Kia’s contender for the full-sized SUV market

A lot has happened since Kia showcased the Telluride Concept at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show, and at the time, we were told that it was a “theoretical exercise.” For the longest time, the trail went cold but the SUV market continued to grow and, to little surprise, we eventually got our hands on some spy shots of a large KIA SUV being put through the paces. With that in mind, you’re looking at a three-row, eight-seater SUV with will serve as a flagship of Kia’s SUV lineup. It has changed dramatically so far, so let’s dive on in and see what we can make out!

Update 9/10/2018: Kia has chosen to debut the new Telluride, full-size SUV as a concept-like one-off during New York Fashion Week. Check out our special section below to see the first shots of it and learn about what we know about the production model thus far.

Kia Telluride Debut

2019 Kia Telluride
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Unfortunately, Kia has forgone showcasing an actual production model of the Telluride for now and has decided to showcase a one-off with a ton off extra equipment, most of which will probably never make it to the options list for the production model. As far as off-road equipment, we can make out a built-in winch, off-road lights ahead of the grille, pull hooks in those weird corner vents, a snorkel, ruggedized side skirts, a massive luggage rack, a side ladder for easy roof access, and a spare tire that’s mounted in the weirdest position on the rear hatch.

Kia announced its debut as a “Texas-Sized Statement.” Outside of the weird, off-road, one-off design for this “debut,” that’s the second weird thing as it debuted during New York Fashion Week – that’s a long way from Texas and a pretty unlikely place for anyone with the hankering for off-roading to show up.

Kia, in short, neglected its real base for this vehicle, which is – undoubtedly – large families.

The Telluride is an eight-seater that’s designed to haul people. It’s nice to know that it can maybe handle its own off-road, but its real purpose is to transport people, not traverse rugged terrain and deep streams. Props to Kia for thinking outside the box, but this debut is the biggest dud of 2018 so far. Be that as it may, though, we can see exactly what the new Telluride will offer in production form, and how it really compares to the concept that was showcased back in 2016.

Kia Telluride vs. the Telluride Concept

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When you look the concept and this one-off, the latter of which should be production ready without all of the extra gear; you can see how close Kia really stuck to its conceptual design from a couple of years ago.

Up front is where we can spot the biggest changes. The grille, while featuring a similar shape, is actually wider and shorter than on the concept.

As such, those quad-LED units also wouldn’t work, so Kia had to make some adjustments in this regard too. The headlights are now pushed further into the front corners. While they still sit high on the body, they are now taller and feature a two-light layout that appear to be projectors. A tall turn signal and reflector sits on the outside and what appears to be a daytime running lamp sits at the very bottom. It’s not the sleek LED design that we saw on the concept, but It’s possible that the white outline around the lights illuminate while driving as well. The fascia is also taller and now features a small opening in each corner. These fake air intakes serve as a home to tow hooks on the concept, so don’t expect any true functionality on the production model unless these tow hooks are offered as an option.

The side profile from the concept actually carries over largely unchanged. The same body lines are in place as is the upper waistline.

Even the weird uptick in chrome between the front and rear doors comes over to the production model intact. The rear quarter glass is a little longer it seems and isn’t raked quite as much at the bottom. The roofline also appears to be a little more slanted compared to the production model which isn’t really surprising considering the trend that’s taken hold the last couple of years. Oddly, the production model doesn’t seem to sit quite as high as the concept did. This is odd not only because it differs from the concept but because the model that did debut was designed to showcase what Kia believes makes the Telluride an all-terrain people hauler. Some beefier suspension to go with those off-road tires would have been nice here, even if it was only good for an extra inch or two of lift. On that note, if the production model that actually rolls of the line sits this low, it should give it a rather sporty stance while making ingress and egress quite simple, even for the third row.

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Around back, things get even weirder but in a good way… we think. The concept featured a rather upright rear hatch with tall, curved taillights and a rather lifeless rear fascia aside from a massive chrome insert that housed the exhaust outlets. The production model changes things up a bit.

The design line around the hatch remains the same with that smooth zig-zag, but it’s not as dramatic as it actually cuts through the taillights instead of going around them.

The taillights are also wider and have a near-90-degree curve at the top. Where the concept had a long reverse light, the production model has a thinner unit that’s surrounded by the same red design that makes up the taillight lens. It’s actually a little more attractive and does the model justice considering the hatch as a pretty strong angle to it above the waistline. This design styling means that the rear glass should offer better visibility from the front while the curved corners of the glass help keep things smooth back there. We can’t make out much of the rear fascia, but it’s certainly more dramatically styled that on the concept. I wouldn’t hold out on the big chrome insert, however.

