Kia has hit a home run with their Telluride, which since its 2019 launch has enjoyed high levels of demand and long wait lists. The formula of a full-sized SUV with usable third row seating, that looks much more expensive and upscale than it really is, hit the market just right with families across Canada. On the heels of this success, Kia has released the first major update on the Telluride, including two new off-road oriented trims, the X-Line and the X-Pro. Eager to check them out, we spent a week with a 2023 Kia Telluride X-Line.
One of the biggest factors in the Telluride’s success is the looks. It has a presence unmatched by any other SUVs in its price range, a Range Rover inspired rugged elegance, that’s certainly drawn the attention of a lot of buyers. Knowing this, Kia has not played with the design much for the 2023 refresh, focusing primarily on revised front and rear fasciae that look a little more rugged than the outgoing models. Our tester came finished in Wolf Grey, which is very trendy in the luxury segment and compliments the styling very well.
The bigger news is the two new trim levels; our X-Line tester gets all the luxuries found on the top tier SX Limited, and adds blacked out trim, a unique black grille, special gloss black 20-inch wheels, increased ride height for additional ground clearance, and a tow mode for buyers who intend to put their Telluride to work. Drivers looking for a little more capability can opt for the X-Pro trim which swaps the 20s for 18s wrapped in all-terrain rubber and raises the max towing capability up to 5,500 pounds.
The interior also benefits from significant upgrades for 2023, most notably a brand-new digital layout with dual 12.3-inch screens serving as the instrument cluster and infotainment display respectively. This layout is reminiscent of what you’d find in a much pricier BMW, Mercedes or Cadillac SUV and fits the formula of the Telluride quite well.
The interior itself, especially in the higher trim levels like our X-Line is extremely well finished and equipped. The interior ambiance is established by luxurious diamond quilted terracotta Nappa leather seating throughout, with cushy heated and cooled buckets up front, heated and cooled captain’s chairs in the second row, and a very usable bench in the third row. Complimenting the fine leather is aluminum and black leather accents, all fit together well for a solid feeling build quality. The cabin is also loaded up with high end features such as a 360-view camera, heated steering wheel, 110V power inverter, tri-zone climate control, and a large panoramic sunroof.
Practicality is not forgotten either, the Telluride offers plenty of room for the family, and third and second row seats fold flat at the push of a button for extra cargo space. There is plenty of handy storage as well. The front center console, a critical success factor of a good SUV, is well-designed and offers plenty of concealed storage, two big cup holders, and a wireless charging pad.
I also appreciate that despite the prominent touchscreen infotainment, all key controls have hard buttons to adjust things such as climate settings, heated/cooled seats, and volume/tuner functions. Additionally, the digital gauge cluster is clean and easy to read, and easy to configure through convenient steering wheel mounted buttons.
The Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6, putting 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic. Glad to see that Kia hasn’t succumbed to the temptation to throw a buzzy turbocharged four cylinder into this platform, which is much better suited to the smooth power delivery of a naturally aspirated V6.
The experience from behind the wheel is pleasant with soft and relaxing ride quality and very light steering which can make those long family trips much more bearable. That said, for the driving enthusiast, the Telluride can be a bit of a letdown compared to the much pricier luxury SUVs that its styling emulates. There is a fair bit of road noise intrusion into the cabin, and while it handles competently for a full-sized SUV, there’s very little feedback felt through the steering wheel.
The V6 offers plenty of power, but unfortunately access to that power comes with a notable delay that can make passing frustrating. It’s also worth noting, that while the new X-Line and X-Pro do add some additional off-road capability by way of greater ground clearance and all-terrain tires (X-Pro), the Telluride is very much a ‘soft-roader’. I’d be comfortable with it on gravel roads, deep snow, and some mild trails, but it’s certainly not an SUV that’s equipped to go well off the beaten path like you could with a Jeep, Land Rover or similar.
Fuel economy is a strong point, especially for a large V6 powered SUV, rated at 12.8L/100km in the city and 9.8L/100km on the highway. Our real-world results matched the city rating fairly closely, and we bested the highway rating with an observed average after a two-hour highway run of 9.5L/100km.
Of course, as a family vehicle, the Telluride puts a priority on safety and comes equipped with a long list of high-tech safety features. Notable inclusions are a fantastic 360-degree camera with multiple views, digital rear view mirror, and Kia’s blind-spot view monitor which projects a camera image of the vehicle’s blind spot into the gauge cluster display. Of course, typical driver assist also includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision warning and automated braking assist, lane departure warning, rear-cross traffic alert and more.
We’ve mentioned that the Telluride does punch well above its price range with upscale styling and near-luxury level of features and materials. That doesn’t mean it comes at rock bottom prices, just significantly less than a comparable Jeep Grand Cherokee, BMW X5, or a Mercedes GLE. A base EX trim level Telluride starts at $50,195, comes very well equipped, and looks just as good as any other Telluride trim level.
Stepping up to the SX adds $5,000 to the price, and for your money you get the upgraded driver assist packages, the dual sunroof, Harman Kardon premium sound and the 360 view camera. The SX Limited adds another $4,000 to the price, bringing the total to $59,195, and adds some of the more luxurious features such as the Nappa leather, rear auto leveling suspension, digital rear view mirror, and a heads-up display. One would be extremely hard pressed to buy more SUV for under $60,000 anywhere.
The X-Line trim, like our tester, rings in at $61,195, with its more rugged looks, increased ride height, and tow mode. Stepping up to the X-Pro only costs another $1,600 and for that price you swap the 20s for 18’s with all-terrains, and max-out the towing capability.
The 2023 Kia Telluride X-Line delivers families a near-luxury experience for mid-range SUV pricing, and while far from a driver’s machine, it remains a fantastic family hauler with all the gadgets, safety features, space and good looks needed to keep everyone in the family happy. The new X-Line and X-Pro trims also now offer a little more rugged capability, which is certainly a welcome add in our harsh Canadian climate.
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