Telluride won a 2018 Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice award and for good reasons – reasons I can speak to personally. I’ve strapped on the boards there, and I can tell you that the skiing at this Colorado resort is terrific – varied, interesting, often challenging and the snow is most often light and dry.
The Telluride ambience is what I’d call upscale, western-American. That’s good, but what you get at Telluride doesn’t match what was Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia at its best. That was before Vail Resorts bought 75 per cent of the place in 2016 (with Nippon Cable owning the rest).
As Americans do, the new owners have been slashing costs relentlessly, while also eschewing Whistler, Squamish and Lower Mainland loyalists. Vail cares only a little about Canadian customers. Instead, Vail wants Americans up in Whistler tossing about their strong dollars on the mountain and, more importantly, in the Village shops.
Truth is, Telluride, Vail and Whistler are now pretty similar places in terms of customer service and the sell-sell-sell experience. If you’re a bag-lunch Canadian, Vail doesn’t care much about your business. All you do is ski.
That said, it’s easy to see why Kia, a Hyundai Motor brand since 1998, would want to associate its biggest (8-seat) SUV (sport-utility vehicle) with one of the more iconic ski resorts in the United States. If you’re a skier or simply an outdoorsy type, Telluride suggests adventure and beauty, if you can ignore the typical American hard sell.
Not surprisingly, given that all car companies in Canada take their overall marching orders out of the U.S., the warm and fuzzy Telluride imagery comes at a price in the real SUV world. The least expensive of the four versions on offer (EX) goes for $44,995, while at the top of the range is an SX Limited with Nappa leather for $53,995.
The snazziest roof cargo box adds $806, a trailer-hitch mounted bike carrier adds $486, a cargo cover is another $288 and the full trailer hitch package is $526. Figure another $1,000 in options for the typical customer.
Still, the Telluride fully dressed is loaded. If you stick to the SX Limited with Nappa, then, you’re looking at a monthly payment of $755.60 for seven years using Kia’s 3.49 per cent financing. For a lot of Canadians, that’s a mortgage payment.
The Telluride is big, but not quite a condo. It is, however, a legitimate eight-seater, and even the basic version is nicely equipped, modern, user-friendly and very well built. I mean, look at the thing. As two-box designs go, well, the Telluride has an impressive grille and wheel cutouts that fit tightly around the healthy rubber at every corner.
Yes, even the EX basic has adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, a sunroof, GPS navigation, a hands-free power liftgate, heated seats and steering wheel and automatic air condition tailored to front, back and middle sensibilities.
If you want the bigger 20-inch wheels, a better stereo and a few other oddments, like the cool 360-degree camera, up you go to the $50,000 SX. The $53,000 SX Limited gets you a heads-up display, rain-sensing wipers, and heated and cooled second-row captain’s chairs, along with a camera-based Blind View Monitor that helps the side-mirror challenged. And then there is the SX Limited with the fancy Nappa.
I’ll sum up the packaging this way: Kia does not shortchange you. You get plenty for your money, other than engine choices. There’s just one: an at-times-overmatched 3.8-litre V-6 (291 horsepower/262 lb.-ft. of torque). Power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and an AWD system that is biased towards front wheels unless you need more grip at the rear.
That is a common setup these days and it’s that way for fuel economy reasons. Here, combined fuel economy is rated at 11.2 litres/100 km. Which is fine, though in the real world you’ll slurp down about three times the fuel of, say, a Toyota Corolla Hybrid.
As for the engine’s performance, it’s decent, though not entirely smooth when pushed. And if you load up with eight and all their stuff, you will push the power end of things – you might not always like what happens.
I do love the cabin layout. The design is simple and clean and easily understandable. The centre touchscreen is not quite as big and wonderful as what Volvo is offering in the XC90, but the Kia is not nearly as pricy. The buttons and dials are a healthy size, generous enough to manage even if you’re wearing winter gloves. The infotainment is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The seats for okay for long drives, but, again, not in Volvo’s league by half.
Kia’s reputation for building solid cars and SUVs is now firmly established and the icing on the cake is a strong value equation. All of it adds up to a Telluride worth considering, though if money is no object, get the XC90.
2020 Kia Telluride
Price range: $44,995-53,995.
Engine: 3.8-litre V-6 (291 horsepower/262 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.2 combined.