The 2023 Kia Telluride X-Line And X-Pro Are People Haulers For Off-Road Adjacent People

Telluridepro

If there’s a common overarching theme with the refreshed 2023 Kia Telluride, it’s “don’t fix what ain’t broke”—and that’s a great thing in this case. Kia’s three-row SUV is so popular that the company dubbed it the “Selluride” internally, and after spending some time driving around Central Texas in two of the newest trims, I understand why. It’s a genuinely nice, spacious SUV to sit in, and the brand has focused on making upgrades where it matters—primarily to in-car tech and driving aids. 

This isn’t to say Kia is completely averse from chasing trends, though. Just in time for Halloween, Kia went and dressed up its refreshed 2023 Telluride as an off-roader. The 2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro doesn’t fully commit to the overland bit, but it has 0.4 inches more ground clearance than the base model, 18-inch wheels shod with all-terrain tires, an increased 5,500-lb tow capacity, and revised suspension tuning. It looks the part and handles simple obstacles with ease. 

Kiaxline

[Full disclosure: Kia provided fuel, cars, meals and lodging in order to test out the new Telluride trims.]

Yet it’s the other new trim package—the similarly overland-inspired but not as hardcore “X-Line”—that really felt like the best all-around trim for this car. The X-Line takes the place of the black-trimmed “Nightfall Edition” in the outgoing Telluride lineup and features a number of subtle visual nods that the X-Pro also gets, such as the same grille, body-color door handles, and raised roof rails. The X-Line also gets that extra 0.4 inches in ground clearance, but backs off to 20-inch wheels wrapped with regular tires. The end result is an SUV that is much more confident on the pavement, which—let’s be real—is the natural habitat for most three-row crossovers. 

The Basics 

Kia Tellrudie X

Price: Starting at $35,690 ($55,120 and $54,120 as tested for the SX-Prestige X-Pro and SX-Prestige X-Line, respectively, including freight and handling fees).

Engine: 3.8-liter V6 engine, 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 262 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Drive: FWD or AWD.

Curb Weight: 4,134-4,524 lbs. 

Approach Angle: 17 degrees (standard), 17.7 degrees (X-Line) and 17.9 degrees (X-Pro). 

Departure Angle: 22.4 degrees (standard), 23 degrees (X-Line) and 23.2 degrees (X-Pro). 

Fuel Economy: 23 combined MPG for the FWD models, 21 combined MPG for AWD models.

Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs standard, or 5,500 lbs with X-Pro package.

Body Style: Mid-size three-row crossover SUV.

All the Upgrades You Need, None You Don’t

2023 Telluride
Photo via Kia

Perhaps the most refreshing part about the Telluride is that most of it just works. There isn’t a lot of flashy technology for technology’s sake, and what Kia chose to upgrade keeps it competitive with other three-row midsize crossovers without making the Telluride annoying or distracting to use. There are no irritating capacitive controls or commonly used items buried in a hard-to-reach infotainment menu. For your most commonly used HVAC, stereo, terrain management and driver assistance tech, the Telluride has simply-laid-out physical buttons that are easy to hit at a glance.

When my biggest beef with the interior layout is that all the central infotainment touchscreen’s icons were the same color and hard to differentiate at a side-glance, you know they’ve done something very right. That, too, seems like a temporary complaint given that you tend to develop muscle memory for where your most frequently used menu options sit as you get used to a new car. As a whole, the Telluride felt exceptionally easy to use and get comfortable with. 

2023 Telluride
Photo via Kia

The screens themselves are one of the biggest upgrades in the 2023 refresh. The standard center touchscreen is now 12.3″, and a second 12.3″ instrument display is available as well. Both screens are tastefully set into one seamless curved bezel that gently curves towards the driver. One of the most clever things the Telluride gauge cluster does is open up a side-view camera in place of one of the gauges when you turn on the blinker, showing what might be in your blind spot. Other Hyundais and Kias do this as well, and I’m all for it.

Blindspot2

A third screen is both a first for Kia and a first for me: the rear-view display built into the mirror. This is the first time I’ve used such a rear-view display and didn’t find it so distracting that I turned it off almost immediately. The camera displays on the Telluride—for both the mirror as well as the ones that come up when parking—are clear and feel more natural than some of the uncanny pixelated mirror displays I’ve used before. The lone downside is that the digital rear-view mirror only adjusts so far down, and you can’t see the front of a car that stops super-close to your bumper no matter how the rearview is adjusted, which seems like a missed opportunity given that whole upside of having rear-mounted cameras is seeing where mirrors can’t. 

