Preview: 2020 Kia Telluride

Kia’s on a Rocky Mountain high of late, entering more segments and launching more new models. The latest one is a bit of a big deal. Literally. The three-row Telluride is the biggest crossover the company has ever produced.

The automaker says that this is its first model designed specifically for America. Though we’ll make that specifically for North America because we don’t want to feel left out. Kia said that they wanted this one to bring buyers back to the models that made the SUV what it is today. “From the first pencil stroke it was meant to convey the kind of presence associated with the original legendary SUVs – big, bold, and boxy – and the go-anywhere, do-anything attitude their square, burly-shouldered shapes suggested.”

That means rugged looks, though, not a wagon-like ride and spartan interior. To that end, the Telluride has a long and blocky hood. With big and bold stacked headlights. Combine that with a surprisingly upright windshield for a crossover and it delivers on those rugged looks. To make sure you don’t confuse this one with Vail, Whistler, or some other ski resort town, Kia’s put the name badges in big letters spread wide across the nose and tail.

Inside, the rugged appearance continues. Great big grab handles in the centre console give you something to hold onto when you’re tracking over rocks and obstacles – even though the biggest ones most drivers will ever encounter are probably the speed bumps at the mall.

The looks might be rugged, but the interior is not. A new HVAC diffuser in the ceiling means that passengers in the back will never need to worry about a breeze spoiling their hair. And forget ventilated front seats, this one can get air blowing on your bottom in the middle row too. There’s also lots of space back there in both rows.

Double-stitched and extra-padded Nappa leather seats are on the options list and there’s trim of brushed metal and matte-finish wood warming up the looks.

Telluride will come with an available 10.25-inch colour touchscreen. A 630-watt 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system is on the menu too. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be standard. Because this is a three-row crossover, and nobody ever keeps their phone charged, the Telluride will have up to six USB charge ports, two for each row. Five plugs are standard.

A load of active safety features will be available. Forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, high-beam assist, lane-departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, radar cruise, and rear cross-traffic alert are all on the list.

A new Highway Driving Assist can read lane markings and keep the car in the lane. It will also automatically brake and accelerate to adjust following distances. Blind spot collision avoidance can apply the brakes to steer you back into your lane if you try and merge into a car in your blind spot.

Kia is also putting a new Safe Exit Assist feature in that will use the blind spot sensors and lock the doors if you try and open a rear door into traffic.

To help out with passenger-carrying duties, Driver Talk uses a microphone to help drivers talk to rear seat passengers. And the Rear Occupant Alert has ultrasonic sensors that detect if a passenger has been left behind.

Powering this big Kia is a big engine. A 3.8L V6 that makes 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It puts that power through an eight-speed automatic and available all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive system uses an electrohydraulic coupling to send power between the front and rear wheels, varying it as needed for optimum grip. Eco and Smart modes send all the power to the front, Comfort and Snow do an 80/20 split. But Sport mode goes 65/35 in an effort to improve handling balance.

The specs Kia gave out apply to the US-market Telluride, but we’re expecting the info to be mostly the same when the Telluride makes its Canadian debut at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto next month. Expect it to go on sale sometime this year, with pricing to follow.

Go big or go home. 1/14/2019 4:00:00 PM