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SUVs, especially three-row family models, vacillate wildly between tough looks with a light off-road focus to softer and car-like from generation to generation. But this natural order has grown more extreme in the 2020s, as automakers roll out vehicles with honest-to-goodness off-road gear.
But for every Honda Pilot Trailsport, Ford Explorer Timberline, and Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek, there’s a Kia Telluride X-Line that splits the difference between actual capability and on-road refinement. New for 2023, it lacks the genuine gear that makes the Pilot a Trailsport and a Pathfinder a Rock Creek, but Kia’s full-size X-Line (and the slightly different X-Pro) trim looks the part, and that matters nearly as much as real capability. At the same time, the interior of this tough-looking Telluride is still a class leader in terms of design, material quality, equipment, and overall comfort.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Kia Telluride SX Prestige X-Line|
|Output:||291 Horsepower / 262 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||18 City / 24 Highway / 21 Combined|
|Base Price:||$35,890 + $1,365 Destination|
Gallery: 2023 Kia Telluride: Review
- Exterior Color: Wolf Gray
- Interior Color: Black
- Wheel Size: 20 Inches
The X-Line trim appeared as part of a mid-cycle update that also saw modest changes to the Telluride’s exterior. Both the back and front see light, style-focused changes, including new bumper covers and revised headlights/taillights. But with my tester’s X-Line trim, gloss-black finishes play a big role, with 20-inch trim-specific wheels and a hexagonal inner element for the Tiger Nose grille’s insert. Raised gloss-black roof rails and a four-tenths of an inch hike in the ride height give the X-Line a more assertive look, too. My only complaint is that Kia limits the brawny 18-inch wheels and all-terrain tires to the X-Pro, rather than the X-Line.
Changes to the cabin are subtler, both in terms of the facelift and specifically regarding the X-Line trim. Embossing on the seatback calls out the trim and contrast stitching throughout the cabin lightens up the black leather. A slab-style housing remains atop an attractive dash, which includes a healthy strip of matte wood trim, but the 12.3-inch displays are 2.0 inches larger than last year. But aside from that big hardware update, it’s hard to pick out new items for 2023, such as the tweaked climate vents and the new steering wheel. Still, the Telluride continues to offer one of the most attractive, compelling cabins in the class.
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- Seating Capacity: 7
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 21.0 / 46.0 / 87.0 Cubic Feet
The front third of the Telluride’s cabin is home to two large, flat, and comfortable chairs that are nevertheless a bit too light on bolstering for my tastes. Still, the SX Prestige’s standard heating and ventilation, along with the excellent sightlines in all directions, makes the pilot and co-pilot chairs the place to be.
This upper-mid trim adds standard captain’s chairs in the second row, while the rear remains a three abreast situation. But while you can fit a trio back there, they’d better be small or very good friends. And with that third-row in place, the cargo capacity is on the wrong side of cozy. Then again, you can make the same argument against most of the cars in this class – they split the difference between manageable crossovers and truck-based three-row SUVs.
Where the Telluride and its ilk are superior is in the way they go down the road. Yes, the X-Line has 20-inch alloys, and they make their presence known in the overall stiffness of the ride, but the steering is stable and predictable even on rough roads. There’s little wind or tire noise, and what gets in from under the hood is actually pretty rich and ear pleasing.
- Center Display: 12.3-inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 12.3 Inches
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No
The dual 12.3-inch screens look fantastic, with bright, vibrant colors and high resolution, while the software running on them remains familiar and likable. Insert the obligatory complaint about Kia’s lack of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto here, although the built-in OS remains responsive and easy to understand. A 10.0-inch head-up display is a nice touch, too, and the 10-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio is well-defined and powerful. Both feel like features fit for a range-topping trim like this SX Prestige.
- Engine: 3.8-liter V6
- Output: 291 Horsepower / 262 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic
Kia left the Telluride’s powertrain well enough alone during its recent refresh, retaining a 3.8-liter V6 engine and eight-speed automatic to keep this three-row moving. It’s a very likable pairing, with the V6 providing enough grunt without feeling shouty or indecisive – squeeze the predictable accelerator pedal and the gearbox engages quickly, followed by a steady increase in revs and snappy, smooth upshifts. The power is surprisingly linear for a naturally aspirated engine, while the general tone of the soundtrack is smooth and pleasant.
Handling prowess is average. The small increase in ride height has little impact overall, while the Telluride’s road-oriented Michelin tires are grippier and more tolerant to hard cornering than a more focused three-row off-road trim, like the Pilot Trailsport. The steering is predictable, with a smallish dead zone on center and a light, enjoyable weight through corners.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Five Star Overall (in 2022, MY2023 is not rated)
- IIHS Rating: Top Safety Pick Plus
The SX Prestige trim lives at the top of the Telluride food chain (the X-Line and X-Pro are basically add-ons to it) and comes loaded to the teeth with active safety gear. Highway Driving Assist 2, seven different forms of Forward Collision Avoidance covering everything from turning at intersections to lane changes to pedestrians and cyclists, blind-spot monitoring cameras, and nav-based adaptive cruise are all on hand to name a few. And the integration here is damn near perfect. Through a week of testing, the active safety systems made every freeway journey easier and more relaxing.
- City: 18 MPG
- Highway: 24 MPG
- Combined: 21 MPG
|2023 Kia Telluride AWD||18 MPG||24 MPG||21 MPG|
|2023 Ford Explorer Timberline||19 MPG||22 MPG||21 MPG|
|2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport||18 MPG||23 MPG||20 MPG|
|2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek||20 MPG||23 MPG||21 MPG|
- Base Price: $35,890 + $1,365 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $53,350
- As-Tested Price: $53,825
Prices for the 2023 Telluride start at $37,255, including a $1,365 destination charge, and then they take off like a rocket from there. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option on the base LX, sporty looking S, and volume EX, and standard on the SX and SX Prestige. It’s also a prerequisite for the X-Line or X-Pro trims. If you want the top-zoot SX Prestige, cut a check for $51,955, and then add $2,395 to the X-Pro trim, while my X-Line tester starts at $53,350 and adds $495 in Wolf Gray paint and $210 for floor mats.
On the surface, that might seem like a poor deal relative to its more capable rivals – the Pathfinder Rock Creek, Pilot Trailsport, and Explorer Timberline all start at under $50,000. But Kia is unique in offering the X-Pro pack on three different trims, so it’s far better equipped both in terms of tech and active safety gear than its rivals.
For example, the Pathfinder Rock Creek lacks a digital cluster, navigation, and carries only the second-best version of ProPilot. The Pilot is also missing a digital cluster and navigation, along with the Telluride’s head-up display and an equivalent to the 10-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio system. Ford stands out from the alternatives with an available technology package, but the Explorer’s Co-Pilot safety suite trails Kia’s in terms of features and integration.
Ultimately, these differences matter on a customer-to-customer basis – if you want more capability, the Honda, Nissan, or Ford will outclass the Kia. If you want more content, then it's Kia all the way.
Telluride Competitor Reviews:
2023 Kia Telluride SX Prestige X-Line