The 2021 Kia Telluride is the automotive equivalent of a home run. Last year, we named the Telluride SUV of the Year because it feels every inch a premium product—this is a three-row SUV with terrific space, a pleasing ride, decent power, and incredible attention to detail, inside and out. Better yet, every trim level features the same powertrain with all-wheel drive a $2,000 option. But which trim best suits your needs? Read on for our trim review.
2021 Kia Telluride LX Trim Pros and Cons
Far from entry-level, the Kia Telluride LX flexes the same strengths of the entire lineup. Its third row is more spacious than the ones found in the Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander, and has standard seating for eight. Every 2021 Telluride now has a 7-pin trailer harness (up from a 4-pin connector) and features a dedicated remote-start button on the key fob. Under the hood, a 3.8-liter V-6 delivers a smooth 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque.
No matter which Telluride you choose, the V-6 delivers an estimated 20/26 mpg city/highway in front-wheel drive form. Opting for all-wheel drive drops those figures to 19/24 mpg. Those are competitive but not class-leading figures.
With a base price roughly $2,000 less than either the Mazda or Toyota, the 2021 Telluride matches them on most—but not all—standard features. While Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are included, for example, three-zone automatic climate control is reserved for more expensive trim levels. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is a nice touch, something that the Highlander lacks on its base trim. All three ride on 18-inch alloy wheels. Unlike the Mazda or Toyota, however, the Telluride LX offers very little in the way of options. To get more features, you’ll have to look to a higher trim level.
2021 Kia Telluride S Pros and Cons
If the LX is enticing but lacks enough visual oomph, for roughly $2,000 more the Telluride S could be the ticket. This trim level focuses mainly on adding contrasting satin chrome elements on the grille, door handles, exterior moldings, and the panels beneath the doors. In addition to the brightwork, the S also adds heated/power driver and passenger seats, second-row captain’s chairs, a power sunroof, and 20-inch polished wheels into the mix.
This is the trim we chose for a MotorTrend one-year long-term test, and although we were impressed by its looks and fuel economy, we couldn’t help but pine for some of the features found on the uplevel SX. That said, adding a tow hitch was relatively straightforward, though it lacked the rear load-leveling suspension that’s available on EX and SX trims.
2021 Kia Telluride EX Pros and Cons
The first thing that might stand out about the Telluride EX is that it rides on 18-inch wheels instead of the 20s found on the S. The tradeoff, of course, is that what you might sacrifice in style, you’ll make up for in ride quality. (20-inch wheels, however, are optional). Also absent are the second-row captain chairs, replaced by a 60/40 folding bench seat.
In every other respect, however, the EX justifies its $3,000 premium over the S by piling on a long list of features. Here’s where you’ll find a power liftgate, power-folding mirrors, acoustic front window glass, a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, three-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, leather seating, and a wireless phone charger.
For some buyers, the power liftgate alone might be worth the upgrade, though the upgraded climate conveniences, larger touchscreen and navigation help justify this trim as well.
2021 Kia Telluride SX Pros and Cons
In addition to winning a three-way comparo last year (which included beating out platform mate Hyundai Palisade for the crown), the Telluride SX also took top honors in a nine-way comparison test of three-row crossovers. Part of this success comes down to what it offers across the board. Even in its highest SX trim, the Telluride provides excellent value for the money. It’s more than just the additional features too—it’s in how well-executed they are. We especially admired how the Telluride offered a premium experience at a mainstream price.
Moving up to this trim spec, however, requires a jump of roughly $5,000 over the EX trim, and a significant leap of nearly $10,000 from the LX. Given that the powertrain is identical across all trims, it’s a question of whether features like dual sunroofs, HomeLink, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, and a 12-way power driver seat are essential must-haves. But if additional safety features like a surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitor, and front park-distance warning are essential, those are exclusive to the SX.
So Which 2021 Kia Telluride Model Is Best?
Therein lies the conundrum of the Kia Telluride’s trim levels. The LX offers all the goodness of the higher trim levels, albeit with fewer creature comforts. And while the SX won our hearts and offers a highly impressive package starting at just under $44,000, the leather-lined EX provides nearly as many amenities at a much lower price point.
2021 Kia Telluride Trims:
- EX (MT’s pick)
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