Kia Telluride / Photo by Steve Rossi

Car Review: Kia Telluride Demonstrates How Far Brand Has Come

EAST HADDAM, CT – Automaker Kia is South Korea’s second largest automobile manufacturer behind its parent company, Hyundai Motor Company. But it is the country’s oldest automobile manufacturer having been founded in May 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry.

The company began by manufacturing steel tubing and bicycles parts, which lead to the production of Korea’s first domestic bicycle under the Samchully name in 1951. 

In 1952, the company name changed to Kia, with the “Ki” meaning “to arise” and the “a” referring to  Asia. Within five years, it began producing small Honda motorcycles under license. Mazda-licensed trucks followed in 1962, and then cars in 1974. 

Even more vehicles were built under license during the 1980s through additional licensing agreements with Fiat, Peugeot and Ford. Some may remember the Mazda-derived/Kia-built Ford Aspire and Festiva, which were both sold here.

KIA Motors America was established in 1992 and the Sephia sedan arrived on these shores in 1993. It was followed by the Sportage SUV in 1994. But, back in Korea, Kia declared bankruptcy in 1997 and was taken over by Hyundai a year later. 

Just over a decade after, Kia established a U.S. factory in West Point, GA, and hasn’t looked back since.

2024 Kia Telluride

Today, the Hyundai-KIA combine is the industry’s poster child for accelerated growth and consistent sales success, which finally brings me to Kia’s award-winning Telluride utility. It’s a good example of the company’s dogged determination.

The mid-size Telluride is the first Kia that was specifically designed for America. It came out of the Kia Design Center in Irvine, CA and is assembled in Georgia. From the outset, the flagship Telluride was envisioned with go-anywhere and do- anything intentions 

It’s crafted around a big, bold and boxy styling ethos, with confidence and capability mixed in for good measure.

Like its recently RIDE-CT-tested Hyundai Palisade corporate cousin, the Telluride is powered by the same 3.8-liter, 291 horsepower V6 engine and is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Active, on-demand torque vectoring All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is optionally available, which mine had.

For 2024, the Telluride has been updated with minor styling changes to convey a more rugged, yet still refined, utility crossover aesthetic. 

Its full-perimeter, signature amber daytime running lights have been toned down to simply a pair of LED spot projector lamps, which is too bad because the earlier front end distinction truly set the KIA apart. 

Various dark trim elements have also been changed to gloss black and a pair of low-profile roof rails are included. Overall proportions and interior accommodations continue to be generous.

What hasn’t changed is pricing, which remains aggressively competitive and starts at $36,190 though it can easily creep up past the $40s and into the $50s as additional features and content are added. 

The $52,185 example I drove was a plush SX-Prestige X-Line with premium, cross-stitched Nappa Leather upholstery and second row, heated-ventilated captain’s chairs for total seating of seven. It also had an SX-Prestige SynTex suede headliner, automatic, rain-sensing windshield wipers ,and a 10-inch Heads-Up Display. Dual sunroofs and second row sunshades are part of the SX package as well.

As previously reported on the similar three-row Hyundai Palisade, the ride quality was “quiet and accommodating.” The Telluride included self-leveling rear suspension on 20-inch black alloy wheels, with Michelin tires. The result is effective but not necessarily inspiring. 

The 3.8-liter V6 engine likewise provided “plenty enough for its stock and trade as a family hauler.” It delivers a not-so-impressive average of 20 miles per gallon with AWD. Surprisingly, a more fuel-efficient Hybrid is unavailable.

A 12.3-inch panoramic instrument cluster is combined with a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with navigation. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a wi-fi hotspot and Bluetooth come par with the course and SX models feature Harman Kardon Premium Audio with 10 speakers. 

There are plenty of user-friendly control knobs and simple buttons to keep all the operating systems in check, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to operate a Kia.

Also, per the Palisade, the Telluride “provides a generous suite of advanced driver assistance systems,” qualifying it as an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Rear side air bags are also standard.

As a product of the Hyundai/KIA alliance, Kia enjoys America’s best powertrain warranty at 10 years and 100,000 miles. So, you might want to think about taking the near-luxury Telluride SX for a  l-o-n-g ride.

(Photos courtesy of Kia unless otherwise noted.)

About Steven Rossi

Steve Rossi is an automotive engineer-turned-marketing communicator. With some 25 years in the industry, including three tours of duty in Detroit, he serves as senior columnist for "Antique Automobile" magazine. His work has also appeared in "Collectible Automobile" and "The New York Times." He holds 21 international speed and world automotive endurance records.

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