I am going to take a stand here and say that I believe every SUV should come standard with all-wheel drive. Because you are driving a higher-riding SUV with bigger wheels and tires, rugged styling, and added ground clearance, there will likely come a time when you pull off the pavement toward a dirt parking area or hiking trailhead, only to realize that the dirt that appeared to be solid is actually sticky mud. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this in your Kia Telluride, I hope you chose wisely and opted for the AWD version.
As you would imagine, I recently had the unfortunate experience of turning onto what I thought was a slightly damp dirt road, which turned out to be a mistake. The front wheels lost traction and started to whirl, slinging mud along the side of the Telluride. Luckily, I was able to maneuver onto more solid ground and get back to the pavement, but it instantly made me exclaim, “Why doesn’t this thing have AWD?”
In the case of our 2020 Kia Telluride S, AWD is available but not standard. When we decided on the specifications, we decided not to opt for the $2,000 AWD system because we had not spent much time in the standard front-drive version. That was a mistake, at least in terms of my ownership experience (but my misfortunes can help educate you). Not only does the AWD system help with slippery situations, like the one I recently found myself in, but it also helps to tame the 291 hp while accelerating by sensing wheel slip in the front and directing that power rearward. Without that system shifting the power around, the Telluride ends up screeching the front tires if you need to accelerate quickly from a stop.
So what is the downside? Other than the aforementioned $2,000 premium over the standard Telluride, owners with AWD would likely see a slight decrease in fuel economy. The front-wheel-drive version gets slightly better miles per gallon, with an EPA rating of 20/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined compared to the AWD’s 19/24/21 figures. Personally, I would happily trade the in fuel economy for a better-handling vehicle that wouldn’t leave me stuck in the mud.
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I also wish we had checked the box for the $475 tow hitch and harness option when we specced our long-term Telluride. Like AWD, the ability to tow is not something that you will use on a daily basis. But, also like AWD, when you do need it, you’re relieved that you have it.
When equipped with the optional tow package, the Telluride can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is good enough for a small travel trailer, toy hauler, or utility trailer. In my case, I use my hitch-mounted bike rack on a regular basis, so I persueded Kia to install a hitch for me after the fact.
The last thing I want to talk about is my love for the SEA. SEA in this case stands Safe Exit Assist, a feature that, to be honest, I didn’t know existed, let alone thought I would love. Safe Exit Assist kicks in after you have parked and turned the vehicle off. It uses the rear parking sensors to warn you if a vehicle or cyclist is coming from behind you before you open the door. It gives you a little chime if something is approaching, and it can even override the rear door from opening, allowing the driver to choose a safe time for rear passengers to exit.
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I think everyone intends to be vigilant and to check their mirrors and look over their shoulders before opening their car door, but just like blind-spot monitoring, the SEA system is an excellent safety addition to help prevent an accident from happening that one time you don’t look. And even though I don’t have kids, I have been around my three nephews enough to know that the situation so amusingly portrayed in Kia’s SEA promotional video is realistic and SEA could really save someone.
Read More About Our Long-term 2020 Kia Telluride S:
- Update 1: SX Appeal
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