By Eric Peters- It’s not ironic that companies like Kia, which made its bones selling small cars, are now selling huge crossover SUVs like the new eight-passenger Telluride.
It’s absolutely necessary.
Any car company that hasn’t got one in its lineup is going to miss out on a lot of sales.
People want a vehicle that can carry a bunch of kids to school during the week and carry a bunch of stuff home from the store on weekends … and, if need be, do both of those things at the same time.
You’d need two small cars for that. Better to get one Telluride.
What It Is
The Telluride is Kia’s newest — and largest ever — model.
And it’s big in another way, under the hood, something many of today’s plus-sized crossovers aren’t.
A 3.8-liter V-6 is standard — versus the much smaller turbo four-cylinders that come standard in cross-shops like the Volkswagen Atlas and are the only available engines in cross-shops like the Subaru Ascent and Mazda CX-9.
The beautiful part — if you’re Kia — is that the Telluride’s big six-cylinder doesn’t use more gas than the smaller four-cylinders in those cross-shops.
And it will never cost owners money to replace a croaked turbo because the V-6 doesn’t have one.
Prices start at $31,690 for the base LX trim with front-wheel drive. The same trim with the optional AWD system costs $33,690.
A top-of-the-line SX trim with AWD and the 3.8-liter V-6 lists for $43,490.
It has a big and strong standard engine without bigger gas bills.
You don’t have to buy a larger engine to get all-wheel drive.
It has an exceptionally roomy second row.
What’s Not So Good
AWD comes standard in the Subaru Ascent — for less.
The VW Atlas has more cargo room.
Better have a big garage.
Under the Hood
It’s getting hard to find a big V-6 in a crossover SUV unless you pay extra for it, which, in most cases, you’re forced to do … if you want AWD. This is assuming a V-6 is even available. Several vehicles in this class no longer even offer one. But in the Telluride, it’s standard.
All trims get a 3.8-liter V-6 that has 291 horsepower and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The V-6 offers substantially more horsepower than the turbo four-cylinders that are standard in rivals like the VW Atlas (2.0 liters, 235 horsepower) and all-you-can-get in the Mazda CX-9 (2.5 liters, 227 horsepower) and Subaru Ascent (2.4 liters, 260 horsepower).
Interestingly, despite its much bigger — and much stronger — standard engine, the Telluride manages to deliver exactly the same mileage as the 2.0 liter-equipped Atlas and the 2.5 liter-equipped CX-9: 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.
On the Road
It’s big, but it doesn’t feel heavy, because of all that engine.
Push the gas pedal down and this Kia goes like a much smaller car. Zero to 60 mph happens in 7.1 seconds, performance comparable to that of a Mazda Miata and surpassed only by the Atlas with its optional V-6.
AWD-equipped models can be toggled in between Eco Smart, Comfort/Snow and Sport modes, which varies the power distribution from 100 percent through the front wheels (effectively disengaging the AWD to save fuel when not needed) to a 50-50-split, for maximum traction in snow.
At the Curb
Hunky styling defines the Telluride on the outside, but it’s passenger space that sets it apart on the inside.
The Kia’s second row has a class-best 42.4 inches of legroom (the Atlas has just 37.6 inches, the Ascent 38.6 inches). Both second and third rows can be configured for passengers or cargo, and on the latter score, the Telluride is bested only by the Atlas, which has a class-best 96.8 cubic feet of total capacity with its second and third rows folded.
But the Telluride isn’t far behind, with 87 cubic feet (slightly more than the Ascent’s 86.5 cubic feet and the Mazda CX-9’s 71.2 cubic feet).
Telluride-specific features include a Quiet Mode that turns off the rear speakers so the people riding in the back can sleep or tune into something else.
Also, if you like the Telluride but prefer a Hyundai, have a look at the Palisade. It’s essentially the same vehicle with some styling differences sold under the other label.
It also costs a few hundred bucks less to start than the Kia.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to crossovers, size does matter.
And not just in terms of legroom.