As one of the hottest SUVs on the market today, the Kia Telluride saw massive demand when it went on sale in 2019.
Dealers had a hard time keeping Tellurides on their lots, encouraging them to add markups to bring in some extra cash. However, the global pandemic has slowed demand and dealers now have inventory in stock, giving buyers the ability to avoid the markup and negotiate a good price. So if you’re looking to get you and your family into a Telluride this summer, read on to determine exactly which model works for your lifestyle and your budget.
Before breaking down the different trim levels of the Kia Telluride (LX, S, EX, and SX), I want to talk about some of the features you might care most about and how to make sure you don’t walk out of the dealer disappointed.
Second Row Captain’s Chairs
One thing people really love about the Telluride is the optional second row captain’s chairs. These individual seats replace thestandard bench seat for the second row, reducing capacity from 8 passengers to 7 in the process. They offer a sense of privacy for second row passengers as well as the ability to slide or recline each seat individually. The captain’s chairs have their own manually adjustable fold-down armrests to add to the level of comfort.
Unfortunately, Kia doesn’t offer them on every trim of the Telluride, so if you want them, you’ll need to opt for either the S trim, the EX Premium Package, or any SX model. Conversely, if you need the full 8 seats allowed by the second row bench seat, you can get it standard on LX, on S as a $100 option, and on EX without the Premium Package. You’ll have to avoid the SX trim altogether, because the bench seat is not offered in this top-of-the-line trim.
Another feature celebrated in the press is the dual sunroof option which features a standard fully opening sunroof over the driver and passenger and then a larger rear fixed sunroof that’s visible above both second and third row passengers. The front and back sunroofs both feature motorized shades that can be closed to block 100% of the sunlight.
Regrettably, the dual sunroof setup is only available on the SX trim of the Telluride, while the S and EX trims both make do with the front opening sunroof only, and the LX has no sunroof option available.
LED Exterior Lighting
One thing that sets the Telluride apart from the competition is the exterior LED lighting, especially the amber running lights within the headlight assembly. However, only the SX trim comes with full LED lighting for the exterior of the car, which includes LED projector headlights and foglights, along with rear LED taillights and turn signals.
Full LED lighting isn’t available for the LX or the S, and while the EX does pick up the LED rear lighting, it doesn’t offer those cool front LEDs.
Read on to see how else the different trim levels of Telluride compare. Note that all prices below include destination charges, but do not include tax, title, or license. If you’re a strong negotiator, you should be able to get an out-the-door price similar to the prices listed below, and remember to ask for 0% financing, as dealers are willing to go the extra mile right now. All they can say is no, so why not ask?
Telluride LX: Affordable, but you’ll regret not spending the extra cash
The cheapest way into a Telluride is the LX trim. For the most basic model, you’re looking at a sticker price of $33,060. For that price, you do get a ton of standard features, including a 3.8L naturally aspirated V6 with 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque mated to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. That engine, which is the only one offered on the Telluride, boasts a 0-60mph time of just over 7 seconds.Handling is also above average for the segment, although you’ll definitely feel more secure in all environments if you upgrade to the optional AWD system for an extra $2,000 ($35,060 total).
On the outside, the LX is the only version of the Telluride to come without roof rails for extra roof-mounted cargo. It has a cheaper looking grille than other Tellurides, lacking the visual details and brightwork that more expensive models get. Likewise, the lower front and rear bumpers show a less sophisticated finish. Certain pieces such as the skid plates and air ducts that are finished in satin chrome on higher trim levels are ignored on the LX. It also lacks the beefy looking dualexhaust tips that accent all other Telluride models. The 18” alloy wheels appear very small for the enormous size of the wheel wells, although they ride better than the bigger 20” wheels offered in higher trims. You may forget these subtle exterior differences during your daily routine, but they make a big overall difference when comparing Telluride trims on your dealer lot.
The LX comes standard in silver and dark gray exterior colors. You can pay an additional $395 for white, black, or a deep purplish red color called Sangria. Those premium colors bring a Telluride LX FWD to $33,455, or $35,455 if you’ve selectedAWD.
Moving inside, the LX is available only in the 8-seat configuration with a black Sofino leatherette, and the interior accent is just a painted dark gray plastic in the LX, whereas more expensive models receive a faux wood trim. The accompanying headliner is light gray, bringing some much-needed light into the LX’s upper cabin.
The LX also skimps on interior features. Infotainment, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for all Tellurides, is handled by an 8” touchscreen with control knobs and buttons mounted on both sides of the screen. This results in those controls being removed from the faux aluminum trim piece on the dashboard, leaving that piece looking bare and awkwardcompared to more expensive models. Additionally, the A/Ccontrols for the LX include only three simple dials: fan speed, temperature, and air positioning. These limited controls end up looking too sparse and spread out over the large climate control area of the dash that’s obviously designed for the more advanced climate control of the EX and SX trim levels.
