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Kia is playing catch up when it comes to its sport-utility line-up. The new Telluride is a big move in that direction.

With the introduction of the 2020 Kia Telluride, the South Korean automaker is moving into a whole new arena.

Kia has succeeded over the year in building its reputation as a challenger brand by building well-designed cars while earning plaudits for quality and winning customers with its economical pricing.

With the introduction of 2020 Telluride, Kia, which also has shown an opportunistic willingness to take chances, is moving upscale into what has become perhaps the single most competitive space the car business today – the midsized sport utility segment. 

The competition includes vehicles such as the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander as well as the new Volkswagen Atlas not to mention the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

(Kia goes 3-row with new Telluride SUV. Click Here for the story.)

Kia's new Telluride is the brand's first three-row SUV, and arrives just in time add to the increased competition.

Midsized SUVs such as the new Telluride are expected to appeal to motorists, who once might have considered a mid- or even a full-size sedan for their curb appeal or a minivan to satisfy the demands not just of commuting to work but the everyday needs of an active family that could include everything from necessary errands to elaborate road trips.

The 2020 Kia Telluride enters the competitive fray with sophisticated styling, advanced driver assistance systems, impressive technology and full-suite of comfort and convenience features as well as ample room for passengers and cargo. Kia representatives, in fact, note that the Telluride actually has more interior space than the full-size SUV such as the Chevrolet Tahoe.

In addition, the 2020 Kia Telluride also delivers out on the road. We had a chance to drive the Telluride on the twisty canyon roads in western Colorado to and from the small mountain town from which Kia’s newest SUV has drawn its name.

Even at higher altitudes where internal combustion engines will lose power in the thinner mountain air, which contains a bit less oxygen than the air a sea level, the 3.8-liter V6 GDI engine used in the Telluride with an eight-speed transmission handled the challenge and seemed up to the task of moving up steep grades without missing a meat or a shift.

The layout of the Telluride’s power train controls allows the driver to choose different modes – Smart, Eco, Sport and Comfort – which use different settings for the throttle and gearing as well as steering effort, to adjust the drivetrain’s response and deliver the driving experience as desired or required for the vehicle, which is also built to travel off the pavement without difficulty.

Kia's new large ute is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 GDI engine putting out 291 horsepower and 262 foot-pounds of torque and is capable of towing 6,000 pounds.

The Telluride’s powertrain can produce 291 horsepower and 262 foot-pounds of torque and is capable of towing a trailer weighing 6,000 pounds, according to the information offered by Kia’s representatives. The combined fuel-economy rating is 21 miles per gallon, including 24 mpg on the highway. All-wheel-drive, which has become requirement of many buyers in the segment, is also available on the Telluride.

The active on-demand all-wheel drive system available on the Telluride works at distributing torque between front and rear wheel drive as needed.

(Click Here for more on our first drive in the 2019 Kia Sorento.)

The “Eco” and “Comfort” modes can deliver between 20% and 35% of the power to the rear wheels. “Sport, “Smart” and “Snow” modes can deliver up to 50% of the power to the rear wheels.

To smooth out ride on all kinds of pavement, the 2020 Kia Telluride also is equipped with a four-wheel independent suspension that complements the stiff body structure that uses high strength steel. The combination of stiff body and a highly-tuned suspension gives the Telluride a feeling of solidity out on the road. An optional self-living rear suspension is available on higher trim levels that I got to drive, and it serve to reinforce the vehicles overall comfortable ride and solidity on varied road surfaces.

The steering was nicely modulated so overall the Telluride’s steering is quite accurate and offers enough feedback to offer the driver a feel for the road. The brakes on the 18-inch wheels.

Besides its solid driving dynamics, the 2020 Telluride, the first Kia designed for the U.S. market, also looks good standing still and has plenty of curb appeal with the squared-off boxy look typical of early sport utility vehicles. It also has a long hood wide grille, stacked headlines and an upright windshield that finishes offer the squared off look. The elongated nameplate on the hood and liftgate appear to have been borrowed from another maker of SUVs.

The squared-off exterior also leads to the spacious interior that is also well-furnished even polymer trim pieces that serve to simulate wood and metal trim are well done and actually add to the appeal of the interior, which is also finished off with plenty of soft-trim, as well as handsome instrument panel and neatly laid out center console with plenty of storage space.

Overall, the well-furnished interior is very comfortable on a long drive and is equipped with an excellent sound system as well as Bluetooth.  Kia also offers its own navigation system, but the Telluride is also equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Pricing for the 2020 Telluride starts at $31,600 but the fully equipped Telluride with the third-row seating option we drove cost $45,815 before the application of $1,045 added to the price for shipping and handling.

(Riding the runway: New Kia Telluride debuts during NY Fashion Week. Click Here for the story.)

The 2020 Kia Telluride is a most impressive vehicle, but Kia has to be at the top of its game since its facing very tough competition.

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