The 2021 Kia Telluride is a terrific three-row crossover, because it's great for shuttling families and looks more expensive than it is. Credit Kia's ability to deliver an upscale experience and popular features at an bargain price for its largest model's success.
The Telluride has few compromises and outshines its mid-size SUV competitors in all the important categories. While its standard V-6 power-train could be more fuel efficient, and I wouldn’t mind if its driving behavior was sharper, there's no denying that it exceeds its mission of moving people and their stuff better than anything in its class.
The 2021 Telluride simply provides unrivaled levels of luxury and remarkable utility, which is why it'll make you feel richer than your bank account might suggest.
What's New for 2021?
Kia has gone light on changes for the Telluride's 2021 update, with the biggest update being the new Nightfall appearance package. This gives it a stylish—dare I say sinister—look thanks to a blacked-out grille, 20-inch wheels, and various other accents. However, it's only available with all-wheel drive on the top two trim levels.
The Telluride's other enhancements include a seven-pin trailer harness (previously a four-pin connection) and the key fob adds an "On" button for the remote-start system. The EX trim level also receives LED headlights as part of the Premium package. Black Copper and Sangria are new paint options on select models, too.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The Telluride is such a great value that I'd even choose the top-of-the-line SX model. It comes standard with flashy features, such as a 12-way power driver's seat, black-painted 20-inch rims, blind-spot monitoring, a Harman/Kardon audio system, front and rear sunroofs, and second-row captain's chairs.
Those who want the added sense of security that comes with all-wheel drive can have it for an extra $2000 ($100 less than on the S and EX).
I'd further enhance my Telluride with the SX Prestige package that brings a head-up display, heated and ventilated second-row seats, nappa leather upholstery, and more.
The tow package's hitch and self-leveling rear suspension are also a worthy addition in order to best utilize the ute's towing capability.
2021 Kia Telluride
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Under the hood of every 2020 Telluride is a naturally aspirated V-6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Its engine pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission that feeds the front wheels in the standard format—all-wheel drive is also optional across the board.
The top-of-the-line Telluride SX goes to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. However, the big Kia doesn't feel as responsive to throttle inputs at lower speeds as did some of its turbocharged rivals.
The Telluride's ride is on the firm side, with harsh pavement sometimes throwing the three-row SUV off its intended path. A self-leveling rear air suspension is also available.
Brakes are excellent and the steering is precise with a nice heft to its feel. The Telluride boasts 8.0 inches of ground clearance for off-road excursions, and it can tow up to 5000 pounds.
Unlike many rival three-row SUVs, the Telluride is only offered with a V-6 power-train. The EPA estimates the front-drive version is the thriftiest, with ratings of 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
All-wheel-drive models drop to 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, which are slightly higher than V-6–powered competitors such as the Volkswagen Atlas and slightly lower than the Honda Pilot.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Regardless of people's opinion about the Telluride's bold outward appearance, its interior is undeniably upscale and comfortable. The build quality is excellent, the materials are attractive, and the desirable features are plentiful.
Because the Telluride is several inches longer than the seven-passenger Sorento, its cabin is even more spacious, especially for those in the wayback seat. There is room for eight with a second-row bench seat or room for seven with the optional captain's chairs.
2021 Kia Telluride
Infotainment and Connectivity
Even the entry-level Telluride boasts a robust infotainment system that features an 8.0-inch touchscreen with popular content that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability along with numerous power points.
Every other model has the same equipment as well as a standard 10.3-inch touchscreen and wireless phone charging. A Harman/Kardon audio system is included on the top-tier SX model.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Kia Telluride earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the 2020 model was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).
Kia is packaging a comprehensive suite of driver-assistance technology on all Telluride models, and several upgraded assists are also available.
Key safety features include:
Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
Standard blind-spot monitoring
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia provides some of the best comprehensive coverage out there, with the longest power-train warranty in the biz. However, it lacks the complimentary scheduled maintenance of rivals such as the Toyota Highlander and the Chevy Traverse.
Limited warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
Power-train warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles