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This Is What The 2021 Telluride Means For KDM In America

The Kia Telluride is a striking change from the normally conservative design language we’ve come to expect from KDM cars.

The days where you could only buy a decent built car from Germany and Japan are well and truly over. In the second decade of the 21st Century, cars built and designed in Korea have a lot more to offer than just being cheaper than everything else on the market. They’re actually very well built now. As prices for new German and high-end Japanese cars rise higher and higher, Kia, in particular, has made the most of this vacuum in the market.

The Kia Telluride is Kia’s attempt to bring a direct competitor to the Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Atlas, and the Toyota Highlander. This being one of the most competitive car segments in America, Kia better have brought their A-game when designing this SUV if they didn’t want to be humiliated. Luckily, the people at Kia got this memo, and their Telluride is a striking change from the normally conservative design language we’ve come to expect from KDM cars.

If you’re in the market for a three-row, family grocery getter for around $30,000, maybe this article will convince you to take a trip down to your local Kia dealer.

35 Years Of Progress

Let’s begin with a short history of Korean cars in the US market. They first arrived on U.S soil in the mid to late 1980s, a time when Americans were still struggling to recover from last decades oil crisis, and struggling even more to grasp the concept of small, fuel-efficient imports. Even still in 1986, the Hyundai Excel was released and sold surprisingly well despite not being very well built.

We imagine the six-ish grand price tag may have helped inflate that number. This opened the flood-gates for Hyundai as well as their prime domestic competitor, which is, of course, Kia.

For much of their time in the US market, KDM cars were the cheaper alternatives to popular Japanese cars, while these cars didn’t hurt as much to buy upfront than a Toyota or a Honda, but also offered little in the way of style, comfort, or refinement. Just have a look at an old Kia Rio or Hyundai Accent if you want a refresher on just how far the brand has come in a quarter-century.

Big, Boxy, Beautiful

You’d be forgiven for suspecting the Telluride is actually a Ford Explorer when looking from a medium distance. We’re sure the striking resemblance is anything but coincidence. A common complaint among new SUV’s is that they all tend to share styling cues. That being said, the Telluride is still a handsome looking thing.

The square yet muscular body harkens back to a time before cross-over SUV’s were the norm. A time when aerodynamics and fuel efficiency was sacrificed in the name of maximum headroom and comfort. Then again, the Telluride isn’t any bigger or smaller than any other full-size SUV. Its length is right in-between the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder, so we don’t think the Telluride will be impossible to park in a crowded city like maybe a Chevy Suburban or Cadillac Escalade might be.

A Much Improved Cabin

The biggest improvement to KDM cars that we see in terms of build quality comes in the interior. Anyone who may have driven the old Kia Sportage or Sorrento back in the day, be prepared to have your mind blown.

The new Telluride’s interior is the very best of what KDM manufacturers have to offer. Where there once would’ve been nasty hard touch plastics and not much of anything else, there’s now plush leather, tactile feeling switches, and a nice looking wood grain across the dashboard.

The Infotainment/Navigation screen is tied with the Pathfinder for biggest in its class as well. From this screen, you can access the Tellurides “Drivers Talk” feature, which uses a microphone to amplify the driver’s voice, so they don’t have to shout at the people sitting all the way back in the third row. Cargo space is also first in class at 87 cubic feet, almost 10 more than the equivalent Nissan Pathfinder.

So then, lots of features for mom and dad up front, but what about the little tikes? Well, the Telluride leads its class in passenger legroom as well. The third row is easily accessible and can accommodate an adult if necessary, but expect this to be used by smaller children, who’ll undoubtedly peak a boo their heads at passing traffic from behind the Tellurides integrated window-shades.

Has The Guts Under The Hood

Gone are the days when it was acceptable for an SUV to be slow. In the Telluride, power comes from a 3.8 liter direct-injected V6, which puts out a class-leading 291 horsepower. This gets the big SUV to 60 mph in just over seven seconds. This means the Telluride should have no problem cruising vast swaths of interstate roads for seven-plus hours with your kids in the back sleeping, all while doing 80 miles an hour consistently. What’s even more spectacular is despite all this power, the Telluride still leads its class in fuel economy with 23 mpg combined. When you factor in that the Telluride doesn’t require premium fuel, Kia pretty much knocked it out of the park in the engine department.

All said and done at just over 30 grand, the Kia Telluride is so much more than a great bargain. It’s also a landmark moment for Korean cars in foreign markets. Ever since Japanese imports became too good for us Americans to poke fun at, KDM cars became the butt of every joke from every “Bro” with nothing constructive or of substance to say. In 2020, these people sure do have egg on their faces because the American consumers speak primarily with their wallets, and KDM is now the new in-thing.

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