Kia chose butch over elegance.
The Kia Telluride has arguably done more for the brand's reputation than any Kia before. Yes, the Stinger is a cool car, but it has a limited audience. A three-row SUV has much more appeal, and now Kia has gone and made it better after just two short years on sale.
We were fortunate enough to attend the 2022 New York Motor Show unveiling last week and received a personal tour around the car from Tom Kearns, the chief designer at the Kia Design Center America.
Unlike most facelifts, this one is quite obvious. The only familiar piece up front is the new Kia badge, which made its debut last year.
As per usual, Kia added three new colors to the existing palette: Midnight Lake Blue, Dawning Red, and Jungle Wood Green.
The Telluride has an all-new face. We'll start with the all-new headlights, which resemble the old clusters. The layout and design are entirely new, however. All Tellurides now come standard with LED lights in a vertical format. You'll note a thicker, more aggressive tiger-nose grille between these lights.
The grille has a new gloss black floating design, which Kearns calls "chunky." Kearns is also keen to point out the Midnight Lake Blue, which is one of only a few non-metallic colors. "I like the non-metallic effect and the color really makes our new X-Pro specification pop."
You'll also notice a new four-light fog light arrangement if you look lower down, surrounded by a chunkier lower bumper. The facelifted Telluride takes a step away from its more elegant predecessor, yet somehow it seems more expensive.
The rear follows the same trend as the front. While the basic shape of the lights is the same, the layout has been changed significantly to incorporate all-new LED lights. The new Kia badge and font used on the trunk appear thicker, almost as if the car is prouder than ever of its humble roots.
We dig the new vertical motif, carried down to the rear fog lights. The lower bumper is also chunkier and more attractive. Looking at the previous car's rear bumper, it's apparent that it was supposed to have quad exhausts until the beancounters decided otherwise. This was a minor niggle, but we're glad it's gone.
Most owners will appreciate the interior upgrades the most. It's the best Kia interior we've ever seen and is easily on par with cars costing twice as much. Legroom is still a bit tight in the third row, but most prospective buyers will let that slide once they notice the new seamless, all-digital instrument panel.
The pre-facelift model had an instrument cluster and a touchscreen infotainment system. The new model has dual 12.3-inch screens housed in one long glass display. It's a beautiful piece of design that would not look out of place in a $100,000 plus German SUV.
Kia also included a new steering wheel, new HVAC vents, and more interior trim color packages to further elevate the interior. The black quilted leather on this particular car was quite striking.
Also new are two new trim levels: X-Line and X-Pro. The X-Line replaces the old Nightfall Edition and comes with a unique grille, 20-inch wheels, body-color door handles, bridge-type roof rails, and X-Line badges. On the inside, it comes with X-Line embossing on the front seats, and prospective customers will have access to exclusive color packages.
We're more interested in the X-Pro, which we saw in the flesh. On this model, you notice a slight ride height increase of 10mm better. This improves the approach, breakover, and departure angles, but not by much. Kia also revised the traction control system for improved off-roading ability.
As you might have noticed, the X-Pro actually has smaller 18-inch alloy wheels. Kia chose these black-painted wheels to make room for rugged all-terrain tires.
The 3.8-liter naturally-aspirated V6 (291 hp/262 lb-ft) remains the same, as does the eight-speed automatic gearbox. Kia developed a new Tow Mode, upgrading the previous tow rating from 5,000 to 5,500 lbs.
Pricing has yet to be announced, but you can bet it will still be a lot less than any German manufacturer will charge you for similar levels of competence and luxury.