Spy any Kia Telluride on the road and this lovable, three-row trucklette is instantly recognizable by its squared-off headlights, edged by bright-orange LEDs.
Think of them as illuminated Froot Loops, or a visual trademark of the Telluride line-up. You could see them from a mile away.
But, alas, they’re no more. For the newly refreshed 2023 Telluride, they’re replaced by new bright white lights, with orange LEDs reserved for the turn signals.
Don’t get me wrong, the new lights, with their projector beams and vertical slivers of LEDs, look very cool. Just not the same. It’s like Apple replacing its apple logo, well, with an orange.
The rest of the refresh is very much evolution, rather than revolution. A few new body parts, like a new grille insert, redesigned lower fascia, re-jigged taillights, some new wheel designs, and three new paint colors.
Inside, there’s a revised 12.3-inch center screen, with high-end models getting the instrument display screen and center screen joined under a single piece of curved piece. Looks great. There’s also a new steering wheel with a chunkier rim.
The rest is pretty much as before, falling into the “don’t mess with success” mantra. And for Kia, the Telluride has been a huge success, scooping up more awards than Beyoncé at the Grammys.
For me, the only really disappointment is that nothing was done to address the lack of powertrain options.
Kia sticks with the trusty 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6 that’s good for 291 horsepower and 262 pound-foot of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic.
Alas there’s no hybrid, or plug-in hybrid offering, or even a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo option. You can get all three on Kia’s smaller Sorento and Sportage SUV offerings.
Which is an omission considering that the Telluride’s V6 isn’t the most abstemious out there. For the 2023 Telluride SX Prestige X-Line model I’ve just spent a week piloting, the EPA estimates run 18 miles per gallon City, 24 miles per gallon Highway, and 21 miles per gallon Combined.
In a 550-mile drive from Tampa to Miami and back (in a day), I averaged 22 to the gallon. Not bad, but not great either for mainly I-75 Interstate driving.
Full disclosure here; that so-so average was probably down to my enthusiastic use of the “Sport” drive mode. This does wonders for the performance, steering, and handling.
With “Sport” selected, the Telluride fires away from the stoplight and delivers super-strong response when pulling out to pass. It’s like pouring Red Bull in the gas tank.
Yes, there’s no shortage of body roll through tight curves, but this 4,500-pound tall-bodied crossover never feels anything other than safe, predictable, and balanced. And it rides with the smoothness of hot molasses pouring from the jar.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Telluride on account of its easy-on-the-eye design, terrific interior space, whisper-quiet refinement, and, of course, its value. A base LX starts at $37,225, with our pretty much top-of-the line SX Prestige X-Line stickering for $53,320, including destination.
And here you literally have everything but the kitchen sink (which I’m sure is on the options list somewhere) as standard.
Highlights of SX-Prestige include all-wheel drive, dual sunroofs, a power liftgate, 20-inch alloys, and roof rails. Inside, it’s all diamond-quilted Nappa leather, heated and vented front and second-row seats, and a rockin’ Harman/Kardon sound system.
Most buyers will opt for a Telluride for its impressive interior space. The second-row seats offer limo-like legroom, while the third-row seats are roomy enough for six-foot-tall adults.
And as a load-holder, it’s up there with one of those PODS storage units. Fold down the second and third-row seats and you get a whopping 87 cubic feet of space.
Of course, since the Telluride came along in 2019, the competition has become pretty intense. The newest Toyota Pathfinder is hard to beat, there’s Ford’s Explorer, Nissan’s Pathfinder and the new class star, Mazda’s brand-new CX-90.
This newest Telluride, however, is as appealing and competitive as ever. Just a pity about those orange lights.