To understate it slightly, the Kia Telluride is proving a big success. It’s the first Korean vehicle to win Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year, and Car and Driver finds it almost infuriatingly well-designed. Both it and its Hyundai cousin, the Palisade, offer a lot of standard features, including a 3rd-row for families. And now, the Telluride can add one more award on its shelf: Automobile Magazine All-Star.
How Automobile Magazine tested its contenders
Testing is split into road and track tests. The track tests took place on the first day, on the 1.6-mile Streets of Willow track in the Willow Springs racetrack complex. The purpose of the testing wasn’t to establish lap times but to evaluate each potential All-Star’s traction, handling, and performance limits.
The next two days were spent on the Transverse Ranges mountain roads outside Palmdale, California. These roads were selected due to their widely-disparate nature. Some were straight, others curvy; some had excellent pavement, others not so much. The goal here is to test each car’s ride comfort, quietness, and day-to-day usability.
From the pool of 21 cars, 8 were chosen as All-Stars. And the Kia Telluride was one of them.
How the Kia Telluride won out over the supercars
Considering the field included supercars like the Lamborghini Huracan Evo and McLaren GT, it may seem odd that the Kia Telluride managed to place above them.
After all, the Kia Telluride SX AWD Automobile tested starts at just under $42,000. Even loaded up to just under $47k, it’s 1/5th the price of the Huracan, and almost 1/7th that of the GT. That’s because, as tester Arthur St. Antoine put it, the Kia Telluride is “a stunning achievement in value-for-money, both technologically and materialistically.”
Reviewers were very taken by the Kia 3-row SUV’s exterior and interior design. They also found the Telluride’s interior quality rivaled that of the Cadillac Escalade. Fully-loaded, the SX offers Nappa leather, open-pore wood, heated and ventilated 1st, and 2nd rows, and a Harmon/Karmon audio system. Car and Driver reports it also gets heated armrests and acoustic glass, and at 70 mph, it is as quiet inside as a Range Rover. The Kia Telluride is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick and offers a wide range of standard driver-assistance features.
The one area where the Telluride falls slightly short is its engine. Its 3.8-liter V6, linked to an 8-speed automatic, puts out 291 hp and 262 lb-ft. Unloaded, it’s perfectly adequate, but performance suffers slightly when you add a trailer and fill up every seat. That being said, Automobile found the Kia Telluride rivaled the Bentley Continental GT (also an All-Star) for on-road comfort and civility.
The Kia Telluride is the only SUV All-Star
The Kia Telluride didn’t just win over supercars—it’s also the only SUV named an Automobile All-Star for 2020. The Honda Passport and Subaru Outback were also in contention for the award.
Although Automobile reports the Outback has a comfortable ride and excellent handling, it falls short in other areas. Even in top trim, the Outback has less horsepower than the Telluride, and can’t tow as much. The Kia also has a better interior and can carry more people. In addition, reviewers noted the Outback’s infotainment was somewhat behind-the-times. That being said, the Subaru Outback, as tested, was about $10,000 cheaper than the Telluride.
The Honda Passport, meanwhile, was roughly equal with the Telluride in terms of price. And, overall, reviewers found it an extremely competent SUV. However, although Honda seems to have improved the SUV’s ride, Automobile still found the Passport’s infotainment lacking. And compared to the Kia, the Passport’s interior isn’t quite on the same level. In addition, the Passport doesn’t offer a 3rd row. And, although desirability isn’t strictly-speaking measurable, the Kia Telluride simply looked and felt more stylish than the Honda Passport.
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