Blindspot3

Most of the standard updates to the 2023 Telluride refresh involve the car’s tech. A Wi-Fi hotspot is now standard. Kia also upgraded the car’s standard advanced driver assistance features to include new forward collision avoidance tech that even works in left turns, although thankfully, I did not have to test any of the available collision avoidance tech myself. 

The Telluride’s available ADAS upgrades are even more impressive. Highway Driving Assist 2 is capable of making lane changes and keeps a car at a set length behind the car in front, and it worked seamlessly to pull me through the boring freeway sections of the drive while keeping the car calmly centered in its lane. The Telluride also offers Evasive Steering Assist to dodge, for example, a pedestrian stepping into the road, as well as forward collision avoidance tech capable of dodging potential collisions when making lane changes or a pass that takes you into an oncoming lane of traffic. 

The new Telluride also offers a digital key app compatible with Apple and Samsung smartphones, although I didn’t get the chance to test this out in our brief one-day drive. 

On Road Is Where the X-Line Shines

XlineI got the chance to test out both of Kia’s new options packages for the 2023 Telluride: the X-Line (silver) and X-Pro (blue), both of which are only offered on higher EX, SX and SX-Prestige trims and come exclusively with all-wheel drive. If you spend most of your time on the pavement, hands down, the X-Line would be my pick.  

The Telluride’s interior on all its trims is bright and spacious, which was even more the case with the available dual sunroof combo above. All of the sunroofs could be completely covered with an opaque shade if so desired, and the second-row even had a pull-up sunshade to keep it extra-cool despite the SUV’s big windows. The Telluride’s front seats are comfortable and supportive, with both the first-row power-adjustable seats and and second-row captain’s chairs featuring both warming and cooling. You can even set the driver’s seat to ensure you stay awake after 30 or 60 minutes of continuous driving—a fancy feature I expect from Mercedes more so than Kia. 

2023 Telluride
Photo via Kia

While you can option the Telluride with either seven or eight seats, both versions I tested had the seven-seat configuration with second-row captain’s chairs. I’m admittedly a pretty small person, but I found climbing into the third row bench easy regardless of whether you used the power adjustments to move the second row up or simply crawled through the open space between the two seats. 

The third row takes up a considerable amount of cargo space when it’s up and its leg room is shorter than the rows in front of it, but leg room was decent for me. I’m 5’4″, and my knees barely grazed the middle-row captain’s chair in front of me with the second-row seat in place. Fortunately, both the X-Line and X-Pro packages include roof rails in case you need all three rows and room for more stuff on top. 

Knees

(Ed note: Did we need this photo? I don’t think so. I feel like we’d have believed Stef. Also, being shorter, is in many ways a benefit as an enthusiast. So this just feels like Texan boasting. – MH) In addition to some tasteful styling tweaks and extra badges, the X-Line package includes a modest 0.4-inch increase in ride height (as I mentioned before), package-specific 20-inch alloy wheels with more pavement-oriented Michelin Primacy tires, upgrades to its traction control system and a tow mode for trailering. 

The model-range-topping X-Pro builds on the X-Line’s upgrades, except it includes an extra 110-volt outlet in the cargo area, extra cooling that increases the tow capacity from 5,000 lbs to 5,500 lbs, 18-inch alloy wheels shod in Continental TerrainContact all-terrain tires, and bespoke tuning to its shocks and suspension to match. 

Kia representatives boasted that Tellurides don’t have air suspension which tends to be a failure point as an SUV ages, which honestly makes sense for a relatively affordable SUV. However, that does take one extra item that one could otherwise adjust on the fly out of the picture, and it’s clear where the priorities were when Kia engineers tuned the X-Line versus the more hardcore X-Pro. 

Behind the wheel, the Telluride feels quicker and more responsive than a big mass-market SUV like this has any right to be. I still think the Subaru Ascent is just a smidge more fun when it comes to SUVs in this class, but the Telluride X-Line comes awfully close and has a less complicated drivetrain I’d trust more for the long-haul. The 291-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 is more than adequate to move the Kia out of its own way, and the X-Line version handled lane-changes on nightmare hell road I-35 as well as flowing back-road turns confidently. 

