2023 Kia Telluride: Bold, Cultured, and Progressive

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

The advanced, rugged, and refreshed 2023 Telluride delivers with adventurous packages and extended capabilities both on and off the road. Kia’s 8-passenger SUV has remained in high demand since its market launch three years ago. In fact, production has increased to 120,000 units to meet market expectations so loyal customers aren’t waiting for months to take delivery. Telluride, aptly named after a former Colorado mining town in the Rocky Mountains, is ideally suited for customers who enjoy adventure sports and active escapes.

To properly understand the latest Telluride updates, I headed to San Antonio, TX for the national media drive including a challenging trail course to show off the SUV’s athletics. Kia is keen on shifting to a growing lineup of off-road-ready sport utility vehicles while the sedan fleet continues to shrink. Specifically, 70% to 75% of the roster consists of SUVs built at Kia’s award-winning West Point, Georgia manufacturing facility. Introduced in 2019, the midsize SUV increased company sales by 60%, and the numbers grew each subsequent year. For the 2023 model, Kia enhanced Telluride’s brand identity and added a new set of badges to improve the look, expand the rugged attitude, and replace the Nightfall Edition. Kia calls them the X-Line and X-Pro, featuring more towing capacity with Tow Mode, higher ground clearance (8.4”), raised roof rails, and Downhill Brake Control.

During testing in Texas, I mostly spent time in a 2023 Telluride SX-Prestige X-Pro AWD variant presented in an enlightening Midnight Lake Blue hue. Kia says that 70% of the split will be AWD models. This particular X-Pro package can tow 5,500 pounds and is outfitted with black 18″ alloy rims, Continental all-terrain rubber, a distinctive black grille, a self-leveling rear suspension, X-Pro exterior styling, and embossed seats. The X-Line is upgraded with a unique radiator grille design, bridge-type roof rails, body-colored door handles, exclusive 20” wheels, and “X-Line” badging. But overall, the new Telluride sets itself apart from the earlier editions with revised vertical headlamp designs, new bumpers and grille, modified taillamps, new rear fascia and trim, updated rim styles, and three fresh exterior colors dubbed Midnight Lake Blue, Dawning Red, and Jungle Wood Green.

On the road, my Telluride SX Prestige was powered by Kia’s 3.8-liter GDI V6, outputting 291-horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration was proper for a few folks, but I wonder what the strain would be if eight people and luggage weighed down the SUV. Shifts from the 8-speed automatic transmission were fluid, allowing me to enjoy the Texas countryside drive. Steering is on center, and braking was adequate. Drive Mode Select is at your disposal to manipulate the vehicle’s mannerisms and consists of Sport, Eco, Smart, and Comfort modes. If your SUV is equipped with active on-demand All-Wheel Drive, then “AWD Lock” and “Snow” modes add additional traction when you need to venture into the wild or handle adverse weather. And yes, Kia set up a Safari-like course to show us how tuff the Telluride is when adventurous driving is required. I drove away highly impressed.

The Telluride’s spacious three-row interior is comfortable, roomy, and fresh. Kia reorganized it with a new curved 24″ panoramic display, a restyled dashboard with revised trim panels, a redesigned steering wheel, Harman/Kardon premium audio, and a wireless charge pad with a cooling feature to keep your phone from overheating. Some owners may also enjoy the digital rearview mirror (I don’t). Passengers in the 2nd-row can lounge in style within the ventilated, heated, and reclining captain chairs, which are perfect for laying back and gazing out the dual glass panes for peaceful meditation. The faux wood trim looks believable, the cushioned front headrests are a nice touch, and the Lumbar Stabilization Seats perform as a massaging function to reduce lower back stress on longer drives.

A few other Telluride highlights include an auto-closing Smart Power Liftgate, available Highway Driving Assist 2, Head-Up Display, a Surround View Monitor, Digital Key Touch 2, and Kia Connect with remote start, remote climate control, remote door lock/unlock, standard WiFi hotspot, over-the-air updates, and more. Owners will also be proud of the “Kia Drive Wise” collection of advanced driver-assistance systems. These include Forward Collision Avoidance, Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist, Highway Driving Assist 2, and Blind-Spot Collision Warning.

The Telluride is available in the $35,690 LX (FWD), $37,590 S (FWD), $41,290 EX (FWD), $45,490 SX (FWD), or the $50,390 SX-Prestige (AWD). Add another $2,000 if you prefer AWD performance, as I do. The Kia Telluride is the brand’s largest vehicle and represents class and swagger. With technology abounding and a 10-year warranty, best believe it will continue to garner attention.

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