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

Automotive designers like to keep an eye on the fashions of the day – which helps explain why we got a first look at a concept version of the new Kia Telluride at New York’s Fashion Week last autumn. Now, the actual production version of the three-row SUV is making its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Like sibling brand Hyundai, the Korean carmaker clearly needs what will be its biggest vehicle ever. The American market has shifted rapidly from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs during the last several years, short-circuiting what had been a decade of substantial growth.

As was widely expected, the production model is all but identical to the ute we saw in New York, minus some extreme touches like the snorkel, bumper-mounted, spare, ladder and, oddly enough, the hat box on the roof.

Telluride is the most American vehicle Kia has yet produced, designed at the automaker’s advanced styling studio in Irvine, California, specifically for the U.S. market. It will be produced at the Kia assembly plant in Georgia.

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

“Large, bold, capable and comfortable, the midsize Telluride SUV … is all about big skies, desert roads, mountain passes, shady forests, smooth highways and long coastal drives,” the automaker suggests.

The interior of the new Telluride features high quality finishes, including swaths of Nappa leather.

It also could surprise some potential buyers who might still be thinking about Kia as a bargain basement brand, a perception it has set out to challenge with products like the big K900 luxury sedan and, now, the Telluride.

The new model eschews the recent fad for soft, squishy designs in favor of a bolder, more traditionally upright SUV look, with a broad grille, a long hood stacked headlights and a very upright windshield. To enhance its go-anywhere nature, three of the trim levels feature a sculpted rear skid plate and twin exhausts.

Inside, the Telluride features a horizontal design theme with more upscale materials than you’d expect to find on Kias of the past. The SUV can be ordered with seating for eight or, with optional second row captain’s chairs, seating for seven.

A self-leveling suspension helps stabilize the vehicle, especially when hauling lots of cargo or towing up to a 5,000-pound trailer.

The interior is loaded with luxury and high-tech features, such as a leather wrapped, tilt/telescope steering wheel, Nappa leather seats and a second-row, ceiling-mounted climate control system.

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

There’s an optional 10.25-inch navigation screen, and 630-watt, 10-speaker Harman-Kardon audio system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and there’s wireless charging and six USB ports.

Like several other new crossovers, Kia has gone with a more classic SUV look for Telluride.

Not surprising for a family hauler, the 2020 Kia Telluride has plenty of advanced safety technology, including:

  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist  with pedestrian detection;
  • High Beam Assist;
  • Lane Departure Warning;
  • Lane Keeping Assist;
  • Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear; and
  • Blind Spot View Monitor.

One of the more intriguing features is the SUV’s “Quiet Mode,” which shuts off the audio system for the second and third-row passengers, letting them focus on their own sources of entertainment – or just to relax.

From a powertrain perspective, the new Kia Telluride will rely on an 3.8-liter V-6 running in the fuel-efficient Atkinson Cycle. It produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The automaker will release mileage numbers closer to launch. The engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic and can send power to the front wheels, though an optional all-wheel-drive version is available.

(To see more about Kia’s autonomous vehicle plans, Click Here.)

Pricing will also be released near the on-sale date for the new Kia Telluride next years.

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