That changes with the suspension, wheel and tire tweaks made on the X-Pro, however. The X-Pro felt less sure on higher-speed highway turns—less precise when changing directions, and with a bit more body roll built-in. The difference is almost night and day, with the X-Line feeling far more car-like and enjoyable to drive on the pavement in spite of its size. Meanwhile, the X-Pro constantly reminded me I was in an SUV. Both were plenty comfortable, but it’s obvious which one I’d rather daily drive in regular traffic. 

X-Pro Punches Above Its Weight Off-Road

2023 Telluride

Where the X-Pro package shined was—as intended—off the pavement on the off-road course Kia built to demonstrate its vehicles’ capabilities. If one of your primary purposes for buying a Telluride is driving off the beaten path, you may find compromising some of the Telluride’s on-road manners to be worth it. 

Let’s be real about what this isn’t, though. While the X-Pro is the most off-road-oriented package Kia’s offered on the Telluride to-date, the hardest-core off-roaders may still find it a bit lacking in extra equipment. There’s no extra underbody protection like you’d find under the likes of the Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro or the Ford Explorer Timberline, nor is there a low range. A Kia product representative noted most of the critical potential failure points sit higher underneath the car and the suspension components under there do look decently beefy, but I’d still rather save really gnarly rocky stuff for another rig—or at least until the aftermarket works its magic here. 

Underkia

The Telluride has wonderfully small overhangs in front and rear that give it fantastic approach and departure angles, but its 8.4-inch ride height is one-upped by the Subaru Ascent’s 8.7 inches. There’s an AWD Lock feature that’s supposed to deliver power evenly to both axles, but it’s computer-controlled and behaves a bit differently than the mechanical lockers you might be used to on more specialized SUVs. At one point on the off-road course, it seemed to lag a little bit when it came to directing power, which it did in unpredictable ways. Kia representatives advised us to keep an even 10-15% input on the throttle so the computer would know we wanted to move forward and figure out how to best crawl along at slow speed accordingly. 

2023 Telluride
Photo via Kia

Oh, and speaking of computers, you do need to keep hitting the parking sensors off to make it quit beeping on a trail. That’s a little annoying, and I wish they would have an always-off mode for this, and perhaps an always-on mode for the Telluride’s stellar 360-degree camera views. 

All of this might make the X-Pro sound like it’s engaging in mere overland cosplay, but it works far better than it really should. Kia’s course simulated the kinds of wash-outs, lumps and steep grades that you might encounter getting to more remote campsites, and didn’t go too easy on the Telluride except for a pretty tame rock field and a lack of abrupt shelf-like drop-offs. 

Offcourse

The Telluride has a surprisingly small turning radius for a three-row crossover that came in handy here. Its Downhill Brake Control feature is one of the smoothest operating ones I’ve tested, gliding the Telluride down to a set top speed gently. Once it senses that you’re back on a grade less steep than 12%, the descent control feature automatically switches off. On uphill grades, the Telluride’s hill hold was mercifully smooth, too, holding the Telluride neatly in place without letting it jerk backwards as you transitioned from the brake pedal to the gas. 

Is the Telluride X-Pro a hardcore off-roader? No. It is a nice, family-friendly option for folks looking to go further into big parks, and into more remote areas. Hell yeah, and I think Kia nailed that potential use case well.

A People-Hauler for Enthusiasts

KiatellureWe all know folks who are reluctant to get behind the wheel of a crossover on principle, but it’s past time to admit they’re no longer the soul-sucking appliances of yore. The Kia Telluride is a genuinely nice vehicle, with an interior that’s as far a departure from the flimsy-feeling Kias of two decades ago as it gets. 

The X-Line was the most well-rounded of the Telluride’s new packages, and gets my pick for one of the most fun three-rows I’ve tested in a normal-person price range. Sometimes it’s better not to get the most hardcore off-road package offered, and unless you’ve got a thorn-lined driveway at home or really need that extra 500 lbs of towing capacity, it’s the Telluride’s off-road-lite package that really hits the sweet spot. 

