Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

2020 Telluride

Although it’s a thoroughly modern, unibody, front- or all-wheel-drive crossover, the 2020 Kia Telluride is styled in a boxy fashion to recall the look of classic American truck-based SUVs. Photo provided by Kia

While spending a week in southwest Colorado last month, we were treated to a couple of theories on just how the town of Telluride got its name.

So christened in 1878 during its mining heyday, the name “Telluride,” one theory holds, derives from the chemical element “Tellurium” -- which would be ironic since that element has never actually been found in the area.

The more intriguing theory postulates the name arose from Telluride’s then-perilous Rocky Mountain remoteness. This explanation describes a warning routinely relayed to fortune-seeking 19th-century miners planning a trip to the town’s 8,750-foot elevation: “Be ready! You’re facing a dangerous and arduous journey!”

Or, more colorfully, they were warned: “To hell you ride.”

If the latter theory is true, Kia’s latest crossover is determined that, at least, you’ll enjoy the trip.

2020 Telluride

Photo provided by Kia

All new for 2020, the Kia Telluride is a big, happy-faced, three-row crossover SUV that gets all the important stuff right. Available in LX, S, EX and SX trims, each offered with front- or all-wheel drive, Telluride provides a cabin that’s roomy, quiet, convenient, handy, techy and handsome -- everything you could want from a three-row family crossover.

For starters, room -- pretty much the whole reason for buying a big crossover -- is fabulous throughout the cabin. Even the three-place third row is capable of accommodating two adults or three kids.

Though eight-passenger seating can be had with the available three-seat middle-row bench, our top-of-the-line SX’s standard mid-row captain’s chairs created comfy cabin seating for seven in a 2/2/3 arrangement.

Access to the third row, by the way, is easy. Rear doors open wide, while a button on the fore/aft adjustable middle seats enables them to tilt and scoot forward for spacious passage to the third-row bench.

Inside, our SX’s decor was classy -- black leather, dark-wood trim on dash and doors and a piano-black surround on the center console, all handsome and stylish.

2020 Telluride

Photo provided by Kia

Regarding infotainment, our Telluride SX provided a big, 10.25-inch touch screen with all the modern perks -- and does it in a way that makes the technology easy to use. Meanwhile, the reconfigurable screen in the gauge pod and the vehicle’s cruise control functions are handled via handy thumb-toggles on the steering wheel -- easy to use and easy to find without taking your eyes from the road. That said, old-school favorites like hard buttons and knobs are abundant, even though the touch-screen is intuitive. Thanks, Telly!

Regardless of trim, every Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter, direct-injection V-6 that generates 291 hp and 262 lb.-ft. of torque through a standard eight-speed automatic. While no hot-rod -- the big guy tips the scales at more than two tons -- Telluride does provide class-competitive performance. In our all-wheel drive SX, we greeted 60 mph in a blink over 7 seconds while realizing 21 mpg in just over 100 miles, more in-town than on the highway.

Telluride also provides driver-selectable chassis modes of Comfort, Eco, Snow, Sport and Smart, that last one letting the car do all the thinking. Ride quality is aces, cabin serenity peaceful.

Finally, all the bubble-wrap tech is available via the “Kia Drive Wise” suite of safety nannies, which includes, among other hand-wringers, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection; Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist; Lane Following Assist; Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist; High Beam Assist; Driver Attention Warning; Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go capability; and Safe Exit Assist.

Kia loves to point out that Telluride was “imagined in America,” designed in America (in California) and is manufactured in America (in West Point, Ga.). That is to say, it’s unabashedly aimed at American crossover buyers -- and it’s designed and engineered to ensure an enjoyable trip to those Americans, no matter where the heck they’re going.


This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact tgriffin@stltoday.com.