An article popped up on our daily newsfeed recently about Alice Walton. If her name sounds familiar, it should- every hear of a quaint little chain of retail stores called Walmart? She’s an heiress to the vast family empire, making her one of the richest women in North America. Yet for all her enormous affluence, her daily driver is said to be a 2006 Ford F-150 King Ranch. Not exactly a base model, but even a loaded seventeen-year-old pickup is a very modest mode of transportation for someone with a nine-figure bank account. You may also have heard of Warren Buffett, another business magnate with a net worth of billions of dollars. Instead of a Rolls Royce or a Maybach Mr. Buffet’s vehicle of choice is a 2014 Cadillac XTS. By now you’re catching onto a theme here, which the author calls ‘Stealth Wealth’. Obviously, these are extreme examples, but the practice of living modestly even though you could live like a flamboyant ‘baller’ is being embraced by more and more people, especially in the current financial climate of increasing interest rates, high food and gas prices and inflation spiking to the point of widespread concern. Embracing such a mindset is not only good for avoiding the awkward scenario of friends and family asking for money, but it also makes one look less obnoxious to those who reside in a decidedly smaller tax bracket.
So why are we telling you this? When driving our X-Pro tester over its weeklong residency in the Carpages Garage, it dawned on us that the Telluride would make for a compelling choice for those with a healthy supply of disposable income- but it also has mass appeal for those with more modest means.
The Kia Telluride is one of the rare vehicles that can play on both sides of that fence. For those with deep pockets, our testers $64,845 asking price will not seem like a big ask. It is a much less ostentatious mode of transportation than a Bently Bentayga or even a less costly but still very upscale Cadillac Escalade. And yet, despite being significantly downmarket from those two, its quiet brilliance will be most appreciated. It might cost many thousands less, but the feeling it imparts diving it and riding in it won’t be too far off the standard set by its vastly more expensive options available to well-heeled folk. If that sounds preposterous take a look at the interior images in the gallery below- Kia seriously knocked it out of the park on its design and execution.
Those who fall into the broad classification of middle class (a moving target it seems these days, but we digress) may have a different agenda. They may not have a summer compound on Lake Muskoka or have a collection of pricey French wines, but they do enjoy the finer things in life when their budget permits. They also believe in strong value for their hard in earned dollars and rightly expect that when they do fork over a large sum of cash that they’ll get something they will be proud of driving. For people who identify with that walk of life, the Telluride will make for a desirable mode of family transportation. We found it summed up perfectly while looking at some of the owner forums online that it makes for a sort of “Range Rover for the Middle Class”. We think that about sums it up perfectly.
Perfectly is an adjective that seems fitting when talking about how well the Telluride does its job as a three row SUV. Over the course of our week, the Kia was asked to navigate traffic clogged urban streets and mindless highway slogs, all throughout the petulant swings of Mother Nature’s temperature and weather conditions which included a toothsome winter storm. It fetched groceries, took the kids to gymnastics, and made the commute to the office without a hint of complaint. Actually, it was the opposite- no matter the circumstance, it seemed to happily embrace its task with enthusiasm.
There are many facets of the Kia Telluride experience that will convince their drivers they their money is well spent by overachieving in so many areas. It isn’t just us who sing the SUV’s praises- it is a regular fixture found on many “Best Of” lists throughout the industry. There are many reasons for that outside of the unimpeachable build quality, the superb refinement and the combination of generous interior room which of course helps in the comfort department. No, we think that Kia- who has always been proficient at adding huge value for dollar to all the cars they build- has now figured out a way to package that bang-for-buck factor in an exceedingly pleasing wrapper that just so happens to offer a lovely driving experience to boot.
We would have been happy sampling any one of the many trim levels Kia offers for the Telluride, but our tester arrived wearing fetching Jungle Green paint and outfitted in the newest range topping trim which is called X-Pro. Basically, you get some bits and baubles that make the Telluride a little more capable off the beaten path. In this case that means off-road oriented tires, a smidge more ground clearance and a 2,268 kilogtram tow rating so your toys can accompany you off the grid. The terrain modes have revised programming which allow for a more surefooted experience off pavement, but perhaps maybe hold off on the family trip to the Devil’s Staircase in Utah’s vast outback.
By now you are likely wondering if there’s a “But…” after doling out such effusive praise for Kia’s family hauler. Well, keep wondering folks. We had to really look hard to find stuff that bothered us, and it was overall a fruitless endeavor. We did discover that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay requires a wired connection which might seem suspect at this price point. But the infotainment system is such a pleasure to use that even this gripe failed to gain meaningful traction.
The bean counters overseeing Kia’s coffers will not complain that the price has crept higher over the years, but customers might. Their bellyaching is likely to subside when they see that the Telluride still represents massive value, and that it would give SUVs commanding much higher price tags a run for their money. Shoppers have finally caught onto its brilliance hiding in plain sight and are being charged accordingly. We think this is the best car that Kia has ever built and for our money, it would be the only choice if we required a three-row SUV.
2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro- Specifications
- Price as tested: $64,845
- Body Type: 4-door, 7 passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/four-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.8 litre V6, 24 valves, DOHC
- Horsepower: 291 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 262 @ 5,200 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 2,051 kg (4,522 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 12.2L/100km (19 mpg)