2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro First Drive: Off-Road Review

The Kia Telluride has been a hit since it first debuted in late 2019 – popular to the point where people are still (sort of) willingly paying dealer markups three years later. Much like the rest of Kia’s lineup, the Telluride quickly earned a reputation for providing a level of style, technology, and usability that is a cut above its MSRP. Factor in its 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, and you suddenly have a value proposition that is hard to beat – even with some dealer markups. That didn’t stop Kia from finding areas of improvement and offering a mid-cycle refresh. Keen not to ruin what wasn’t broken, they focused their efforts on areas that matter most to the everyday user. 

What’s the Same?

At its core the Telluride is still largely the same. The drivetrain is unchanged with its 3.8 liter V6 making 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It is still paired to an 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission made internally by Hyundai Motor Group. In a world of turbos and CVTs, a simple and smooth drivetrain is exactly what I want in an SUV, and this pairing doesn’t disappoint. Front-wheel drive remains standard while all-wheel drive is still an option on each trim level. While the wheelbase is the same, approach and departure angles are improved due to re-designed front and rear fascias. 

What’s New on the 2023 Kia Telluride? 

The first and arguably most important thing to any prospective Telluride buyer is that there will simply be more of them! Kia is producing roughly 30,000 more units each year starting with the 2023 model year. This hopefully helps combat most of those annoying dealer markups, because much like everything else in the world right now the Telluride’s starting price has increased by roughly $2,300. 

  • 2023 Kia Telluride LX: Starting at $35,690 MSRP
  • 2023 Kia Telluride S: Starting at $37,590 MSRP
  • 2023 Kia Telluride EX: Starting at $41,290 MSRP
  • 2023 Kia Telluride SX (w/ X-Line and X-Pro): Starting at $45,490 MSRP
  • 2023 Kia Telluride SX Prestige (w/ X-Line and X-Pro): Starting at $50,390 MSRP

Interior + Technology

Luckily your extra money is going where it matters most in a daily driver, with the interior seeing many of 2023’s updates. They’ve ditched the separated center screen and gauge pod for one sleek 24-inch digital display containing two 12.3 inch screens. While I will always prefer analog gauges over digital dashboards, Kia has kept it simple. The enormous sweeping display adds an element of modernity to the interior that was starting to look a bit dated. 

Additional technological upgrades include more standard ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) features. Hyundai Motor Group’s Highway Driving Assist was already my favorite due to its simplicity and ease of use. It now comes with a series of forward collision avoidance features including evasive steering assist with multiple lane-change features to keep you out of harm’s way.

New Napa leather seats with colors such as green and navy blue round out the majority of the interior updates (reminder: always buy the fun colors so we get more of them in the future!). 

Hardware and Chassis Upgrades

For those of us who like to use our vehicles to the fullest, Kia has introduced the new “X-Pro” trim level catered to off-road and towing. The X-Pro gets a 0.4 inch lift via re-tuned shocks and springs. Self-leveling rear suspension is still a feature, much to the delight of anybody who will be doing any towing with their Telluride. And thanks to upgraded cooling fans, the tow rating has increased by 500 pounds for a total capacity of 5,500 pounds. Lastly, the X-Pro ditches street oriented 20” wheels for standard 18s wrapped in Continental all-terrain tires.

If off-roading isn’t your thing and the school drop-off lane is the toughest terrain you have to tackle,  the “X-Line” focuses more on the street. Twenty inch wheels come wrapped in Michelin all-seasons and a few silver exterior trim features make for a more modern/urban design. 

Street Driving Impressions and Off-Road Capability

The biggest compliment I can give to both the X-Line and X-Pro trims is that they drive similarly on-road. All-terrains usually make things a bit more loud and squishy, but none of that is really noticeable when comparing the two. We’ve covered on-road and towing capabilities previously, but the difference becomes apparent where most Telluride owners dare never to go… the dirt. 

We joke that the Telluride is known as a ‘Karen-Spec’ SUV, menacingly maneuvering through suburbia with its amber daytime running lights filling up your rear-view (which are now gone with the front fascia redesign). But when the road ahead gets rough, it’s nice to know just how capable a vehicle is. Despite all the jokes, Kia was pleased to have us prove that the X-Pro is more capable off-road than most buyers will ever need. 

The Continental all-terrains provide exceptional grip on loose surfaces while remaining perfectly streetable. The retuned all-wheel drive system doesn’t have a traditional center locking transfer case, but can be locked into AWD all at all times with the press of a button. All the while, computers encourage you to commit with your right foot. They will relatively quickly send power to wherever it’s needed even when two wheels are teetering in the air. If your commute involves any part of the vehicle becoming airborne, I’d firstly love to know where and why you live there, but secondly can report the X-Pro will get you through it. 

Re-damped suspension specifically tuned for off-road composure provided great body control which smoothed out the small imperfections on our gravely test trail. At the same time it took large bumps and undulations in stride and composure. 8.4 inches of ground clearance means the X-Pro is no Grand Cherokee Trailhawk when it comes to ride height, but it competes closely with things like the Ford Explorer Timberline (8.7 inches)  and Honda Trailsport twins (8.1 inches). 

Final Thoughts

To put it bluntly, Kia heard our soccer-mom jokes and worked to prove us wrong. By diversifying the Telluride lineup, they’ve not only proven how capable this chassis is, but also provided a trim level for every type of buyer. Price increases are a sign of the times, but more technology and interior features ensure you at least feel where that extra money went every time you drive it. 

Thank you to Kia for having us out to Texas for this drive event! We are looking forward to future events as well as having the 2023 Telluride for a longer-term test. 

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