The gauge cluster features a tiny 3.5” monochrome trip computer that is just too outdated for today’s market. Additionally, the two centrally mounted grab handles in the first row are conspicuously missing their heated seat toggles in the LX, and all lighting on the interior is incandescent rather than LED. All of the above compromises combine to make the interior feel significantly cheaper than other Tellurides. That being said, Kia has done a great job of limiting the number of blank buttons and switches on the dashboard in the base model. We could only find one, where the 360 degree camera button on well-equipped Tellurides is a blank button below the shift knob.
On the positive side, you’ll be pleased to find that the TellurideLX does still feature 4 ceiling-mounted air vents for rear seat passenger comfort, 5 USB charging points and 3 12V outletsthroughout the cabin for charging plenty of devices, and an impressive suite of safety features for a base model vehicle. These include smart cruise control, blind spot monitoring withlane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and lane following assist, forward and rear collision avoidance with pedestrian warning, rear occupant alert, safe exit assist, and others.
Telluride S: Feel better about your purchase without spending a fortune
While the Telluride LX feels a little like a penalty box compared to some of the upper level trims of this SUV, the Telluride S gives you some very attractive upgrades for not too much more cash. The Telluride S FWD starts at $35,460, while the AWD version comes in at $37,460.
On the exterior of Telluride S, you’ll notice the intricately detailed dark metallic grille from higher trim levels, along with skid plates, air ducts, lower door moldings, and window surround trim in a beautiful satin chrome. You also get stylishmachined 20” rims that fill the wheel wells, and fixed roof rails to carry extra goods if needed. Dual exhaust tips match the rugged and boxy styling of the Telluride.
Beyond the colors available for the LX, the S trim also offers the Dark Moss exterior color at no extra cost. This dark green is the Telluride’s signature paintjob which you’ll see in all the marketing materials, and it looks great on the car. White, black, or Sangria add the same $395 cost that they do on the LX, bringing the total cost for those colors to $35,855 for FWDmodels or $37,855 for AWD.
On the inside, the Telluride S carries over many of the features of the Telluride LX, with a few key exceptions. This means thatwhile you’ll look better from the outside, there are still some compromises on the interior. The Sofino black leatherette is still standard on the Telluride S, but you now get the option to switch to gray Sofino seats for the same price. While the black leatherette feels excessively dark inside, the gray option is light and airy. Note that this is not available on silver or Sangria Telluride S models.
While infotainment doesn’t see any upgrades on the S, the manually-adjusted driver’s seat on the LX becomes a 10-way power seat with lumbar support for the Telluride S, and it’s also the cheapest way to get the individually adjustable Captain’s Chairs in the second row. You can still opt for the 8-passenger layout if you’d like, for an additional $100. There are also heated front seats controlled on the central grab handles, to provide some function in addition to their form. You’ll enjoy a normal size front powered sunroof standard in the S, but no rear sunroof is offered at this price point, and all interior lighting is upgraded to LED when you opt for Telluride S.
At only about $3,000 over the base price, the Telluride S is a good compromise between the value of the basic LX model and the image and luxury features of the higher trim levels.
Telluride EX: The well-balanced Telluride
The Telluride EX is a mid-level trim that has all the features you will really ever need in this car, taking the good looks of the Telluride S and adding a more luxurious experience that justifies the price bump. Telluride EX starts at $38,460. The EX is also the lowest trim that allows you to add the full towing package for $795, which consists of a tow hitch and a self-leveling rear suspension that allows you to tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is more than enough to take your boat up to the lake, a couple of horses across the farm, or a camping trailer to the national park.
From the outside, the only main improvement between the Telluride S and the Telluride EX is the LED taillights which integrate the brake lights and turn signals into the larger upper unit and remove the turn signals from the lower bumper. However, the EX has smaller 18” machined alloy wheels. While they look good, it’s frustrating to lose the 20” wheels when moving up to the more expensive EX. You also lose the satin chrome exterior features of the Telluride S by moving to the EX.Exterior color choices are the same, with a $395 bump for black, white, or Sangria exterior colors.
On the inside, Telluride EX adds plenty of attractive features to lure buyers to spend more. Here, Kia replaces the lower-spec infotainment system with a wide 10.25” touch screen and moves the knobs and buttons down to the faux aluminum trim just below the infotainment screen. Additionally, the climate control is upgraded to a tri-zone automatic system with its own climate control display. the painted gray plastic trim in the LX and S is replaced with a faux wood that feels just like real open pore wood trim. While some reviewers describe this wood trim as the weak point of the interior, it feels great to the touch and will appeal to many buyers.
The Sofino leatherette is gone in the EX, replaced by genuine leather in either black or gray (silver Tellurides don’t get the gray option). While the leather feels good, it’s not as supple as the Nappa leather that’s offered in the Telluride SX Prestige Package. Other luxury features have been added, like the power adjustable passenger seat, ventilated and heated front seats, wireless phone charger, and second-row manual side sunshades that you pull up to darken the rear area in bright sunlight conditions.
The Telluride EX also upgrades some convenience features, giving you a power rear liftgate which you can adjust to raise to any predetermined height you choose, power-folding exterior mirrors, an auto-defogging system in the climate control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Driver Talk system that allows you to project your voice to the third row seat, and Quiet Mode that allows you to mute the rear audio speakers if passengers are resting in the back.
