The Telluride is powered by a 3.8L V6 engine making 291 horsepower sending power to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic, though all-wheel drive is also available. Though the Telluride isn't going to break any speed records, 291 horsepower is plenty to allow the vehicle to feel relatively spry around town or when merging onto the highway. And while front-wheel drive versions aren't suitable for heavy off-roading, they should still provide plenty of ground clearance for the occasional gravel road, grass field or other light-off-road situation drivers might find themselves in.
The Telluride is available in four different trims: LX, S, EX and SX. The LX represents the base trim but being the flagship SUV in Kia's lineup, it still comes nicely equipped with lots of standard features including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED Daytime running lights, heated mirrors with LED turn signals in them, a 10.25-inch touch screen display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, five USB ports, rear passenger air conditioning with controls for rear seat occupants, leatherette seats and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
S models come with a slightly shinier dark metallic grille along with skid plates and more exterior chrome. Wheels on the S are 20-inches, and the S model also gets a sunroof, roof rails, a power adjustable driver seat, heated front seats and a leather wrapped shift knob. At only a couple of thousand dollars more than the LX, the S model represents a sweet spot from a value perspective.
The upmarket EX offers quite a few luxury features in addition to what's available on the S. The exterior mirrors are power folding while the rear liftgate is also powered. One of the standout features to come on the EX is what Kia calls Driver Talk, which allows the driver to project their voice over the rear speakers in order to be more clearly heard by rear seat occupants. However, should those occupants fall asleep, Kia also offers a Quiet Mode on the EX that will cut out all sound to the rear and limit the front speakers from getting too loud, so those in the front seat can still listen to the radio or music without disturbing those in the back. Keeping with the theme, the EX also gets dual zone climate control and sunshades for the second row. Seating surfaces are trimmed in leather on the EX.
The top-of-the-line SX offers more of everything, including nicer front seats, a 10-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, park distance control and a blind spot camera, a 360-degree camera mode, a digital gauge cluster, LED projector beam headlights, LED fog lights and a panoramic dual sunroof.
Most safety equipment comes standard across the entire Telluride line including a rear blind spot collision avoidance assist, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, a lane departure warning system, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic avoidance assist, a rearview monitor, smart cruise control and of course several airbags along with the latest and best stability control systems available to Kia.
In a world teeming with SUVs of all shapes, sizes and styles, the 2021 Kia Telluride is an automotive all-star. With driving refinement and interior appointments that wouldn't be out of place in a luxury car, handsome styling and plenty of versatility, this three-row hauler is easily one of the segment's best.
With a welcoming front end, curt backside and elegant flanks accentuated by interestingly stepped brightwork surrounding the side glass, Kia's Telluride SUV is seriously attractive. To my eyes, it's far prettier than its sibling, the equally compelling if more interestingly styled Hyundai Palisade.
Increasing its curb appeal (if you embrace the darkness, that is), my top-of-the-line SX-trim tester is fitted with the $1,295 Nightfall Edition appearance package, an options group that's available on several models. As its name suggests, the Nightfall gets a number of blacked-out elements, including 20-inch wheels, roof rails, skid plates, emblems and the grille, as well as some slightly darker greenhouse trim. Overall, the look is attractive if a bit too monochromatic for my taste.
15-inch disc brakes? On a Kia? Yes please.
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