All photos the author unless otherwise noted

 

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51 Responses

  1. Didn’t realize who wrote the article until seeing your ones today as I have not been reading awful crossover articles because my blood pressure can only take so much. Really glad you made the move over here. I may have campaigned for it when the site launched.

  2. I have read, and I have comments.

    5,500 lbs with X-Pro package vs 5000 lbs. [butwhy.gif]

    “Kia representatives boasted that Tellurides don’t have airbags which tend to be a failure point as an SUV ages “
    Um, I’m confused by this statement. I think you forgot to a word.

    fantastic approach and departure angles
    17.9 degrees /23.2 degrees.
    Um…they are okay I guess.

    “Oh, and speaking of computers, you do need to keep hitting the parking sensors off to make it quit beeping on a trail. That’s a little annoying”

    I saw this on the TFL video. REALLY annoying.

    Hyundai/Kia definitely knows what kinds of vehicles are selling right now and why. This is a lukewarm effort to appeal to the people it claims to…but probably hits the nail on the head for the actual buyers. The good news is that H-Trac is a pretty robust system and they seem to be very good at tuning it. However, companies REALLY need to get off the “center diff lock” button kick. Just replace the SAE center lock diagram with “OFF ROAD” and an SUV on some dirt and change nothing else. It’s the “off-road mode” people wanted in the X-Pro but labeled accurately instead of being a big lie.

    1. Fantastic compared to my Nasenbär? I left a big ol’ dent (…worth it) in the 411’s front tire well taking that thing out into Big Bend, haha. It’s got a SNOOT. Anyway, yeah—it’s not gonna upset any more purpose-built rigs, but it seemed mercifully stubby at both ends for a big ol’ three-row, mostly-pavement-bound crossover. No stat on the spec sheet for breakover, but alas, I think even Kia knows their likely audience here.

      Suspension airbags! Suspension! The regular airbags are there, haha.

      I do wish they’d just upgrade the cooling for all the trims to bump that tow spec up across the board, though. It’s such a weird extra for a one-package-only kinda deal, and seems like an odd fit with “must get the chunky tires that aren’t as fun on the tarmac.” The next-to-highest trim really is the sweet spot here, and I’d definitely tow said Problem Nasenbär with it.

  3. One, welcome, Stef Schrader of The Autoplan! I like this cross promotion with The Autopian. Perhaps we can also get the Altopian involved for music and the Autoplain for geography.

    The 2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro doesn’t fully commit to the overland bit, but it has 0.4 inches more ground clearance than the base model, 18-inch wheels shod with all-terrain tires,

    Zzzzzzz…

    an increased 5,500-lb tow capacity,

    YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION, KIA.
    Especially since the Telluride comes in COLORS! Actual fucking colors! It even has inside colors!

    While you can option the Telluride with either seven or eight seats, both versions I tested had the seven-seat configuration with second-row captain’s chairs.

    … damnit Kia, give me a third row delete.
    And a dealer network that isn’t pure concentrated cancer. Mostly that. But also the third row delete. After the dealer network that isn’t pure hate.

    Not using air suspension is a smart choice. People are often surprised to find out that I don’t use it either, not till towing gets way, way up there. Fact is, the brakes are your weak point long before the suspension. If you can’t stop it, you can’t tow it. And anything you can fit in an 18″ wheel is going to be fine with progressive springs.

    And with the Grand Cherokee no longer offering a decent engine (only the 3.6 VVT, no more 5.7 Hemi,) the Selluride no longer has competition. You can’t even get the 5.7 in the Summit Reserve now. Which limits the GC’s towing to “absolutely fucking not.” Not “really low.” Straight up “there is no tow package, period. Go drop $80k on a Wagoneer.” The only way you can kit out a Grand Cherokee to tow is in a custom order Summit with a minimum (MINIMUM) MSRP of fucking $75,000 before tax.
    “But Jeep says the 3.6 VVT -” have you ever DRIVEN a 3.6 VVT pulling that weight? It has a peak of 260ft/lbs and the curve is anything but flat. The 5.7 Hemi is 390ft/lbs from 0 to Rods Achieving Escape Velocity RPM.

    And again: that GC with the 5.7 Hemi? $75k. The Selluride with the 3.8? $53k.
    I do wish it had the Smartstream FR 3.5T (375HP, 391ft/lbs) but the beauty cover’s for show. The Telluride’s transverse layout. And it’s a hell of a lot better on the inside than the Ford, Honda, and Toyota offerings, that’s for damn sure.

