I wish I could buy a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the most bombastically British SUV dump trucks of money can buy. It invigorates like a Miami Beach nightclub, rides like an all-terrain cloud, luxuriates with scar-free leather, and stages grand exits from center-opening carriage doors. I was imagining the Cullinan while driving the Kia Tellluride – a pampering crossover with a sticker that looks like a Cullinan owner’s golf club initiation fee.
Although the Telluride was designed in California and is assembled in Georgia, it has a certain Britishness to its style. It’s quite upright, but also streamlined like a Range Rover over its black 20” wheels. The big pinched grille is a Kia trademark, but it’s accented with stacked LED headlamps and TELLURIDE spelled across the hood ala RANGE ROVER. Square accent lights give the crossover a unique mug at night. Thicker window trim at the B-pillar hints at center-opening doors, but the Telluride’s open traditionally. Around back, L-shaped taillamps hint at Jaguar.
Interiors continue to whisper British with planks of realistic woodgrain, piano finish on the console, and flush satin silver buttons across the dash. Swipe the touchscreen to control audio, navigation, and phone while settled into soft heated/ventilated leather seats and gripping the heated steering wheel. Middle row passengers enjoy heated/ventilated captain’s chairs. The Harman Kardon audio system is saturates with sound and connects devices via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless charging.
Actual adults can ride on the rearmost bench since middle row seats slide fore and aft to balance legroom. Clever USB charging ports are placed in the sides of the front seats. A full suite of safety gear is onboard too: Head-up display, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection. Seat sensors alert parents to kids in the back while a vehicle exit system uses blind spot detection to prevent passengers from stepping into traffic.
So, the Telluride doesn’t have a piping hot V12 silencing away up front, but the 3.8-liter V6 that produces 291 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque – sent to the road through all-wheel-drive an eight-speed automatic transmission – is near silent and dishes out smooth torque at any legal speed (and considerably beyond…so, I’ve been told). Fuel economy ratings of 19/24-MPG city/highway are a little too ritzy.
Sent road-ward, the Telluride provides a smooth and quiet ride. The four-wheel independent suspension glides over rough city pavement and soaks up miles of highway with barely any drama breaching the cabin. Put it into a corner and you’ll be certain you’re driving a heavy three-row crossover as it leans in, but on normal roads, peeps enjoy riding in any of the seats.
I’d suggest the Telluride needs to kick up fuel economy a few points while adding ponies under the hood. With just me aboard, there’s plenty of power, but a full load of passengers and luggage would challenge one’s concept of brisk acceleration. Several competitors offer turbocharged four-cylinder engines for a better balance of power and efficiency.
I’ve driven several compact luxury-brand crossovers recently that cost considerably more than the Telluride and should be wholly embarrassed by it. Kia’s first large crossover is not a Rolls-Royce, but if you want that pampering for a fraction of the price, here’s your SUV. A base price of $31,690 rose to $46,860 as tested
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