Kia unveiled the all-new Telluride three-row midsized SUV at the 2019 Detroit auto show. The boxy model offers seating for up to eight people, some nifty family-oriented technology, and plenty of standard advanced safety systems.

Here is what we know so far. 

2020 Kia Telluride front driving

What it competes with: Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander
What it looks like: A more aggressively styled version of the previously revealed Hyundai Palisade, with a tall and blocky hood and big fenders.
Powertrain: 291-hp, 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive
Price: $35,000-$47,000 (estimated)
On-sale date: Spring 2019

Outside

Kia says the Telluride was designed with rugged luxury in mind, which helps explain the SUV’s bold and boxy shape. The large hood juts straight ahead rather than angling down toward the vertically stacked headlamps. It appears that one of Kia’s goals was to give the Telluride more of an off-road feel than the mechanically similar but sleeker Hyundai Palisade that was unveiled at the 2018 LA Auto Show.

2020 Kia Telluride interior

Inside

The 2020 Telluride’s cabin continues the oversized theme with an expansive dash and solid-looking, Porsche Cayenne-like grab handles that surround the center console and gear selector. The interior is full of horizontal elements, including the available 10.3-inch infotainment touch screen, a wide center stack, and the dashboard vents. Simulated brushed metal and wood trim contribute to the cabin’s upscale feel. Nappa leather upholstery is available, and heated and ventilated seats are optional for the first two rows.

The infotainment and controls appear to continue Kia’s trend of making systems that are more usable than flashy. The center stack has a fairly conventional layout of knobs and large buttons. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, and wireless smartphone charging is optional. There are USB ports in all three rows. A head-up display is optional, as is a 630-watt, 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Other family-friendly options include an intercom system that allows the driver to communicate with the second- or third-row passengers via the audio system—a feature usually associated with minivans. There is also a Quiet Mode that lets the driver listen to music without any sound going to the second- and third-row speakers (no need to wake the kiddies).

2020 Kia Telluride back seat

What Drives It

The Telluride has a 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive comes standard and all-wheel drive is available. Four different drive modes—Smart, Eco, Sport, and Comfort—change the powertrain and steering effort to give a slightly different driving experience depending on the selected setting.

All-wheel-drive models have two additional drive modes. Snow mode is designed to help optimize traction in adverse road conditions, and AWD Lock splits the power evenly to all four wheels to give the best traction when driving on rough terrain.

A self-leveling rear suspension is available; it adjusts the Telluride’s ride height automatically depending on how much weight is being carried. The Telluride can be equipped to tow up to 5,000 pounds. 

Safety & Driver Assist Systems

Numerous advanced safety systems will come standard on the Telluride, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning with rear automatic braking, lane keeping assist, and lane departure warning. The Telluride also has Kia’s Safe Exit Assist system, which can detect cars approaching from the rear, keeping the doors from being opened until the car has passed.

Other standard driver assistance features include adaptive cruise control, with the ability to stop the vehicle in traffic and start it moving again on its own; automatic high beams; and rear parking sensors. The Telluride also has a rear occupant alert system that is designed to prevent children or pets from being inadvertently left in the car.

In a first for Kia in the U.S., the Telluride will be available with a partially automated system called Highway Driving Assist which uses radar and Lidar (short for “Light Detection and Ranging,” Lidar is essentially laser-based radar) to follow lane markings, giving the vehicle the ability to control steering, acceleration and braking, and adjust distance to a vehicle ahead on its own. It can also recognize speed limits on highways and will adjust the Telluride’s speed accordingly.

CR’s Take

Kia’s smaller SUVs, such as the Sorento and Sportage, have usually fared well in CR’s testing. It’s a likely bet that the all-new and much larger Telluride will be a formidable three-row midsized SUV contender, too. We’ll know for sure when we buy one for our test program as soon as they start arriving at dealers later this year.  

2020 Kia Telluride rear