The EX comes standard with the second-row bench for 8 occupants, but you can upgrade to the 7-passenger captain’s chairs if you pay $1,495 for the EX Premium Package. Beyond those captain’s chairs, the Premium Package also brings back the 20” alloy wheels from the Telluride S. If you add both the Towing Package and the Premium Package, along with one of the premium paint colors, expect a maximum price of $43,145 for your Telluride EX AWD.
Telluride SX: But wait, there’s more… including a near-$50k pricetag
The Telluride SX is a fully loaded vehicle, and is the highest trim level currently available. It does get pricey, although for what you get, it’s still a bargain. The SX starts at $42,960. That’s still a FWD Telluride, so add $2,000 for the AWD and you’re at $44,960.
The Telluride SX removes the Sangria paint option in favor of Black Copper, which has an additional level of metallic flakeover the regular black paint. Highlights in the paint appear golden in the sunlight. Black Copper is also a $395 option which brings the cost up to $43,355 for FWD or $45,355 for AWD. The exterior also features unique black-painted 20” alloy wheels that have a cool aftermarket look to them, in addition to full LED headlights and fog lights with automatic high beam assist and that cool amber daytime running light on each side. All of the exterior trim is accented in satin chrome, just like on the Telluride S.
For the added money, Kia includes the captain’s chairs standard for all SX models, and adds on a more comfortable 12-way power driver’s seat with memory function for multiple drivers.You also open up a larger catalog of interior color combinations. In addition to the black and gray leather options from the EX, you can also opt for Butterscotch leather, which is of a mid-light brown hue and comes with a black headliner that contrasts nicely with the seats. Similarly, you can opt for the unique and luxurious Espresso Brown leather interior, which adorns the seats, dashboard, door panels, steering wheel, armrest, and grab handles. Butterscotch and Espresso Brown are only available on Dark Moss, white, or black Telluride SX models.
There’s also a more modern 7” full color display in the gauge cluster that allows you to adjust many more features of the car than you’re able to with the lesser 3.5” unit, and adds blind spot cameras that appear in the gauge cluster when you use your turn signal. And as part of the 10.25” screen, you get a 360 degreecamera with multiple modes, full navigation, and a 10-speaker630-watt Harman Kardon system with Clari-Fi and QauntumLogic surround sound for super clear audio. The SX also provides the dual sunroof system that adds a large second sunroof with power sunshade over the second and third rows of seats.
If all of these features still aren’t enough for you, you can add the SX Prestige Package on to any AWD-equipped Telluride SX for another $2,300, bringing the Telluride to its top-of-the-line price at $48,450. For that extra chunk of change, you get a large heads-up display that provides navigation, speed, cruise control, and safety information like blind spot warning, as well as heated and ventilated second row captain’s chairs, automatic windshield wipers, a suede-like headliner that feels excellent, and a household power outlet in the car.
The Prestige Package also provides supple, high quality Nappaleather seats, and offers three additional interior color schemes not available in the regular SX or lower trims. These include Dune Brown Nappa leather, which is a mid-brown color (darker than the Butterscotch, not as dark as the Espresso) that coordinates well with a black headliner, as well as a gray Nappaleather which is almost white in color and comes with a white headliner to boot. Finally there is a black Nappa leather optionthat features that same white suede-like headliner.
The SX Prestige Package is dangerously close to $50,000 for aFWD-based crossover, but Kia has done a great job with packaging and it still appears to be a favorite of new car buyers.
Kia also offers a number of options that can be added by your dealer to any trim level of the Telluride. Those include cargo storage solutions, illuminated scuff plates, interior multicolor light kits exterior mud guards, and a tow hitch that can be added to any Telluride for $475. You should be able to get these accessories installed by the dealer even after you purchase your car.
Should I wait for the 2021 Telluride?
While not much is expected to change for the second model year of the Telluride, we do know that there will be a new Black Edition coming around for 2021. This model will replace the chrome exterior trim with gloss black, including the trim within the headlights, and add a new Wolf Grey exterior color. Expect this to be a flat light gray color, like a primer paint. The logos on the car will also be smoked and the car will receive a unique grille and special 20” wheels. If that sounds like the Telluride for you, you may want to wait. We aren’t yet aware of any other changes coming for 2021.
The Telluride is a great choice for families. Not only is it roomy, feature-packed, and reliable, but it looks great and has a road presence that dwarfs most of its competitors. It’s also the must-have SUV of the year and will turn heads wherever it goes.
We recommend the Telluride S FWD for the budget conscious buyer. You get the good looks and 20” rims of the more expensive models at a reasonable $35,460, and in everyday driving, you don’t really need the AWD. If you have more to spend, we’d recommend going for the Telluride EX Premium Package with AWD. It has most of the features of the SX at a much lower $41,955. We’d only recommend the SX to buyers with plenty of cash who just have to have the latest tech features on the market to impress their friends.