The competition is trying, but Kia has retained its crown in the large three-row crossover SUV segment.
Refreshed for 2023, the Kia Telluride outranks every one of its competitors with a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10. That includes the new 2023 Honda Pilot, the refreshed 2023 Toyota Highlander, and even Kia’s updated cousin, the 2023 Hyundai Palisade.
I spent a week with the top-spec 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro to see why it’s so far ahead of the competition.
Pro: Telluride’s still a stunner
When Kia unveiled the refreshed Telluride at the 2022 Los Angeles auto show in November I questioned the automaker’s decision to ditch the distinctive amber LED daytime running lights on top-spec SX models. Kia updated the front end with white vertical LED daytime running lights that in person look less derivative and more distinctive. I was wrong to question it.
Con: Telluride comes in limited build configurations
Kia builds the Telluride with 14 different interior color and material options, which is an outlier in the mainstream three-row segment. But most Tellurides can only be had with one, or maybe three interior color options. Lower trim LX models can only be ordered in four exterior color options and one interior color. And you’ll need to like black or dark wheels, because every single Telluride now comes with dark or black wheels with no choice to upgrade to a silver, chrome, or lighter wheel color. A brass color would be nice, Kia. While limiting all the build configurations makes it easier to produce Tellurides quickly, it also makes it so everyone has the same car.
Pro: Telluride features value-priced luxury interior
The interior of my loaded $55,365 Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro punched way above its price tag and class. No Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, or Nissan Pathfinder is this nice. From nappa leather to heated and cooled seats in both the front and second row, this Telluride is pushing into luxury territory in terms of fit, finish, and features. The grab handles mounted to the center console are wrapped in a leather-like material with fake stitching, which looks and feels great.
Con: Telluride isn’t electrified
Every Telluride is still powered by a 291-hp 3.8-liter V-6 hooked to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive with a locking center differential is available. The V-6 is smooth and I appreciate its power delivery over a peaky turbo-4, but the world is moving on and EPA fuel economy ratings of 18 mpg city, 24 highway, and 21 combined are average at best for this competitive set. In chilly spring weather I averaged a middling 16.6 mpg in mixed suburban driving over the course of 190 miles. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid wipes the floor with the Telluride in terms of efficiency. At least the electric Kia EV9 three-row crossover SUV is coming as a Telluride companion.
Pro: Telluride gets upgraded technology
The old 10.0-inch touchscreen that looked like an iPad rising from the dashboard has been replaced. Every Telluride now features a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 12.3-inch touchscreen all mounted under one single pane of curved glass. While I miss the pre-refresh model’s more intricate-looking analog gauge cluster, this new screen setup gives the Telluride the visual tech-focused pop lacking in competitors such as the Honda Pilot.
Con: Telluride’s still missing features
Despite the technology upgrades the Telluride still puzzles me by the lack of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While the Jeep Grand Cherokee L and Nissan Pathfinder both feature a touch-to-unlock function on the rear door handles (a clutch feature for families with kids), the Telluride requires someone to reach out and tap the front door handles. Welcome to first-world problems in 2023.
Pro: Telluride available with self-leveling rear suspension
Mid- to upper-trim models such as the SX X-Line, which costs $50,450, feature a self-leveling rear suspension system. Aside from the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s rear load-leveling or four-corner air suspension, no other competitors have this feature. The system makes levels out the crossover SUV when there’s a trailer hooked to the rear end or a heavy load in the cargo area. Tellurides are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, while X-Pro trims tow up to 5,500 pounds thanks to upgraded cooling.
Despite costing $2,300 more for 2023, the Telluride is priced inline with the competition while continuing to punch above its class and price tag.
2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro
Base price: $37,255, including destination
Price as tested: $55,365
Powertrain: 291-hp V-6, 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: 18/24/21 mpg
The hits: Stunning good looks, premium materials, upgraded technology, self-leveling rear suspension
The misses: Limited build configurations, lacks electrification, missing notable features
- Hyundai expands recall of tow hitch to Santa Fe, Santa Cruz
- Nissan Rogue vs. Ford Escape: Compare Crossover SUVs
- Test drive: 2023 Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy sharpens its details
- 2023 Honda CR-V price increased $550, base LX trim returns
- Test drive: 2023 Nissan Pathfinder tackles winter with the family