TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Wagons, ho!
Just like the sturdy Prairie Schooners ferried American pioneers into the West, the ’20 Kia Telluride ably brought the Amend family north from metro Detroit to the annual CAR Management Briefing Seminars, although in a degree of safety and comfort likely to have drawn jealous scorn from our early settlers.
In fact, the diciest terrain we faced were Michigan’s ubiquitous road-construction zones, which the all-new 7-passenger, 3-row Telluride delivered us through in air-conditioned comfort. The sole health hazard may have been the fast-food pit stop, but it was nothing the Telluride’s independently sprung front and rear suspensions couldn’t contain.
For a young family of five, even a short sojourn to the three-day CAR conference requires a fair bit of cargo space. We tried to fill it to the gills with luggage, blankets, pillows and stuffed animals (seriously, kids?) for the 230-mile (370-km) trip. The Telluride swallowed every extraneous bit with room to spare.
The 3.8L gasoline direct-injected V-6 motivates the 4,350-lb. (1,973-kg) large CUV nicely, with its 291 horses quickly springing to life for highway passing and merging as if struck by a riding crop. Its 262 lb.-ft. (335 Nm) of torque comes on smoothly from the 8-speed automatic transmission for Audi-like thrust.
The powertrain delivered us to the gates of the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa averaging a smart, mostly highway 26.5 mpg (8.9 L/100 km), which easily exceeds the Telluride’s EPA-estimated 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km) highway.
It looks good, too. The Telluride, which takes its name from the southwest Colorado resort town, has some of the boxy corners of a covered wagon, but the Snow White Pearl paint gleams off every exterior inch, and the SX-trim 20-in. black alloy wheels provide a lovely contrast, just like the princess herself.
It is stylish enough to grab the attention of one fellow traveler at our pit stop, who remarked, “That’s the new Kia truck. Looking sharp.” Interior styling is easy on the eyes, as well, although the faux-wood trim is unconvincing.
A richly detailed 10.3-in. (26-cm) touchscreen delivers infotainment, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But the truck seriously misses a WiFi hotspot, which is becoming the price of entry among family haulers these days. For us, that just meant more barn-spotting and games of first letter, last letter.
For dad, the Telluride’s standout feature is its advanced driver-assistance systems. The lane-keep technology offers a hefty nudge back to the center lane if you drift, and the truck’s combination of radar and cameras will hold the Telluride on-center through long sweeping curves on the freeway before alerting the driver to take back the wheel.
The head-up display is chock-full of information, including the posted speed limit, cruising speed, navigation information and lane-keep status. But there was a puzzling groan coming from somewhere around the IP hood and it may have been the HUD’s 110V inverter.
An exterior camera delivers a real-time image to a display inside the IP when the blinker is activated to nicely eliminate blind spots.
Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability works flawlessly, including through a long construction zone backup. It is a bit aggressive on the braking, though, so after some successful testing it was shut off to keep the kids’ drinks in the cupholders.
The driver-assistance systems are a key component of the Wards 10 Best UX competition now under way. The Telluride is one of about 25 nominated vehicles. Winners will be announced next month.
Stickering out at $48,100, which includes more than $4,600 in optional equipment, the Telluride is a comparable value to competitors such as the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.
So, whether you’re headed west, north, east or south, the Telluride satisfies your family’s budget as much as their pioneering spirit.