Trucks & SUVs

The 2021 Kia Telluride Killed the 2021 Land Rover Defender on Consumer Reports

The old guard is falling. Luxury marques that were once the envy of the car world are getting slammed by Consumer Reports, while the more middling, economy brands are taking the mantle of comfort, reliability, and modernity. Brands like Hyundai, Ford, Kia, and many others make cars that are more reliable, affordable, and all-around better than the BMW, Mercedes, and Audi counterparts. Look at the 2021 Kia Telluride versus the 2021 Land Rover Defender. There is a clear winner here.

The 2021 Land Rover Defender is awesome but the 2021 Kia Telluride is better

Make no mistake; the new Defender is very cool. If coolness were the only metric, the Kia Telluride would be nowhere to be found. Alas, vehicles need to be more than just cool. Consumer Reports is the king of shooting it straight. If you base your buying on their black-and-white assessment, then the Kia Telluride is not only better than the Defender, but it is not even kind of, sort of, a little bit close. 

A black 2021 Kia Telluride midsize SUV parked next to a canyon
The 2021 Kia Telluride on display | Photo via Kia

CR gave the Kia Telluride an astounding 97/100. That isn’t a good score; it’s great. The 2021 Telluride has it all; dependability, reliability, a smooth ride, comfort, a well-equipped cabin, and fuel-efficient.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Land Rover Defender is one of the cooler SUVs to come in a long while; it scored a 45/100. There are a few reasons for the low score; most of them are because its off-road readiness makes for a less nimble and luxurious ride. However, the real killer is the predicted reliability rating being a one out of five. 

Why is the Kia Telluride so popular? 

According to Consumer Reports, the Telluride is simply nice to drive. The seats are nice and wide, making for a comfortable and roomy ride. The materials are quality and make you feel like you are in something that costs twice as much as the modestly priced three-row SUV. 

The 2021 Kia Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter V6, which delivers plenty of power and zip for a confident and comfortable mix of fun and competence. That V6 is paired with an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts so smoothly that the driver can barely notice the change, must less be preoccupied with them. 

A white Kia Telluride is traveling on sand dunes.
Telluriders Team Tackles Tough Off-Road Rebelle Rally | Kia Motors

RELATED: Are the 2021 Jeep Wrangler and 2021 Kia Telluride That Different?

Similar to the Land Rover Defender, the big Kia SUV has an excess in body roll. This is the only real downside to the Telluride. Consumer Reports says on the track, the steering felt precise and accurate, but the body roll took any confidence away from the driver to lean into corners at all. 

None of that is important because the Telluride’s interior is where it’s at. Not only does the SUV have killer suspension that keeps things smooth on the road, but the interior also has a wide mix of soft-touch materials that really up the lux factor. Lastly, the Telluride is home to a ton of driver aids and safety features. 

Is the 2021 Land Rover Defender a good vehicle?

Yes and no. I think this current model will prove to be a lot like the Jeep Wrangler. It will do a few things really well, look awesome, and people will dream about owning one, but the everyday experience of driving one may not be for everyone. 

A silver 2021 Land Rover Defender P300 plows through mud
2021 Land Rover Defender P300 | Land Rover

RELATED: Hot Take: The 2021 Land Rover Defender Might Be the Best One Ever

CR mentions how good the turbocharged 3.0-liter Inline-six Defender engine is. It makes plenty of power at 395 hp. Unfortunately, all this umph comes at the cost of 18 mpg combined. Like many off-road SUVs, the defender drives more like a box truck than it does anything else. Sharp curves require a lot of steering action and the overall effect is a clumsy and awkward truck. 

As you might expect, the ride is a bit firm and bumpy. This is due to its HD off-road sport shocks that keep things stable on the dirt but rough on the road. Along with this theme, the braking distances were also long and slow. 

The defender’s interior is really where this thing shines. The design is down-right cool. There is a mix of leather, textured cloths, exposed mechanics that really drive the point home that you are in an adventure vehicle (at least you are meant to feel adventurous…)

Why compare the Defender and Telluride? 

Well, they have one major overlap; they are both liars. Not bad, but they are lying a bit, at least the people who buy them are. Of course, the Defender is riding on the laurels of its history as a tough off-roader. The Defender is tough and great off-road, but most of us understand only off-road the majority of them will ever see is cutting over the grass in the Starbucks Parking lot. 

A 2021 Silver Land Rover Defender drives on rough terrain.
2021 Land Rover Defender | Land Rover


The Telluride similarly tries to make its owners feel like they will go off-road. The Telluride has a goofy electronic diff that “locks” until it feels “too much” pressure and will let go. That doesn’t sound like any locking diff I’ve ever heard of. The point isn’t to take either of them off-road (at least for most customers) it’s to make them feel like they can whenever they want. This is why the Kia Slaughters the Defender. Both are going to spend most of their lives on the pavement, and there is no comparison in that arena.