A green 2022 Kia Telluride is shown from the front driving on an open road after leaving a Kia Telluride dealer.

What Makes the Telluride So Popular?

There’s a great deal to be said for and about the Kia Telluaride. A constant high-ratings recipient, the Telluride has continued to impress since this first generation’s debut in 2020, when it won World Car of the Year and Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year. The awards have continued for the 2022 model, which received the “Top-Rated” Award from Edmunds, the third year in a row for Telluride, and J.D. Power’s “Best Upper Midsize SUV of 2022,” with an overall “great” rating of 85 out of 100. All of which might have you heading for the nearest Kia Telluride dealer!

Record Temperatures Continue!

What has enabled Kia to keep turning up the heat of attention and accolades on an SUV in a market that’s filled with them? After all, the awards the Telluride has received are impressive. Most vehicles displease someone, but a truly startling number of reviewers, from the industry professionals down to vehicle owners, really love the Telluride. Kia has managed to hit the sweet spot with this vehicle, combining design, capability, reliability, and cost into an SUV that has become the Goldilocks drive for many people.

Part of the answer may be that, while Kia is a South Korean company, the Telluride is a very American car. It’s manufactured in Kia’s only American plant in West Point, GA, and isn’t sold at all in South Korea, where smaller EV vehicles are rapidly becoming the wave of the present and the future. The Telluride’s U.S. manufacture and popularity make sense when considering the continuing American devotion to larger, non-electric vehicles. But the Telluride’s undeniable popularity in the U.S. is based on more than just our fascination with big cars. Kia has brought tech, safety, and comfort features into the Telluride that make it a desirable vehicle, particularly with the price as the 2022 base LX starts at an MSRP of $33,090.[a]

The grey interior of a 2022 Kia Telluride shows three rows of seating.

What Makes the Telluride a Better Ride?

While not everyone needs a three-row SUV, if you have a larger family, enjoy camping or boating, or just like to bring a lot of stuff with you, they can be exactly the ticket to adventure you need. If you’re looking for that big ticket, the Kia Telluride stands out from the many SUVs on the market today.

On the surface, the Telluride embodies most aspects of the typical SUV. It’s available in four trims, the LX, the S, the EX, and the SX – all under $40,000, but the SX, starts at $42,990.[a] All trims come with standard FWD, though for an additional $2000 you can change that to AWD. Employing as standard the 3.8L Lambda V6 engine with its 291 HP and 262 lb-ft of torque, AWD models can tow up to 5000 lbs when equipped with the towing package. The cabin is reasonably spacious, with 42.4 in legroom for the second seats and 31.4 for the third.

There’s a fairly generous amount of cargo space—from 87 cu. ft. behind the front seats to 21 cu ft behind the third row. Kia has added 60-40 or 50-50 (depending on the trim and seat configuration you choose) split seat folding in the second and third rows, so you have a little more freedom of choice about how to arrange your contents, and there’s a two-level cargo floor in the back so you can put some items out of sight and increase the useable storage space. The second row also slides forward, enabling third-row passengers to get in and out without having to possess contortionist (or child) flexibility, and the rear seats recline, which makes them even more reasonable for adult occupants.

Winner of the Popularity Contest

There are a number of reasons that the Telluride outshines other SUVs, selling so fast that dealers have trouble keeping them on the lot. Kia brings an impressive number and style of features to all Telluride trim levels. According to Motor Trend, it provides “lavish levels of standard equipment,” and clearly, SUV buyers have noticed. For instance, navigation, typically only available on higher trim levels of most vehicles, is standard on the base Telluride, as is the 10.25-inch display screen. Also standard are front and rear climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, reclining seats in all three rows, a single sunroof, heated power mirrors, sound-absorbing windshield glass, remote start, four drive modes (with the addition of a fifth for snow in AWD, which also has an element allowing you to equalize traction in all four wheels), 6 USB ports, and much more.

A grey 2022 Kia Telluride is shown from the rear parked in a field.

Tech for All Trims

Where this SUV really shines, however, is with its standard tech features—many of which can’t be found at all in other vehicles, let alone in standard trims. For instance, there’s the Driver Talk system, which will amplify the driver’s voice through the rear speakers. No more screaming to be heard by the kids in the back! (Though even the Telluride can’t guarantee they’ll listen.) Or Quiet Mode, which isolates the sound system in the front—useful when those same kids have finally fallen asleep, and you’d prefer they stay that way. And while the Telluride is equipped with the typical safety-related driver-assistive tech such as blind-spot warning, forward collision, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance warning, pedestrian & cyclist detection, and more, Kia certainly hasn’t stopped there.

Instead, they’ve added even more interesting safety features, such as Torque Vectoring Cornering Control, which tracks your degree of yaw using steering sensors, detects understeer, and helps you maintain stability through turns. Or a driver attention warning that monitors your driving habits and provides alerts if you begin to exhibit signs of inattention, and navigation-based smart cruise control with additional highway driving aids. These latest innovations, which are an obvious precursor to self-driving vehicles, not only help you maintain a safe following distance from other cars, the adaptive cruise control typically only found in far more expensive vehicles, but also use nav data to predict upcoming curves and speed limits and slow your Telluride to negotiate them when you’re in cruise control.

And there’s the Rear Occupant Alert, which uses ultrasonic sensors to warn you if you’ve left unattended passengers in the rear seating area. If you’re subscribed to Kia Connect, it will send push notifications to the registered phone, too—a huge blessing for parents (or pet owners) prone to drift into autopilot on long trips, even when not actually driving.
Despite the number of atypical assistive tech features mentioned here, all these features are standard on the base level Telluride LX!

Move up a few trim levels to the EX, and you’ll find features like the Blind Spot View Monitor, which pops a live video of your blind spot inside the instrument cluster when you activate a turn signal. Consider the leather-trimmed, heated, and power-adjustable front seats and the forward Parking Distance Warning, which emits an audible alert if a hazard is detected in front of the car, and you’ve got several more reasons to view the Telluride as ahead of its time in many ways.

What’s in the Future?

Given Kia’s recently-announced plans to move further into the EV market, the Telluride may seem like an odd choice for the Seoul-based manufacturer. The 2023 Telluride is still equipped with the current 3.8L Lambda V6. Changes have been made toward adding more pulling power, from 5000 lbs in the equipped AWD 2022 model to 5500 lbs in the new-for-2023 X-Pro grade in AWD.

But change may be afoot. Given Kia’s statement that it plans to “simultaneously promote more sustainable production through the usage of clean energy,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve just begun to display the EV9, an electric concept car that looks a lot like an even more stylish, and energy-efficient, Telluride. Is it destined to be the new go-to EV SUV for America? Only time, Kia, and eventually the American car buyer, will tell.

[a] MSRP may change without notice. See dealer for complete details.