Kia Telluride Production Interior vs. the Telluride Concept

2019 Kia Telluride
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To be honest, Kia kind of screwed the pooch when it comes to the interior design of the production model. We only have one image to go by, and it’s clearly laced with extras of the one-off nature, but we have a clear idea that Kia is afraid to prove its technological dominance. The concept features, among other things, an all-digital HVAC controller as well as a Mercedes-like, split-screen infotainment system and instrument cluster. None of that made it into the production-based one-off that we see here. What we do see is a semi-digital HVAC controller and a similar-looking dashboard.

The steering wheel is larger with four spokes and an overwhelming number of physical buttons.

The instrument cluster looks to be a semi-digital unit with analog gauges and 4.5-inch screen in the center. The infotainment system is completely different and hovers above the dash in a very (old) German-like way. This particular model is also laced with wood trim that probably won’t be available on the production mode and, if it is, it’ll come at a hefty price or only on top trim levels. The door trim panels also take on an older look with wider armrests and a small hint of leather. The instrument cluster is also atrocious in comparison with a large wall on either side, an outdated gear shifter and a 90s, GM-style armrest\ storage area. Needless to say, Kia should have gone with more design cues from the concept. This is a bit of a letdown, even in one-off form.

The Kia Telluride According to Kia

2019 Kia Telluride
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Kia didn’t say a whole lot about the Telluride during this debut. We do know that it will be an eight-seater, which isn’t new news, but it will be “several inches longer and wider” than the Sorento, which basically places it in the full-size segment.

The only other important piece of information is that it will be produced at Kia’s production plant in Georgia and that it will be offered with a V-6 engine.

There’s no word as to what engine it will be, however, the 3.3-liter V-6 from the Sorento LX V6 and higher trim levels is as good of a guess as any. It delivers some 290 horsepower and allows, with the right configuration, for 3,500 pounds of towing capacity in the Sorento. If this engine carries over to the new Telluride, I wouldn’t expect that capacity to increase at all, but power could increase a bit to accommodate for a larger, slightly heavier vehicle.

2020 Kia Telluride Exterior

2019 Kia Telluride Spyshots Exterior
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Heavily covered and padded, there’s not a lot we can make out from the spy shots, but we can see enough to know that it will vary quite a bit from the concept from which it is based

Heavily covered and padded, there’s not a lot we can make out from the spy shots, but we can see enough to know that it will vary quite a bit from the concept from which it is based. That’s not much of a surprise, however, as we recently learned that the SUV will borrow underpinnings from the recently unveiled Kia K900 sedan.

2019 Kia Telluride Spyshots Exterior
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Looking at the front end, it’s easy to see that those quad-LED headlights have been swapped out for different units that sit further outside and are more rectangular shaped with a vertical orientation. There also appears to be some mild, stinger-like vents in the corner of the front fascia as shown by the cuts in the camo wrap and a pair of circular driving lights closer to the grille. Those could be decoys for the fog laps we can’t see, but that remains to be seen. The radiator grille is well padded and covered, but it does appear to have the same print as that of the Telluride concept so some design will at least carry over.

2019 Kia Telluride Spyshots Exterior
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The location of the rear door handle has been moved to the rear of the door, but it does look like the same beltline will carry over.

The hood itself is padded by we can make out a stout body line on the outside, right near the seam between the hood and the fender. The fenders sport a mild body line, and the A-pillars have a very steep rake to them. The downside here is that Kia looks to have dismissed that slanted roof from the concept and has given it more of a curved shape, a very disappointing move, indeed. The location of the rear door handle has been moved to the rear of the door, but it does look like the same beltline will carry over.

2019 Kia Telluride Spyshots Exterior
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Around back there is a ton of padding so there isn’t much that we can make out. We can make out the dual exhaust outlets, however, these are more of test pipes, so expect different outlets and a different finisher on the fascia when everything is said and done. The taillights are in the same place, well below the glass of the rear hatch but they won’t be as fashionable as those of the concept. Despite all of the camo, the Telluride concept was pretty feasible on the outside when it debuted so Kia already had half of the work done and we’ll probably see a lot of similar design cues hidden below all that padding.

2019 Kia Telluride Interior

2016 Kia Telluride Concept
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Interior from 2016 Kia Telluride Concept shown here
The Telluride concept was fashioned as more of a luxury ride, all the way down to the massive panoramic roof and reclining rear seats with footrests.

Naturally, a lot of the interior is going to change as well. The Telluride concept was fashioned as more of a luxury ride, all the way down to the massive panoramic roof and reclining rear seats with footrests. That’s cool and all, if you’re Rolls-Royce or Bentley, but Kia is trying to claim a piece from a completely different pie. The pie is one that involves hauling around family or half of the kiddo’s soccer team. So, don’t expect to see those super comfy rear seats or that massive center console between them either. In fact, the production model is slated to be an eight-seat SUV, so there will probably be two bench seats out back.

