I didn’t have much time with the 2020 Kia Telluride, but a few laps around town was enough to notice that it feels very low and long from the driver’s seat, much more so than any other truck-looking SUV I’ve been in lately. It’s the most disparate vehicle on a scale of “looks like a truck, feels like a car” I’ve driven, and I definitely don’t hate it.
(Full Disclosure: Kia loaned me a Telluride for a few days, dropping it off with a full tank of fuel and everything. Unfortunately, I only had time to drive it briefly and locally.)
It’s also a significantly different experience from the Hyundai Palisade–an architecturally similar but aesthetically more mature vehicle. Both the top-trim Telluride and Palisade are remarkably plush, but the cab of the Kia is designed to look a little more rugged and that makes it feel well, sportier, for lack of a better word.
I think I preferred the Palisade’s technologically advanced luxury-first design motif, but my main takeaway from driving the Telluride is how much it rides like a car compared to how squared off and truckish it looks.
You’re welcome to make your own conclusions about whether or not that’s a good thing, but perhaps a little more context will help you come to one. When I returned my borrowed Mercedes G550 and stepped into the Telluride, my first observations were how much easier, softer and more relaxed the Kia felt than the twice-as-pricey German off-road luxury powerhouse.
The G-Wagen looks like a truck and, despite a big redesign for this model year, still feels like a truck. It’s boxy and gruff, inside and out. The current Land Rover Discovery, for an opposite example, looks like a car and feels like a car. It’s jellybeany in design and soft to drive.
Most SUVs in 2019 behave as their design advertises, but the Telluride manages to sneak around this. Its squared-off body looks aggressive and imposing, but its steering is light and its seating position is relatively low. That driving position, which I felt so starkly contrasted the G-Wagen’s lifeguard chair ergonomics, really made this vehicle feel breezy and approachable. But, it did detract from the ambiance of all-terrain toughness put on by the exterior.
Automotive test drivers have been talking about “SUVs that ride like cars” since at least the ’90s when independent front suspension started becoming common in these vehicles, making rigs like the Toyota 4Runner more practical for urban use. But the Telluride feels like another step in the evolution of vehicles that are able to combine a lot of what people want out of a 4x4 SUVs (tough looks, slippery surface capability) with what they need (easy interface, pleasant ride.)
I’d be curious to test the Telluride’s capabilities in rough conditions–I bet an aggressive set of tires would unlock pretty decent climbing abilities off-pavement even if the vehicle’s a bit low and long for serious crawling.
But for realistic road usage, I found it to be a standout in ride comfort and just general easiness to live with. With that in mind, I feel like this might be the best combination in extremes of truck-looks car-manners you can buy new right now if that’s what you’re looking for. Of course, if you want to get to the edges of actual performance off-road or efficiency on-pavement, you’ll want to keep looking.