2024 Kia Telluride still sets the benchmark

Despite new and updated competition, no SUV has yet dethroned the Kia Telluride.

The American-made, South Korean-engineered three-row crossover SUV continues to top the class with great packaging, running gear that sets it apart from the pack, and styling along with materials that punch above the price and class. 

With a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10, the 2024 Kia Telluride outranks every competitor except its new electric sibling, the EV9. It’s not perfect: it has no electrified powertrain options and its outdated second-row fold-away mechanism could be improved. Those are minor flaws in a vehicle we’ve chosen, year after year, as among the best cars to buy. 

Within a day of spending a week with the 2024 Kia Telluride shuttling the kids around town I was instantly reminded why it’s been named The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2020 and won various TCC awards throughout the years. It comes down to lots of pros, and very few cons.

2024 Kia Telluride

Pro: Kia Telluride features great packaging

It’s not just the fact that the Telluride’s three rows of seats are big enough to hold a 5-foot-10 adult (me). No, in an era of small glass, swooping rooflines, and high beltlines the Telluride remains a spacious breath of fresh air. Squared-off styling gives way to a tall greenhouse featuring big panels of glass around the cabin including a large rear window. The low-set dashboard and raised seating position gives a commanding view of the road ahead, and the blind spots are smaller than those in the Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

Con: Kia Telluride’s second-row seats can’t slide and tilt

Kia’s stuck with the older, clumsier, and less family-friendly way of accessing the third row. Pushing a button on the seat back flips the seatback forward and the seat bottom then slides forward on rails. This makes it so the third row can’t be accessed easily with two car seats or a booster seat in both second-row seats. The Nissan Pathfinder, and even larger Ford Expedition, both feature second-row seat mechanisms that slide and tilt the seat without the need to move a car seat.

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

Pro: Kia Telluride can lock and level up

The Kia Telluride features a lockable center differential for its available all-wheel-drive system. This means at the push of a button the power is split between the front and rear axles for better traction in slippery situations. That contrasts with systems with open differentials that must wait until the wheels slip before they try figure out where to send the power, like in a Subaru Ascent

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

With the tow package the Telluride gets a set of self-leveling rear shocks, which will raise the rear end when a trailer or heavy load is being hauled. This makes the vehicle safer, easier, and more stable to drive. Aside from the Telluride’s cousin, the Hyundai Palisade, no competitor can do this except the Jeep Grand Cherokee L when equipped with a more complicated and expensive four-corner air suspension.

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

Con: Kia Telluride isn’t electrified

Most of its smaller siblings offer electrified powertrains; the Telluride can only be had with a 291-hp 3.8-liter V-6. It’s paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and is a smooth operator, but it’s not terribly efficient. Over the course of 188 miles of mixed suburban driving the Telluride averaged 17.3 mpg, which is just below its 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, 20 mpg combined ratings. It was only about 25 degrees throughout the week, so weather played a factor. The Telluride shares its platform with the Sorento, which is available with a hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrain. With a plug-in hybrid Toyota Grand Highlander in the wings it’s time for a hybrid and or plug-in hybrid Telluride.

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

Pro: Kia Telluride punches above its class

The Telluride costs $37,355 including a $1,365 destination fee, but my loaded SX-Prestige X-Line tester had a sticker price of $54,540. That feels like a deal. With a color head-up display, nappa leather trimmed seats with lovely stitching, and an interior that is screwed together better than cars costing far more, the Telluride feels like a drum-tight deal. Unlike in a GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate that costs nearly twice the price of the loaded Telluride, the suede headliner matches the suede-covered sunroof cover. My son was obsessed with the fact the rear seats even had a cooling function noting that’s usually limited to those up front, “which isn’t fair.” Kia’s landing in a class a full rung above the Toyota Grand Highlander and Honda Pilot in the Telluride’s top trim.

2024 Kia Telluride

2024 Kia Telluride

Con: Kia Telluride hasn’t gone wireless

Despite the refresh for 2023 bringing twin 12.3-inch screens to the dashboard under a single pane of glass, the Telluride still lacks wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In a vehicle that was just refreshed and features a wireless smartphone charging pad it’s a perplexing miss. The system still requires a USB-A cord to utilize the phone projection system. 

A notable update for 2024 is the return of the distinct and attention-grabbing amber LED daytime running lights. Originally available only on the top trip, the amber color disappeared entirely with the 2023 refresh. Now every Telluride gets the amber daytime running lights for 2024.

Years later and the competition still seems to be unable, or unwilling, to copy Kia’s Telluride homework. The blueprints have been shown to the world, yet Kia’s still setting the benchmark for large three-row crossovers. 

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2024 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line V-6 AWD

Base price: $37,355, including $1,365 destination

Price as tested: $54,540

Powertrain: 291-hp 3.8-liter V-6, 8-speed automatic transmission, AWD

EPA fuel economy: 18/24/20 mpg

The pros: Great packaging, locking center differential, self-leveling rear end, strong value

The cons: Outdated second-row folding mechanism, not electrified, wired phone projection

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