    1. Interestingly, to get the towing package on the Telluride, you need the second row captain’s chairs. Which I don’t mind, but I don’t see any reason they should be linked. And, yeah, colors, towing, and comfort are great. And I would also spring for third row delete if this were anything I was looking at.

      I’d really like to see hybrid offerings. Most people buy three-row vehicles as family haulers, and efficiency would be a big draw for the family road trip (or just picking the kids up from sports practice).

      1. Maybe some capacity GVWR thing about carrying 8 passengers + a trailer, but more likely just H/K packaging weirdness. Sorento is similar, with 2nd row bench only on the LX & S with the base motor, and captain’s chairs on all 2.5T models/EX-above, as well as on all Hybrid/PHEV Sorentos. I do think most buyers do want captain’s chairs, but with the size of the Sorento, that makes it more of a 4+2 seater and only has a small amount of cargo space behind the 3rd row.

        1. Yeah, somewhere along the way, car companies realized the best way to make money was to package options together in such a way as to get people to buy a whole lot more than they want. I’d love to be able to pick things a la carte; I’d probably configure something with ventilated seats, but otherwise almost completely base model. Improved power or the like, maybe, but not much else.

    2. I’ve pulled nearly 5000 lbs with a Dodge Durango using the 3.6VVT without any difficulty at all. Did the same with a Town & Country with the same engine, even though that’s rated for only 3500 lbs. I don’t have any clue why you’re knocking the 3.6VVT Pentastar. It also comes in a Ram Truck that’s equally capable. Sure, the Hemi is miles better for towing, especially pulling heavy weights, but that’s a thirsty monster on even the best of days.

    3. I gotta say, the space behind the seats with the third row down was pretty cavernous. 46 cubic feet, per the spec sheet. I think you can always DIY a third-row delete, but you’d lose the floor that folds flat.

        1. While the Telluride looks really big, it really isn’t. We have a 2021 (wife’s DD) and it’s almost the same sizes (L, W, H) as our 2011 Acura MDX, with the exception of being several inches longer. Fits in the garage w/ no issues. To me it doesn’t feel that large to drive, and my DD is a G37x.

  4. “One of the most clever things the Telluride gauge cluster does is open up a side-view camera in place of one of the gauges when you turn on the blinker, showing what might be in your blind spot. Other Hyundais and Kias do this as well, and I’m all for it.”

    I really miss the LaneWatch feature we had on Hondas for a few years. It was really nice to be able to watch merging traffic or when waiting for a turn and watching for bicycles coming up on your right side.

    However, customers really hated it when coming in to replace the mirror. The camera being built into the mirror was a much greater upfront expense and then you had to re-aim the camera to properly display distance overlay. People smack their mirrors on a surprising amount of crap…

    1. Or don’t please. keep it a basic non turbo NA v6 and let DBC buy an Ioniq6 and drive the eff by, or at least let us drive by him while he is waiting for the charger to get him home.

  5. “[B]ut it has 0.4 inches more ground clearance than the base model”
    Doesn’t seem like a whole lot? That’s about 10 mm, you know, the same size as the socket that everyone keeps losing.
    Nice writeup (it certainly seems like Kia has been exceeding almost all expectations lately, particularly in the design departments) & welcome to the Autopian, good to see you here!

  6. I’m a day late to the review, but I had to double take when I saw the author. They really have put the band back together.
    The Telluride is my favorite of the family hauling SUVs. They still look sharp without aggressive truck styling.

    1. Right?! I’m no expert on what SUVs should look like but even i can see it’s punching above average.
      And if i’m honest it gives me a kick to see a ‘cheap’ korean brand beat BMW on this front.

  7. They seemed to try and go after the overland segment from the beginning. In 2019 I was at Overland Expo West and they had a blogger who had traveled with one and was promoting it. It would do well on the normal overland travel that I do in Central Asia. We rarely do technical terrain, but we might drive on washboarding for the days straight. And therein lies my concern, will it hold up. The look underneath that I took in 2019 showed some pretty light weight control arms and the like. The ones on first gen Toyota Sequoias are heavier and we have problems with those. For family use, probably fine, bit if you are constantly on bad roads, not so much.

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