120 including a $1,335 destination charge and a couple of low-cost options including the very fetching Wolf Gray paint for $495.

That paint job looks like a million bucks with the 20-inch black wheels. We were complimented several times during our test week for the stunning looks of the Telluride.

Our test vehicle carried a generous complement of standard features delivering a near-luxury experience   including a Harman/Kardon stereo, front and rear sunroofs, second-row captain’s chairs, quilted Napa leather seat trim, heated and cooled front and second-row seats, heated steering wheel, smart power rear liftgate, self-leveling rear suspension, head-up display, Sirius XM, wireless phone charging and more.

Add the comprehensive suite of driver-assistance and safety technology (all standard) including a 360-degree camera system, blind-spot view monitoring that actually projects an image of the vehicle in your blind spot, rear cross traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, safe vehicle exit assist, a feature called Driver Talk that amplifies the driver’s voice through speakers in the back two rows and finally the best new car powertrain warranty in the business.

No wonder the Telluride has garnered about every available award in the business over its four years of existence.

And don't forget the 5-year/60,000-mile comprehensive warranty and the 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

2023 Kia Telluride


Base price: $37,255; as driven, $54,120
Engine: 3.8 liter V-6
Horsepower: 291 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 114.2 inches
Length: 196.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,524 pounds
Turning circle: 38.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 21 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 87 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 5,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 18 city, 24 highway, 21 combined (AWD)
Also consider: Ford Bronco, Jeep Gand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade

The Good
• Scads of standard safety tech
• Spacious interior
• Excellent driving demeanor
• Modern, attractive dashboard layout

The Bad
•  Occasionally overzealous "nanny minders"

The Ugly
• Not very fuel efficient