As far as in-cabin technology goes, what we saw in the Telluride concept is well within Kia’s ability to bring to market. And, since it’ll be a flagship SUV for the brand, it wouldn’t be surprising. That Mercedes-like pair of large screens on the dash could easily carry over. In today’s market, they just aren’t as futuristic as we seem to think they are sometimes. The front seats will be replaced by more modern units while the dash itself will be toned down, so don’t expect those weird 3D HVAC vents to show up in production either.

All told, the production version of the SUV should get all of Kia’s latest technology and will be offered with various driver assist features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity should be standard as will a Wi-Fi hotspot. Outside of that, we’ll leave the speculation up to you.

2019 Kia Telluride Performance

The Telluride concept made use of a transverse-mounted 3.5-liter V-6 and an electric motor

This is where things really go wonky. The Telluride concept made use of a transverse-mounted 3.5-liter V-6 and an electric motor. There are no specs on the battery or any type of energy recuperation system, but Kia did say that the engine produced some 270 horsepower while the electric motor was good for another 130 ponies, leading to a total system output of 400 horsepower. Torque figures were never mentioned, but it was all-wheel drive, so the transverse mounting of the engine means that the engine drove the front wheels and the motor was responsible for turning the rear wheels.

This is good and all, but it was just recently that we learned the Telluride could make use of the K900’s rear-wheel-drive platform. That would open the door to Kia’s 3.3-liter V-6. In the K900, that engine delivers 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet. That’s not too far off from the Telluride Concept’s hybridized output. And, that being the case, a small battery and an electric motor up front could make for an easy, on-demand AWD system. Then again, the K900 also as AWD, so the whole driveline could be carried over to make things even easier if Kia didn’t want to take the hybrid route for its big SUV.

2019 Kia Telluride Pricing

Considering this is an all-new model, we really have no basis of comparison for pricing. That said, there’s also no shortage of full-sized SUVs on the market either. With models like the Chevy Tahoe starting at $47,500 and the Nissan Armada commanding around $46,000, you can expect Kia to stick around the same pricing bracket. Then again, Kia has been known to undercut the competition. With the largest model in its lineup, the Sorento, commanding just $25,900, the Telluride full-size could easily go for $37,00 and stick it to all of the competition.

2019 Kia Telluride Competition

Nissan Armada

2017 Nissan Armada Unveiled High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The Nissan Armada went through a generational shift for the 2017 model year, showing up at the Chicago Auto show with a boxy design and seating for eight. The exterior is unique, but the interior is actually subpar compared to other offerings with a GM-like center stack, very small screen inside the analog instrument cluster and some clunky materials. Of course, there is a 13-speaker Bose audio system, so it has that going for it. It gets its juice from a 5.6-liter V-8 that’s good for 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Again, that’s a lot of extra weight to churn out similar horsepower to that 3.3-liter that could make its way to the Telluride. Pricing for the Armada starts at $46,090 for the entry-level SV and climbs to as much as $65,090 for the range-topping Armada Platinum Reserve with four-wheel drive.

Read our full review on the 2018 Nissan Armada.

Chevy Tahoe

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Exterior High Resolution
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The Chevy Tahoe entered its third generation for the 2016 model year, and it offers up some strong competition to the Telluride. The exterior is sporty and rounded just enough to keep it interesting while the interior has a lot of modern features and a modern look. One of the coolest features is the hidden compartment behind the infotainment screen (the screen slides upward.) There is, of course, seating for eight and under the hood, you’ll find Chevy’s 5.3-liter V-8 that’s good for 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive is on the table with power being sent through a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing for the Tahoe starts at $47,500 for the entry-level model and climbs to as much as $63,495 for the range-topping Premier trim.

Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe.

Final Thoughts

2019 Kia Telluride Spyshots Exterior
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The thing about Kia is that it’s able to provide rather upscale cars for prices that are always a bit lower than the competition. This has been proven time and time again, even as the brand continues to move itself up the ladder of quality. The Telluride, if it shows the typical Kia flair inside and out, could put quite a damper on its competitors if the price is right. The question is whether or not Kia will be able to really dish out the quality, power, and fit and finish. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see, but things certainly are looking good for the brand lately. After all, the Kia Stinger is killing it in quality, performance, and price.

  • Leave it
    • drivetrain is up in the air
    • May not get hybrid tech


2016 Kia Telluride Concept Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2016 Kia Telluride Concept.

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